School is back in session! For my girls it means a couple mornings a week, but these is a new feature to these days- packed lunches. Hats off to you moms and dads out there that rock packed lunches for your child everyday. Especially if it’s more than one child. It’s not the easiest to come up with healthy lunch options that work in a lunch box and that children will actually eat.
To add one more twist to situation, a lot of schools require peanut-free now, which is totally understandable.
Packing for Hailey, who is almost 4, is fairly simple as she can handle a wide variety of food sizes/textures and her dexterity skills for things like dipping are well developed.
Kaitlyn, 15 months old, however, is a different story. There are several factors I considered when creating appropriate lunches for her.
- Bite-sized pieces. Though she handles food well, she is still very young and I wouldn’t feel comfortable with her left to her own free will of biting chunks out of sandwiches or other foods without my supervision (call me helicopter mom if you must!).
- Ease for the teachers. Kaitlyn is in a class with other young toddlers, all who bring a lunch. It’s tough enough feeding one child a meal, I can’t imagine trying to feed 8-10 at one time. I thought about the chaos of teachers running around and opening a million tiny containers (which is why I love the ease of our new Planetbox lunchbox), wiping faces, picking up tossed sippy cups, etc. The last thing I wanted to add to the list was another task, like spoon-feeding my child a yogurt.
- Mix of macros. Fruits are pretty simple. Vegetables can be a little tricky. Protein is fairly easy, but finding nut-free fats that fit the above criteria is a little more challenging. I considered trying to make a somewhat-balanced meal.
- Peanut-free. Which I’m happy to do because I’m sure the fear of a mom sending her allergic-to-peanuts child to preschool is ridiculously scary. The least I can do is pack peanut-free.
Here are the options I came up for Kaitlyn and others that may be searching for peanut-free packed lunches for young toddlers…
Fruit Options: blueberries, mandarin oranges, grated apple, sliced grapes, sliced kiwi, craisins, raisins, freeze-dried fruit, cubed melon, diced peaches, pouches, etc.
Vegetable Options: peas, sliced cherry tomatoes, leftover roasted vegetables like sweet potato cubes, steamed broccoli or cauliflower, grated carrots, spinach puree baked into muffins, pickles, pouches etc.
Protein Options: Diced ham, diced turkey, grated cheese, Greek yogurt pouches or tubes, beans, almond butter sandwich bites, diced boiled eggs, cubed tofu, etc.
Healthy Fat Options: Sliced black olives, full fat yogurt, hummus, diced cheese, chia seed pouches, olive oil based dressing on pasta salad, diced boiled eggs, Larabars (or homemade laraballs with almond butter), etc.
Carb/Filler Options: Pasta, mini cheddar cheese and cracker bites (we like these), slightly overcooked brown rice (it will stick together more easily), healthier cookies (we like these letter-shaped ones), crackers for hummus, Cheerios, toast cubes, animal crackers (we like these), puffed cheese bites like Pirate’s Booty, homemade oatmeal bites, etc.
What was your favorite packed lunch as a kid?
For more meal ideas and child-food focused talk, check out my Munchkin Meals Page!