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The Ultimate Toddler Lunch Round-Up

The Ultimate Toddler Lunch Roundup - Columbia SC Moms Blog

When sitting around with other mothers, regardless of age and experience, a common complaint is how exhausting it is to constantly feed our families. Three meals a day, plus snacks, multiplied by the number of people in your home.

AH! It’s constant!

More than once I have wanted to turn to my kids and say, “Can’t you just make your own dinner tonight? I’m headed to bed early.” Obviously that isn’t an option. No matter how repetitive and monotonous it can be, creating and raising a family was OUR choice and I have learned to embrace the boring and/or tedious days with the happy productive ones. And also to turn a deaf ear when they ask for a snack in the midst of clearing the lunch dishes.

But you know what helps the good AND bad days? VARIETY!!! Supposedly, it is the spice of life…

My husband is one of those people who can eat the same thing for lunch everyday, but I have to have a variety. I need change for my tastebuds and mood. Without realizing it, I have transferred that fickle food attitude to my kids. Not picky, but ever changing. All of our meals, especially dinner, are as different as I can make them from day to day and rarely will we have the same thing twice in one month. There are so many things out there to eat! Why funnel your food down to just a few? Winston Churchill once said, “A change is as good a rest.” With regard to food, I wholeheartedly agree.

I have the same attitude when it comes to the snacks and lunches for my children. I need to keep them on their toes. The older two are in grade school and significantly more self sufficient and less picky about what they get.

My toddler/preschooler is a different story. One day he likes grapes, the next day he doesn’t. Sometimes PB & J is all good in the hood, and sometimes he acts like it is some kind of poisonous meal I made just to torture him. *sigh*

No matter if you are a working mother, single mother, homeschool mother, or one of those moms that shows up at school drop off at 7:15 am, showered, in full make-up, and wearing 4 inch heels. The struggle is real and it is constant. Mix it up, baby!

My hope is that this collection of recipes and ideas can spark some creativity, keep your ankle biters happy, and relieve some of the stress of that age old question of what the heck to feed them – whether you need peanut-free options, gluten-free choices, or just something other than hummus on crackers.

So read on comrades! We are all in this together!

Allergen Free Snack Mix

from Real: The Kitchen & Beyond

Toddler-Lunch-Round-Up-Columbia-City-Moms-Blog

3 c Cheerio style cereal
1 c raisins
1 c goldfish crackers-we like the whole wheat kind
½ c unsalted sunflower seeds or pepitas(raw or roasted)
½ c semi sweet chocolate chips

Mix and enjoy!


Fruit & Pancake Bites

from Simply Made…With Love

Toddler-Lunch-Round-Up-Columbia-City-Moms-Blog

pancake mix of your preference, homemade or store bought
choice of fruit, diced small

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray or line mini muffin cups and fill halfway with pancake batter. Add a T or so of whatever chopped fruit you like. You can also mix it directly into the batter (gently) if you aren’t making a big variety. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until risen and cooked through and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for a minute in the pan, then turn out to cool on a rack. Enjoy and/or freeze for later!


Roasted Chickpeas 4 Ways

from Modern Parents Messy Kids

These are best the first day, but can be kept in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Toddler-Lunch-Round-Up-Columbia-City-Moms-Blog2 cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or about 4 cups cooked chickpeas from dried beans
2 T olive oil
seasonings of your choice (see below)

Preheat oven to 375. Drain and rinse the beans and spread on a towel to allow them to dry and remove any excess moisture. Place in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast for 45-60 minutes or until the beans are crunchy throughout. Taste one to test for crunchiness. 🙂 When they are suitable crunchy, toss immediately with olive oil and seasonings. Serve hot or at room temperature.

  • Sesame Soy– 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1 T sesame seeds
  • Honey Cinnamon– 1 tsp cinnamon, a pinch nutmeg, pinch of sea salt, 2 T honey
  • Garlic Parmesan– 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese, 1 tsp garlic powder or 2 cloves fresh minced garlic, pinch of fresh cracked pepper, pinch of sea salt
  • Smoky Spice Blend– 1/2 tsp ancho chile powder, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp cumin, large pinch of fresh black pepper, 1/2 tsp sea salt, pinch cayenne (optional)

Quick Veggie Couscous

via Brittany’s Pantry

Use whatever vegetable you like, fresh or frozen, that is in season at the time. Spinach, cherry or grape tomatoes, corn, peas, or a mix like I do here. It all tastes wonderful. I almost always serve this cold.

Toddler-Lunch-Round-Up-Columbia-City-Moms-Blog2 c water
1 c whole wheat couscous
2 c cooked veggies, cut into bite sized pieces
2-3 T olive oil
1/4 c grated parmesean cheese
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, microwave the water until boiling. Add the couscous, give it a quick stir and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside for 5 minutes or so, or until all the water is absorbed and the pasta is soft. Fluff with a fork and add the rest of ingredients. Taste for seasoning.


Mini Omelets For The Freezer

inspired by Ring Around The Rosies

Toddler-Lunch-Round-Up-Columbia-City-Moms-Blog8 eggs
1/2 c milk
whatever mix-ins you prefer (shredded cheese, diced (precooked) veggies, cooked sausage or ham, chopped tomato, etc)

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a muffin tin with foil or paper liners, or spray well with cooking spray. Whisk egg and milk together and divide amongst the muffin cups, only filling half way. Add additional ingredients to taste. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the centers are set. Cool and freeze, for up to a month, or store in the fridge, well sealed, for up to week. Defrost and pack cold or thaw and reheat.


