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For some reason, thinking of lunch ideas for my little girl is really hard for me. I am fine with breakfast and dinner, but my lunch creativity is not quite up to par! Especially when it comes to healthy options. Lately, I have been thinking about the good old fashion meals like mac and cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cheese quesadillas, and have substituted ingredients to make them healthier. For example, I make my own mac and cheese using whole wheat noodles, I use whole wheat bread, natural peanut butter and real fruit jam for PB&J’s, and I use whole wheat tortillas for quesadillas. Keeping things simple for lunch has helped me come up with more healthy ideas for my daughter.

I have gathered a few lunch ideas for toddlers and children that I would like to share with you. Hopefully these ideas will help you (and me) out!

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  • Homemade mini pizza’s on whole wheat english muffins: Older kids will love to help make these! Children will love choosing their own toppings and help assemble these little pizzas.
  • Homemade mac and cheese with whole wheat noodles, a little bit of butter, cheese and a little bit of milk: My daughter loves this! This is such a simple thing to make, and it eliminates A TON of the preservatives that are found in boxed macaroni and cheese. You could also add veggies to the mac and cheese to boost the nutritional value:)
  • Leftovers: Don’t underestimate the power of leftovers! Leftovers are great for quick lunches. When you are cooking meat, cook a little bit extra for lunches. Cut up chicken, roast, fish and use it for lunch. Many children will eat meat better when it is cut up is small pieces. Serve meat with some fruit and veggies and you will have a nutritious and filling meal in no time!
  • Cheese quesadillas on whole wheat tortillas: These are SUPER easy to make and are packed with whole grains and calcium. You can also add chicken, veggies, salsa…the possibilities are endless;).
  • PB&J on whole wheat bread: This is a classic! Make these sandwiches more exciting by cutting them into different shapes. Your kids will love it!
  • Yogurt Parfait: Greek yogurt, fruit, homemade granola (recipe for homemade granola here).
  • Breakfast Burrito on a Whole Wheat Tortillas: Yes I realize that this is a breakfast item, but it works great for lunch and will keep your child’s tummy full! Try adding fresh salsa (recipe here) or veggies to the eggs for an extra nutritional punch!
  • Toasted Whole Wheat Bagel with Butter and Jam: Plain cream cheese and jam is also delicious on a toasted bagel!
  • Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins (Recipe found here): Serve with cubes of mild cheddar cheese, and a banana with peanut butter
  • Celery or Apple Slices with Peanut Butter, Toast with Jam and Yogurt.
  • Turkey Hot Dogs: If you have a child who loves hot dogs, go for the turkey dogs. They have much less saturated fat and are a smarter choice than beef (or whatever else is found in hot dogs haha).

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I always try to add a fruit or vegetable to each of my daughters meals. I am not perfect at it, but I do try! Here are some great sides to serve with lunch:

  • Fruit cups: Look for fruit cups packaged in water or 100% fruit juice.
  • Cut up fresh fruit: Cut up grapes, strawberries, peaches, pears, apples, bananas, berries, kiwis, oranges, or any other fruit and serve with lunch. Try to introduce a variety of fruit to your children.
  • Vegetables: carrots, peas, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, celery, and other veggies are awesome to add to your child’s lunch! Serve with hummus or a small side of ranch dressing (OPA Greek Yogurt ranch by Litehouse is my favorite. Has way less fat and calories).
  • Frozen/Canned Vegetables: My daughter loves canned green beans! She also loves the Green Giant frozen vegetables that come in different sauces. Frozen or canned veggies are a great option for toddlers because they are soft and easy to chew.
  • Green Smoothies: My daughter loves green smoothies. I love her to love green smoothies because of all the nutrients in them!

What healthy lunch ideas do your children love?

-McKell

 

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