Do you get stuck at lunch time? Need a little easy inspiration? Our philosophy on lunch is simple - "What do you have in the fridge or the cupboards?" That, friends, makes up lunch. No complicated recipes, no super complicated meals. Just lots of nourishing, satisfying, tasty foods that give them energy to get back to learning, playing or taking a nap! Click on the link below to access our Lunch Toolkit. We hope it helps inspire you!
Do you have a kiddo going off to preschool or elementary school this fall?
We take a lot of time choosing backpacks, school supplies, shoes and first day outfits, but it’s so important to make sure your child knows how to use their lunch gear and can open/close bottles and food containers if they won’t be assisted.
Here are some ways to prep for school lunch:
One big question we always get is, “How do you keep lunches cold?” (Shown here are Bentgo boxes that we love! You can find them in our Amazon shop under Lunch.)
Here are some tips from USDA:
Don't forget that these safety guidelines apply to any food out of the fridge, even snacks you send with your preschooler or diaper bag snacks.
We talk often about feeding our kids, but feeding yourself is important as well!
Every time I post about my lunch salads I get tons of questions about how to make a salad tasty and satisfying. Y’all say that your salads aren’t interesting, but with a few tweaks I bet they could be something you really enjoy!
I love salads. They’re what I crave for lunch. I don’t eat them because I “should” or because I’m trying to be “good.” I eat them because I love how they taste and I love how they make me feel. If I’m not craving a salad one day I don’t eat one! Yup, sometimes that means a sandwich or a burger. But most days when lunch rolls around, salad usually sounds tasty.
However, I rarely eat the same salad two days in a row. Adding variety in flavor and ingredients keeps them interesting and satisfying.
I also love trying salads at restaurants - there are always so many creative ways to make them!
When making a salad, consider adding one component from each category so there’s enough flavor, satisfying nutrition, and texture in your salad. (Many of us miss out on protein or filling fat when we make a salad and are hungry 1-2 hours later.) Let’s face it - plain chicken on lettuce is oftentimes not that interesting, but once you add some avocado, chopped almonds and fresh strawberries it becomes a little more tasty! Dress it with tangy vinaigrette and suddenly you have a winning lunch.
New to this? Want to get more salads in your life? Don’t overwhelm yourself, just pick one thing from each category to try to have on hand when you build your next salad. Use a pre-cut base so you can wash and pour it in a bowl.
Oh, and one more thing - some people just aren’t satisfied by a salad alone. Try pairing it with a whole grain bread, some fruit or some soup and see if that helps round out the meal for you.
Are you and your kiddo getting sick of the same ol’ sandwich? Perhaps you have a nut allergy in your family or can’t bring nut products to school. Here are some simple options that are balanced, tasty and easy to put together. Maybe some of them will work for your family!
These are open-faced sandwiches so you can see the fillings - add bread on top!
Shown is Trader Joe's sprouted bread, and we also love Dave's Killer Bread - watch for big seeds for kids under 4 and honey for babies under 1 when choosing bread!
We like BPA-free canned wild salmon as an affordable way to get more omega-3 fats in our diet. It’s great mixed with Primal Kitchen avocado oil mayo, which is made from avocado oil, eggs, vinegar, salt and rosemary.
To add flavor to mashed black beans, add garlic, cumin and sea salt - hot sauce for you (or your kid if they like it)!
There are so many great deli-style turkey options on the market - we love True Story brand and Trader Joe's organic turkey - the only ingredients in these options are turkey and salt. If you don’t have access to them, try to find nitrate-free options if you use deli turkey.
If your kiddo has a pine nut allergy omit the pesto or use a pine nut-free option like Alessi Foods brand.
How do you teach your baby or toddler to eat a sandwich? Well, you can just give it to them and see how it goes, but if they stuff it all in their mouth or can’t figure out how to eat it we have a few Foodie Judy tips for you below:
Why is it important to serve variations on the same foods we eat frequently?
I have a confession. I love peanut butter, but I do not like jelly. Or jam. No, It’s not a “health” thing. I just don’t dig them. (I don’t like the taste of honey either. Or donuts, but that’s a whole different post.)
