In partnership with HappyFamily, I am sharing with you some of my favorite ideas for toddler preschool lunches. Our toddler gets excited any time we have their HappyTot yogurts in our fridge, but they don’t stay there long! She loves them and they, or any yogurt for that matter, can be found in her lunch every day.
I’ve mentioned before that I was so excited and a little nervous to prepare lunches for our preschool-going toddler. Often times our meals at home didn’t resemble most common school lunches. Over the course of the year, I’ve gotten pretty good at packing a solid lunch for her.
I want to note that these are ideas from a mama that tries her best to feed her little one good, simple, and easy food. It’s not always healthy over here, but I do my best to make sure she’s getting some good things. I balance somewhere in the middle with being ok with giving my kid candy at times, and we love sourdough bread, but I also try to fill her belly with as many veggies as possible.
Here are some of my favorite ideas to crafting your toddler’s preschool lunch:
Lunch idea: Salami and cheese sushi (salami and cheese rolled up in a tortilla), HappyTot yogurt, blueberries, cucumbers, clementine
The one thing we include in every lunch?
Yogurt. It’s the one thing she eats every single time. I often find it easiest to throw in a HappyTot yogurt pouch. Ruby’s preschool teacher specifically mentioned to not include the tube versions as they can be messy. So, I was so excited when HappyFamily introduced their pouches. I prefer the HappyTot yogurts because there are no-added sweeteners (which is SO hard to find)
She’s also now pretty good at eating out of a single yogurt container as well, so we go that route as well.
Lunch idea: yogurt pouch, veggie sticks (celery, cucumber, carrots, peppers) and hummus, pistachios, pretzels, and crisps
Keep at least one thing consistent
Toddlers crave structure and need repetition. I on the other hand like to vary my little ones food. I’ll note below why. But, I also know that she needs something to stay the same. I already mention that I put yogurt in her lunch every day, mostly because she loves it. Also, I know that if she doesn’t eat anything else, I can be confident that she will have one thing she likes and will eat. And at the same time getting some good nutrients and solid calories.
There was also that one time I forgot the yogurt and it wasn’t good.
Lunch idea: classic pb&j, HappyTot yogurt, carrots and blueberries
Vary lunches, try to include something new every now and then
All kids get stuck in a rut with food, I understand because I do too. We don’t often eat many fruits and veggies out of season or not at a good price point. Lately we’ve been getting blueberries again and I know for a fact that our two year old once devoured them. The last few months she hasn’t wanted anything to do with them. But, I’ve consistently put them in her lunch and now they’re back in her rotation.
She also didn’t like sandwiches, weird, right? Just a little consistency and now she doesn’t mind them!
picky toddler? introduce foods slowly, in parts, and different ways
If you have a picky toddler (who doesn’t?!) see what happens when you put something on their plate time after time. There’s that saying floating around that you need to try something at least 10 times to see if you like it or not.
Here’s my plan for action when it comes to getting my toddler to like something:
- don’t make it a big deal (they smell fear)
nonchalantly add it to their meal, if they go for it, congratulations! if not…
- encourage them to try it
I know “they” say bribery isn’t a good tool, but we use it in our home and it works. “eat all your food and you can have more yogurt, or a small treat”
- try presenting it in another form next time
incorporated in something they like, cut differently, baked or prepared differently, with a seasoning, etc.
It’s really important to try and introduce a large variety of foods at a younger age so that it makes it easier. So if your kiddo is still young, keep giving them all the foods!! But, sometimes, even then, you may end up with a picky toddler. Don’t fret, but do put forth the good fight, place the blueberry, carrot, asparagus, whatever it is on their plate anyway.
Make a rule for meals in your home
Early on we fed Ruby exactly what we were eating, so now our rule is that we all eat the same things. We have an exception to the rule though. If she doesn’t love the item, she must try it, and then we will give her some frozen veggies and maybe yogurt. (We started doing this because she didn’t like pizza for some odd reason, but after trying it many, many, many times, she will now eat it)
Lunch idea: cheese, meat, & crackers. cucumbers, grapes, yogurt, and a little jelly bean treat
Have a checklist when packing
I try to include one of those items in each meal. It makes it easy when packing and then I know that even if I put a handful of crackers in her lunch, that she’s got some good things too.
Toddlers don’t eat much
The preschool my toddler goes to always sends the remaining food back in their lunch. It’s so helpful to see how much she eats, what she likes and doesn’t like. My little one doesn’t actually eat that much, so I try not to over pack. She always eats her favorites first, the dairy items, and then she may eat a few veggies.
I try to set her up to eat a little healthier by not including too much of one item.
Have easy items on hand
Many items in the lunch above are our go to items. It takes merely a few minutes to grab these from the fridge.
Here are some of the things we grab at the grocery each week:
- yogurt (we make sure to get a big tub & some HappyFamily yogurt pouches)
- eggs (we hard boil them for lunches)
- in-season fruit like berries, grapes, oranges, etc.
- veggies: we always grab cucumbers, celery, carrots, bell peppers, and broccoli and anything else on sale or in season
- bread or tortillas
bento boxes make the world go round
Ok, dramatic, maybe. There was this one time that Ruby’s bento box wasn’t clean and I had to pack everything in baggies. It was incredibly obnoxious and wasteful. I can totally get behind some convenience in using Happytot pouches, but we do try our best to use mostly reusable.
It makes it so easy to pack a lunch, especially if you have a toddler that likes to mostly eat a deconstructed lunch, like mine. It helps to separate everything and gives you a spot for all the items.
All in all, the main goal in packing your toddler’s preschool lunch is all about feeding them. Find a way to pack them what you already eat for lunches at home. Many of these lunches are what I eat too. I pull out all the veggies, fruits, and cheeses and we have a little charcuterie most days.
I hope these ideas make lunch packing for you a little easier!