Lunches are tricky for me.
There are a few staple breakfast foods that I feel can be recycled every day – cereal, waffles, pancakes, Raisin Bran, French toast, eggs, cereal with milk, oatmeal, cheerios, grits, shredded wheat, cereal, muffins, and oh – did I mention cereal?
Dinner is wide open, with choices ranging from family favorites to international cuisine (although we all know Indian food is best).
Lunch eludes me. Lunch I cannot get a handle on.
What makes a good sack lunch besides leftovers or a sandwich with carrot sticks?
If you’re dining in, what do you make for kids of all ages and for yourself? How do you present it?
Right now Laylee will only eat one food per day willingly. This item is decided at breakfast time and will be requested for all snacks and meals throughout the day. Even as she is “eating” her actual meal, she continues to ask for the chosen item. I usually give her what she wants once per day. What she wants are waffles, cereal, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and pizza. All fruits and vegetables must be forced or concealed.
I have a dream that one day she will eat like a normal person, Dan and I will actually start packing him a lunch, and I will gain the willpower to stop eating large amounts of pasta every single day for lunch. When that day comes, I will go back to this post and use your suggestions.
Just yesterday morning, a friend told me she was making soup to eat for the rest of the week every day for lunch. She said she was fed up and unable to come up with creative things to make for the mid-day meal.
I figure that if each of us gives at least one original suggestion, we’ll all have a lot to work with.
I like my mom’s idea of choosing a color for the entire meal. I remember orange days where we ate Mac&Cheese, carrots, oranges, and drank OJ. Very fun.
For sack lunches, it’s fun to do a bunch of snack foods – cheese cubes, hummus, veggies, crackers, ham cubes and a cup of yogurt.
For me, I may steal the soup idea, making one of my favorite low-fat soups and eating some each day for the week.
What have you got for me? What’s for lunch at your place?
My favorite when I was a kid was when Dad would make pb & j sandwiches for lunch and use a cookie cutter on them for cool shapes. He makes the best pb & j sandwiches!
mom on a wire says
You said Laylee likes pizza- we’re big fans of the english muffin pizzas here. Grab a muffin, slice it in half, spread on some spaghetti sauce and top with cheese and pepperoni. Broil until cheese is bubbly, and voila! So easy, so fast, and so much fun for each kid to assemble their own little pizza. We also like to cut our sandwiches into shapes with cookie cutters for a fun twist on the regular stuff. I don’t worry about lunch all that much, I kind of view it as another snack during the day. Remember that kids’ stomachs are only the size of their closed fist, so it doesn’t have to be a large elaborate meal. A few healthy options do just fine. As for the only wanting one food per day thing- why not just let her have it? If she wants waffles all day, give it to her, but top them with something different and healthy for each meal. Some homemade jam for breakfast, yogurt for lunch, berries for dinner. Especially if you make the waffles from scratch and add in a bit of wheat flour, I think it’s a very healthy meal. Plus, she gets to feel like she’s in control which makes the whole day easier!!
bag lunches for the boys –
chicken or turkey sandwiches, finally, this year whole wheat is acceptable – with a slice of cheese. drink box, apple or grapes or orange, a piece of candy.
I don’t usually eat lunch – unless someone else makes it. Oldest and I have fallen in love with a sandwich from Whole Foods. It is turkey with lettuce on cranberry nut bread.
And I like to have a slice of pizza with a side of broccoli rabe at the pizza joint with my pal.
These are rare occurrances, maybe twice a month, otherwise, no lunch.
Malina is only into things she can hold with her hand and eat, thus sandwiches: pb&j, tuna, grilled cheese, vegie, egg salad, cream cheese, etc.
Hot dogs, perogies, chicken nuggets, pizza, fish sticks, french fries, etc. Usually depends what she “feels” like eating that day, which who knows sometimes cuz she can’t tell me yet!
Sandwiches. E V E R Y day. Booooo-ring.
My boy usually wants some form of toasted bread (toast, bagel, english muffing) with fruit-only jam (we don’t do peanut butter yet) or cheese, yogurt and fresh fruit (yesterday, it was raspberries by the fistfull). He loves fruit. Veggies, not so much. For breakfast it’s ALWAYS nutrigrain waffles with one of 3 syrups.
Since he pretty much likes to eat the same things all the time, I’m always in search of something new to introduce.
I guess he’s a chip off the ol’ block. I eat the same thing just about every day, too. For lunch, I’ve been eating those Amy’s organic frozen things. Homemade soup would be a much better choice.
Speaking of Indian food. . .Where we’re moving, I’m not sure there is any! Right now, I’ve got one of the best indian restaurants in the country just 2 miles from my house. Waaaaaaaaah!
I love your Tues. Tips feature!
My kids want PB and honey every single day. At one point I was compelled to ask the ped if that was going to do any damage since my 2yo (at the time) had probably had pbj (no honey yet) every day for a year. The ped said it was fine. Of course, his (the kid, not the ped) tongue has permanently attached itself to the roof of his mouth.
