Healthy and Exciting Lunches for Kids — Meal Prep
Sunday Meal Prep: How to gear up for the week plus tips and tricks for making the local life work. This post contains affiliate links.
Have kids at home? Don’t think you can switch to local food and keep your small humans fed? Think they won’t eat the lunches you pack once they get to school?
If your kids are anything like mine, they love processed snack food. It can be hard to get them to want anything else, especially when we see it everywhere we go.
At first, I tried to make the snacks my kids loved instead of buying them. I made cheese crackers and granola to start. The kids loved the cheese crackers and didn’t really care about the granola. (Justin and I still love that granola and eat it almost daily.) Though the homemade cheese crackers won the taste test over store-bought with the kids, I can’t keep up with their demand!
I had to face what I already knew. My kids will eat only carbs if any delicious carbs are available.
We are not a gluten-free family, but we know that grains and carbs should be a balanced portion of what you eat, not the main thing.
As I searched for healthy, local things my kids would eat, I again came across the Pinterest bento box lunch trend. The gist? If we make healthy food pretty and exciting, our kids will eat it.
So I gave it a try with the picky 3-year-old.
This first lunch contains some easy-win foods. 3 loves blueberries, likes peanut butter sandwiches, and will eat a couple of carrots with hummus every now and then. She recently became a cheese skeptic though. She will only eat cheese if it’s “cute”.
How can cheese be cute? you may wonder, sanely. She discovered Elsa cheese. Walmart sells pieces of cheese, made by Disney, each individually wrapped with plastic bearing the smiling faces of Frozen characters. I’m not sure what kind of farm Disney runs, but surely we can do better than that?
She devoured the Elsa cheese that we purchased, so I tried cutting some leftover deli cheese into hearts. It totally worked. She ate everything on the plate.
The next lunch I tried was the yellow plate in the first photo. I added sweet potato chunks, which she dislikes usually, in with tomatoes which she loves. She cleaned the plate again!
When making the week’s last “shape lunch,” as she’s started to call them, I got a little carried away. She ate three local sweet potato cubes (including the one with a pony in it) and the Hurricane Creek Farm tomatoes with crema and feta, but not the lettuce and beans underneath. But she devoured that heart toast! Underneath those pink sparkly sprinkles were Split Creek Farm goat cheese and homemade whole wheat bread made with Carolina Ground flour.
And the lunch made her super happy even if she didn’t eat every bite.
Maybe you already know your kid won’t eat any of the things I tried. Or maybe your kids eat everything without a struggle! (I’m totally not bitter. Not at all.)
My main takeaway from this experiment makes me happy, because it’s one of my goals as a parent anyway.
Delight your kids with the food you give them, whenever possible.
The grocery store already does a great job at that. Disney cheese. Sugar cereal. Character-shaped fruit snacks. Corn-syrup-based popsicles in neon colors. And I’m fine with that. That stuff sells! And my kids definitely get all those treats from time to time.
But if you can give your child a positive connection with the healthy, nutrient-packed foods that their body craves, you can influence their future health. I want that for my kids!
The Exciting Lunchbox
Some healthy foods they love or like
A few healthy foods they tolerate
A couple healthy foods that they think they don’t like*
Place an Amazon order. Watch what your kid will and won’t eat. Think of their favorite characters and colors. Then start to experiment. Attractively arrange some of the OK foods with minimal effort. Use your sprinkles, character toothpicks, cookie cutters, and desperate prayers for the foods they don’t like YET. Then take a picture and post it on your social media for some peer approval just in case your kid doesn’t eat it.
*Tips: Try pairing an undesirable food with a yummy dip. Arrange favored and unfavored foods together on a skewer. Tell them their lunch is a surprise. Sometimes these things work, sometimes they don’t. Don’t sweat it.
Try this recipe with the kids school lunches when they go back to school after spring break! Surprise them with a cute lunch and see if it works. It’s worth a try!