Back To School Basics: How To Pack Your Toddler’s Lunch
It’s already the end of September, which means school has started for many families! If your child is just starting school or daycare this fall, you probably have a lot to plan. From new clothes and shoes to changing schedules, the beginning months of the school year are a big shift for kids. In addition to buying school supplies and trying to adjust everyone’s sleep schedules, you might also need to consider whether you’ll have to pack your child’s lunch. Packing a school lunch doesn’t have to be complicated - follow these tips and ideas to make packing your toddler’s lunch simple and carefree!
Step 1: Opt for healthier snacks.
Although there’s nothing wrong with the occasional package of chips or cookies, there are plenty of options for healthier snacks for kids available in regular grocery stores. You can feed your kids healthy, nutritious foods without breaking the bank. Here are some ideas for healthy snacks that are both tasty and guilt-free:
- Protein bars
- Trail mix
- Cheese crisps
- String cheese
- Yogurt drops
- Dried fruit
- Fruit and vegetable puree pouches
- Chickpea crisps
- Veggie straws
- Freeze dried fruits
- Premade smoothies
- Snap pea crisps
- Seaweed snacks
- Pita chips
- Cheese puffs
- Granola bars
Step 2: Create a balanced meal.
As a general rule, try to include a protein, side dish, fruit or vegetable, and snack in each school lunch. A high protein entree will help your child stay fuller longer and have more energy to make it through the day. Be sure to include a fruit and/or vegetable they like, such as sliced apples, carrots, celery, grapes, green beans, tomatoes, snap peas, or berries. The fruit or vegetable can also be in the form of a fruit and vegetable puree pouch, a premade smoothie, or a salad. A side dish can be rice, pasta, or roasted potatoes. Snacks can be whatever your child enjoys, but be sure to check with the school about any restrictions on sugary snacks. Opt for one of the healthier options listed above!
Here are some easy toddler meal ideas:
- Almond butter and jelly sandwich, sliced bell peppers, crackers, and an apple
- Hummus and cheese wrap in a wheat tortilla, celery sticks, veggie straws, and a banana
- Turkey and cheese pinwheels, carrots and ranch dip, pretzels, and grapes
- Mini bagel pizzas, green beans, cheese puffs, and blueberries
- Pesto pasta, cherry tomatoes, string cheese, and watermelon
- Mini taco kit (beans, shredded cheese, ground beef, and mini tortillas), roasted carrots, Spanish rice, and strawberries
- Mini egg and cheese omelettes (cooked in a muffin tin), peas, rice cakes, and yogurt-covered raisins
- Peanut butter and banana roll-ups made in a whole wheat tortilla, broccoli and ranch, cheese crisps, and raspberries
- Homemade “Lunchable” kit (squares of sliced cheddar, squares of turkey, and crackers), celery, veggie chips, and applesauce
- Waffle “sandwich” with cream cheese and jam, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, and oranges
Step 3: Check school guidelines.
In order to protect young children with deadly food allergies, many schools are opting to go nut-free, which means you might need to be a little creative when it comes to packing lunches. Sunbutter is made from sunflower seeds and is a great alternative to nut butters. Teach your child never to share food or accept food from others, to prevent spreading germs or causing potential allergic reactions. Check with the school to see if there are rules regarding sweets and junk food like candy, chips, cake, and donuts.
Step 4: Don’t get too ambitious.
Packing your child’s lunch doesn’t have to be a huge ordeal. Try not to pack a lot of new foods your child has never eaten before, especially when she first starts school. Pack foods that are familiar and that you know your child enjoys eating. Don’t fret if your child doesn’t finish her lunch one day, but another day comes home begging for a snack because she finished her whole lunch. Kids’ appetites fluctuate daily, but be sure to check in with the teachers to see how your child eats at mealtime. Prepare foods in a way that is safe for your toddler to eat: easily chewed, cut into appropriate pieces, and not too messy or slippery. Your child will need to get used to eating on her own and not being fed.
Step 4: Make it fun.
Your child’s meals don’t need to be over-the-top, artistic ready-for-Instagram creations, but you can help make your little one’s mealtime more enjoyable by adding a bit of fun! You can use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches or melons into cute shapes such as cars, hearts, stars, and dinosaurs. You can use a knife to cut cheese, deli meat, or fruit into fun shapes and sizes. You can also include a sticker or a short note to your child to brighten his day. Sneak in a treat every now and then (such as a juice box or a bag of fruit snacks) to bring a smile to your child’s face!
Is your little one still too young for school? You can still benefit from preparing meals ahead of time. Maybe your toddler doesn’t go to daycare or preschool yet? It can still be helpful to prep lunches ahead of time so that you can enjoy your time together without worrying about planning meals as you play. Prepare your child’s lunch the night before and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to take a break from your adventures the next day! Don’t forget to use one of our KeaBabies Silicone Bibs to keep spills and messes off of your little one’s clothing. They are waterproof, dishwasher-safe, and can be used up to age 3! They come in a variety of colors that are sure to match your child’s unique personality and style. These bibs are flexible and can easily be folded up and placed inside your child’s lunchbox or backpack for daycare.
Packing school lunches doesn’t have to be a stressful endeavor. Give yourself enough time to shop, prepare food, and get your child’s lunch packed the night before school. Check in with your child’s teachers about how she eats at mealtimes and whether you need to pack more or less food. Lastly, be creative and have fun!
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.