If it’s not PBH or PBJ, then it’s mac/cheese or homemade lunchables. My kids love those. I let them cut out the bologna with cookie cutters, they choose the crackers and type of cheese.
One more thing: pumpkin pancakes. I just add some canned pumpkin to the pancake mix. I make shapes when I cook them. Or I spell their names. Big hit.
I think I could eat grilled cheese every day for the rest of my life and die a happy woman. There are times when I branch out and have grilled tuna, and when I’m feeling really crazy, I’ll combine the two for a tuna melt. Good times.
Can’t say that we’re that original here– soup, spaghettios (love em), soynut butter and jelly, mac and cheese, bagels, ramen (you can do quite a bit with ramen). Actually I like to make my mac and cheese fancy by adding meat and vegetables.
For myself I like to make a little salad and then stuff it in a pocket or a wrap. Frozen burritos are good too.
I have found that my kids also like anything with “dip” if that helps.
tuna fish sandwiches
grilled cheese sandwiches
fishsticks (totally unhealthy)
chicken nuggets (see above)
as you can see, we’re limited. but at our house, it’s “you’ll eat what i make or go hungry” tho i do try to make something they’ll at least try.
Don’t know if pancakes make Laylee’s food list or not, but one thing I’ve tried (with some success) is making potato pancakes for my kids’ lunch. Not the fancy (and really yummy) kind eaten at Hanukkah, these potato pancakes are made by shaping mashed potatoes into a pancake shape and then cooking them in a skillet (with or without butter) until they get crispy on the outside. Also, I’ll mix well-cooked, finely-chopped veggies and even meat in with the potatoes for a more complete meal. To top eveverthing off, I make a really thin cheese sauce and serve it as “syrup” (ketchup works well for this purpose also).
As for sac lunches, two ideas I haven’t seen listed are including an individual packed applesauce (I love the flavored kinds) with the leftovers or sandwich or my husband’s personal favorite, pack a chef’s salad. I know sac lunch salad – a little questionable – but I have a tip. Make up your salad with lettuce, veggies, meat, cheese, whatever you like in a Tupperware container but don’t put the salad dressing on. Then take an old, cleaned-out baby food jar and fill it with your favorite salad dressing. Make a space in the center of your salad and put the closed baby foor jar of dressing into that space. Close up the Tupperware and you’re ready to go. You can even pack one for yourself when you make your spouse’s. That way, if you don’t want to eat your child’s “food of the day,” you’ve got a healthy lunch waiting.
We have the same dilemma in our house as Cool is infinitely picky. People and magazines give great ideas for how to disguise healthy stuff into regular foods like salad and pancakes. But they forget that your kid has to eat those foods in the first place. Cool does not. Sad, but true.
Our usual lunch consists of one of the following:
peanut butter and honey
peanut butter and sugar
macaroni and cheese
chicken strips or nuggets
sometimes cereal if we’re desperate
My ped says to do the best I can and give him a vitamin. It won’t last forever. I chant this as I prepare the fourth peanut butter sandwich of the week.
I’m planning to try to reintroduce apples again soon but this time with carmel dip or peanut butter. I know, it sounds like I’m feeding a baby not a six year old boy. Sigh.
Sherri Wilkerson says
Sweet potato fries are a big hit with my kids. They look like french fries, so they must be yummy, right? You need a really sharp knife to cut raw sweet potatoes or you will NEVER, ever make them again, no matter how much your kids love ’em. Just peel the potatoes, cut them lengthwise, toss with a bit of olive oil and herbs of your choice. We like garlic powder (sparingly), rosemary, and sea salt. Then put on a baking sheet and into a 425 degree oven for roughly 25 to 30 minutes. Very tasty!!
Barb Szyszkiewicz, sfo says
My Big Kids are fans of “bagel & cream cheese” for lunch. I buy bagels by the dozen, slice and freeze in sandwich bags. If they want to carry lunch to school the next day I spread on the cream cheese (right on the FROZEN bagel), defrost the bagel overnight in the fridge, and pack it in the lunch.
Tuna is also a hit, IF I serve it on rolls.
I put a “lunch portion” of leftovers, labeled, in the freezer. My husband can choose from those on the days he carries lunch to work. This way he doesn’t have to eat “yesterday’s dinner” twice.
My MIL told me my husband only ate ketchup sandwiches on Wonder bread for the better part of a year when he was four.
mmmmmm, those sweet potato fries sound yuuuummmeeeee.
My two-year-old loves burritos. We just buy tortillas at the store (you can get corn, flour, or whole wheat) and spread some refried beans (sparingly) and smother with cheese. One minute in the microwave and two minutes to cool down and there’s lunch! (We try to add veggies sometimes but he isn’t so hip to that.)