Sun-dried Tomato Tuna Salad Sandwich

inspired by Smart Nutrition

Toddler-Lunch-Round-Up-Columbia-City-Moms-Blog1- 5 oz can tuna packed in water, drained
1 T sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil, drained and chopped fine
1 heaping T of good mayo
pinch of onion powder
pepper to taste

Mix gently and eat with crackers or on a sandwich. I recommend doubling the batch so YOU can have some for lunch as well. This is awesome with a half an avocado.


Yogurt Pancakes

adapted from My Life of Travels & Adventures

Pancakes, mini or otherwise make for great make-ahead lunch options. Cook ’em up and tuck them in the freezer. You can pack them in a lunch without defrosting and they will be thawed for little fingers by midday.

Toddler-Lunch-Round-Up-Columbia-City-Moms-Blog4 eggs
2 C yogurt, any flavor, just not fat-free
1 T baking powder
2 1/2 C White Whole Wheat, Whole Wheat, or All-Purpose flour – I haven’t tried this with an all-purpose gluten-free flour, but it should be just fine!
1 C milk
1 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl, combine eggs, yogurt, milk, and vanilla with a whisk until well mixed. Add the flour and baking powder and mix slowly until JUST COMBINED! if it is especially thick, add just a splash more milk to thin it a bit. Don’t over mix. Set aside for a few minutes to let the batter set and cook the pancakes in a bit of butter or oil. Enjoy! If making them ahead of time, cool completely and then store in a sealed container for up to two months.


Easy Banana Sushi

from Real Recipes From Mums

Toddler-Lunch-Round-Up-Columbia-City-Moms-Blog

bananas
nut or seed butter
tortillas
cinnamon

My kids LOVE this one, and I think it is pretty fun too. Tortillas, nut or seed butter, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and banana. Roll and slice. So simple but OH so tasty!


Chicken and Rice Patties

from Planning With Kids

Toddler-Lunch-Round-Up-Columbia-City-Moms-Blog

3 c cooked rice (1 c uncooked)
1 c cooked chicken, shredded
1 large carrot, shredded
2 green onions, chopped
1 1/4 c grated mozzarella cheese
3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray 12 muffin tins and set aside. Combine all ingredients well and spoon into muffin cups. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes before removing them from the pan. Enjoy!


Whole Wheat Cheese & Chocolate Snack Rolls

from Brittany’s Pantry

These are so easy it is ridiculous.

Toddler-Lunch-Round-Up-Columbia-City-Moms-Blog

any kind of tortilla (whole wheat, white, gluten-free)
low-fat cram cheese
mini chocolate chips

Smear tortilla with low-fat cream cheese and sprinkle with about a tablespoon of mini chocolate chips. Roll and cut. These also make an awesome post-workout snack for Mom and Dad!


Additional items you may not have thought of…

–> Mini rice cakes. Often gluten-free, these are easy to clean up and wonderfully crunchy.

–> Baby food fruit pouches. For babies, yes, but there is an endless variety. Veggie and fruit mixes too. Why not let your toddler or preschooler eat them with lunch?!

–> Defrosted frozen veggies, like peas and corn. My kids think it is so darn cool to munch on these cold and with their fingers. Why they don’t eat them with as much enthusiasm at dinner remains one of life’s great mysteries.

–> Mini bagels with or without a spread. Sized down for little hands and easy to fit in lunch boxes. And let’s be honest. They are adorable.

–> Shredded cheese. Not the fine stuff, but the large shred. Super fun to eat and lots of different kinds of cheese out there.

–> Cooked meatballs. Be it chicken, turkey, or beef, seasoned meatballs (cut up if needed) are a great protein. Easy to defrost and tuck in a lunch box. Room temp is just fine!

–> Cottage cheese with various mix-ins. We like to add wheat germ, fresh diced fruit, or even a spoonful of applesauce.

–> Hard boiled eggs, halved or sliced, and sprinkled with just a bit of salt and pepper.

–> Long strips of chicken or deli ham and turkey. Fun to eat and easy to nibble.

–> Leftover cold pizza, cut into narrow strips so they are easy to eat.

–> Popcorn (for older toddlers or preschoolers)

–> A few mini marshmallows – What a treat!

–> Shredded carrot. Easier for littles to chew without choking and they get another raw veggie in them.

–> Frozen or homemade mini waffles with some kind of dip! Yogurt, apple sauce, flavored peanut butter or sunbutter all work well.

–> Homemade whole wheat zucchini or banana breads. Great when baked in mini muffin tins and frozen for later! A big batch lasts a LONG time!

–> Whole wheat short noodles, plain or with a drizzle of olive or coconut oil.

–> Small cubes of salami and cheese or cut up beef hotdogs and cheese.

Have any great ideas that work for YOUR family? Post them in the comments below and share the love.

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3 Responses to The Ultimate Toddler Lunch Round-Up

  1. Rachel April 16, 2016 at 5:56 pm #

    Just an FYI, the allergen free mix contains wheat, gluten, milk and possibly soy (in goldfish), some of the most common allergies aside from nuts. I just wanted readers to know if they take this to a school (I’m a teacher) it is not necessarily allergen free. Good post though!

    • Tiffany Nettles
      Tiffany Nettles April 17, 2016 at 10:25 pm #

      Thanks for the great info! We will update our article!

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