5 Ways to Make Your Toddler’s Lunch Healthier (and more fun!)

Tired of playing “Just One More Bite” or “Eat This and Then You Can (fill in the blank)” games with your picky eating toddler? Here a couple of ideas to get more nutrients into your toddler’s little tummy and pack a little fun into lunchtime, whether at home or daycare.

ONE

Choose a fun lunch box to fill with a variety of healthy and colorful foods. Or wrap your sandwich up in a playful pattern. Bento lunch boxes are great for kids who like to have foods “separate”. Fill each compartment with different colors (orange carrots in one, red strawberries in another, etc).

eco-friendly nontoxic bento
Neoprene like lunch bag
reusable sandwich wrap

TWO

Toddlers like to dip stuff. It’s a great “trick” to get more veggies in their mouths. Pack some dip in small container (hummus or yogurt or pesto mayo are my favorites, but you can make any veggie combo into a puree and use that as a “dip”.   If you have a baby in the home and you are making purees for them, just give that to your toddler as a “dip”). Pair your “dip” with some yummy veggies like carrot sticks, lightly steamed cauliflower or broccoli “trees”, peas, or bell pepper.

THREE

Smoothies can be fun to drink, easy to pack and filled to the brim with nutrients. Check out my recipe for a super nutritious green but delicious Pick-Me-Up Pregnancy Smoothie (it’s NOT just for pregnant women!). Serve your stealthy super food smoothie in a cup with a straw at home (why is everything more enticing to a toddler with a straw?) or in a thermos to go.

FOUR

Serve the good stuff at the right times. If you haven’t figured it out already, most toddlers have “go-to” foods. The foods that you KNOW they will eat no matter what, and these foods tend to be the not-so-healthiest of foods. Know what I’m talking about? The high carb or high sugar foods like cheerios, cookies, crackers, chips or sugar-rich yogurts? Make these foods more of a once-a-day food or a snack item. Figure out the meal that your toddler is the hungriest at and DON’T serve the go-to foods, serve a plate of food with healthy choices. If you serve the “go-to” or not so healthy foods along with the healthy foods, OR COURSE they are going to fill up on the carbs and sugar. For example, I know that on average, my toddler’s best meal of the day (he sits the longest and eats the most) is at breakfast time. I make sure to serve healthy foods so at least he gets one good meal. Remember that YOU are in charge of WHAT you serve, WHEN you serve it and HOW you serve it. Your toddler will get to exert his or her independence on HOW MUCH they eat from what is in front of them. Don’t try to battle with them on that notion, but rather focus on the things you can and should be in charge of. Also remember that your toddler WILL NOT STARVE THEMSELVES. Aim for a healthy diet averaged out over the week….don’t freak out over every meal.

FIVE

Set an example and play with your food! Meal times are meant to be social. Turn off your iPhone or laptop and talk to your child. If every meal is on the run or in front of the TV, that is what your child will expect and consider the norm. Also, EAT WHAT YOUR CHILD EATS, or rather, serve your child what you are eating. If your child is always served “kid food” (like chicken nuggets, mac n cheese, or PB&J) how are they going to develop a taste for “regular” food? Don’t be a victim of the 2 or 3 meal household where parents eat one meal and the kids eat a different meal. FYI – this will NOT go away when your kids get older, it will become the expectation! Also, don’t be afraid to “play” with your food. Broccoli “trees”, meatball “mountains”, or avocado “boats” are much more likely to ignite your child’s imagination and get them interested in the food served.

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