My mom was a big fan of random, fun lunches — popcorn and milk, crackers and cheese cubes, take a pita pocket and stuff it with anything you can find in the fridge, quesadillas, etc…she was definitely of the school of thought that breakfast and dinner provided enough “actual nutrition.”
Now I usually have Jamba Juices.
Just remembered – something my two-year-old is loving right now is yogurt “smoothies.” He actually prefers the full-of-fruit blender kind, but as we grew tired of firing up the blender everyday, my husband landed on a compromise. We take a carton of yogurt, eat a few spoonfuls out of it and then add milk to the carton until it’s a drinkable consistency. We then cut a little “x” in the carton lid, replace the lid on the carton and poke a straw through it. That way he’s happy (he loves straws) and there’s less chance for a mess so we’re happy. He’ll often eat that for lunch with his sandwich or whatever. Makes PB&J seem a little heathier, no?
I love all the different ideas. Our current list of favorites are . .
peanut butter and honey or jam sandwiches
soup (mostly chicken noodle, which I hate, hate, hate)
turkey dogs (for some reason I think turkey parts are better for my children than chicken and pork parts, less fat don’t ya know).:)
sometimes they just want lunchmeat like ham or turkey along with pieces of cheese and crackers
Spaghettios or Raviolis from a can (bluck)
Ba Ba (My daughter has always called McDonalds Ba Ba. I think she gets it from the commercial song. They get them young.) This, of course is a rare treat and only if I need some time to get my brain back in my head while they run around and lose theirs.
My list could go on and on.
My kids really are not too picky about meals. My 4-year-old is the pickiest, but in a weird way. She will eat odd things and love them, but shun things that are somewhat normal. She loves cranberries from a can. Need I say more?
Did someone mention Indian food? I lived with a family from India for a year. I was in heaven. I make some Indian dishes for my family and they love them. My favorite is butter chicken. I think the Indian name for it is Chicken Makhani. This and Naan and I am in heaven. Great topic, by the way.
I’ve got one! I love to have an Egg Burrito for lunch. You could also call it a breakfast burrito, I guess, but I prefer something lighter for my breakfast. Large flour tortillas, scrambled eggs, plus just about anything! A little cheddar cheese and some Tobasco works well. Peppers and mushrooms are great, too. It’s fast, it’s hot, it cleans up fast, and is filling. I’ll often give the kids just scrambled eggs and toast for lunch (protein!) and make myself the Egg Burrito. Love ’em.
I agree with mom on a wire. My daughters 5 years and 2 years love making their own english muffin pizzas. I also think that letting them decide what is for lunch is great. I had a pediatrician tell me once that letting them decide what is for lunch is a great way to give them some control over their life. Mommy gets to decide what is for dinner and they decide lunch. I try to help by suggesting things like fruit and veggies, sometimes they think that it is a great idea and sometimes they think I am completely nuts. My thought on them eating the same thing for lunch everyday is that eventually they will get bored with it and change their mind on what they want. They now know not to ask for things like ice cream or chocolate because mommy does say no. They vary from soup and chili, mac & cheese (I like to sneak in corn with this one), PB & J (they love making their own sandwiches), chicken nuggets and bubbly cheesy bread-slice some cheese put it on the bread and broil until it bubbles, they love the bubbles. Sometimes we end up treating it as if it is just a big snack time and eat many different things
mom on a wire says
Now that prime time is over for this post, I’ll leave a comment.
When I was young, my Mom used to make sack lunches for me and my brothers each day before we left to work in the potato fields. We usually filled at least one “garbage” bag (okay, they’re really grocery bags, but we called them garbage bags because of their second use).
The thing I remember vividly is the sandwiches were always some kind of canned mystery meat (Spam?) covered in mayonnaise. By the time we broke for luch, the bag had been sitting in the sun all morning. Mmm, mmmm, mmmmmm, warm mayonnaise on mystery meat. Maybe that’s why I can’t stand mayonnaise–white death, I call it.
These days, I stick with PBJ sandwiches…
If you like Indian food, I can give you vegetarian tips. For instance, try stuffed parathas- they are absolutely yummy and much easier than making naan. My husband’s colleague, an American, liked my Alu (potato) parathas so much, that he tried making them too. Parathas are easy to make and you don’t need to go to a specialty store for the ingredients!
I don’t have any suggestions as far as menu, we have typical kid fare (nuggets, fish sticks, mac ‘n cheese) but for planning meals here are 2 free downloadables that include breakfast, LUNCH, and dinner. (Need Adobe Acrobat)
I think it’s good to have different items on hand so you can choose that day what you’ll have.
I know other people use paper plates at lunch and they make cute kid ones that might help. My friend has a diabetic son that has to eat all of his lunch so she offers 1 or 2 pieces of candy from a candy jar if her kids finish all of their lunch.
Do you have Trader Joe’s? Its a great store that has tons of yummy things for lunch. Next week we will be posting recipes at My Friend Jen, so come check them out.