Way before I had kids I started using fruit and other toppings on my “PB&Js” because I enjoyed them so much more, and when I shared these ideas with my adult clients they realized how much they enjoyed the satisfying mouth feel and density of whole fruits on their PB&Js. I even tested smashed raspberries and almond butter sandwiches made with whole grain bread on a bunch of kids about 5 years before I had my first baby. Guess what? They LOVED it. Their parents were shocked. Give it a try! You and your kid may be fans, and you might start changing up how you PB&J!
What about jelly? Is it “bad?” Nope. Jelly is easy, convenient, and (to most people) tasty. It’s just nice to change what we eat from day to day - whether it’s the flavor or brand of jelly - so our kids learn to eat all sorts of foods over time.
Put peanut butter (or other nut/seed butter) on both bread pieces to help prevent bleeding of the fruit into the bread.
If your child is allergic to peanuts or tree nuts, sunflower seed butter or another seed-based butter may be a safe alternative. Also consider using granola butter or cream cheese.
Note: Avoid honey in infancy.
Stuck in a sandwich rut when packing lunches? Sandwiches are awesome, but so are other foods too!
Recently Bentgo asked us to write an article about lunch ideas that involved foods other than sandwiches to help parents get a little creative (not sponsored). If you’d like to read it, head to Thinking Beyond the Sandwich!
At lunch we love offering some source of protein, at least 2-3 produce types (veggies/fruits), a whole grain or starch food, plenty of fat (inherent in foods like eggs, cheese, quartered olives, guacamole, salmon, nut butters) and something fun or unexpected like dark chocolate chips or a new cracker type!
These containers are great because they encourage creativity and small, manageable portions that help keep kids from getting overwhelmed. I tend to pack more than I know my kid will eat because I’m not there to give them seconds of any one item. If you’re at home, keep portions very small, especially for reluctant or picky eaters - they can always have more!
Make sure to pack an ice pack and put the container in a separate lunch bag.
Thank you Bentgo for giving us a chance to write for your fans!
Frustrated feeding your toddler, preschooler or even 5-7 year old? Our Toddler Course can help!
Sandwiches are a simple, filling meal option that can help provide essential nutrients - like fiber, protein, and B vitamins - for kids. It’s very convenient if your child can eat sandwiches, as they’re a popular food in many parts of the world. Plus, they’re easy! Whether you’re filling them with peanut butter and jelly, smashed berries and almond or sunflower seed butter, chicken or egg salad, turkey and avocado, or hummus and grilled veggies, sandwiches are a simple option that works well for any meal.
However, many toddlers can’t quite figure out how to eat sandwiches because they require what Judy calls the “bite and pull” technique, where they bite off a piece of food as they pull it back and into their mouth. Some toddlers struggle with stuffing the whole sandwich in their mouth because they can’t quite feel the confines of the bread in their mouth as they eat it.
What are some ways to help your kiddo be more successful with sandwiches? Of course, you can just offer quartered/halved sandwiches at about 10+ months, but your child may have more success when you modify the sandwich to account for their current developmental stage.
Here's some considerations to keep in mind:
Grilled cheese made even easier.
How do we make the most PERFECT grilled cheese? The secret’s in the cooking method - use a toaster (or regular) oven, people! I don’t know if I’m just not good at skillet-made grilled cheese (or if I get way too distracted when I’m supposed to be watching it brown), but I tend to burn grilled cheese made on stovetop. Perhaps you do too!
A few years ago I discovered that it is absolutely amazing in the toaster oven on convection bake setting at 350F. If you don’t have a toaster oven, use your regular oven and a baking sheet but watch it closely! Use it the next time your kids are hangry or the rain starts pouring - it pairs nicely with tomato or vegetable soup, especially when cut into strips for dipping!
Here’s how to make it:
Allergy note: use dairy-free butter alternative and dairy-free cheese + gluten-free bread if needed!
Give it some veggies and protein.
Do you sometimes use boxed mac and cheese for your kids or yourself? Yes, homemade mac and cheese is great, but sometimes we need convenient options! If you're a boxed mac fan, you're going to love this!
Here's how we like to modify boxed mac and cheese:
Trader Joe's Organic Mac and Cheese or Annie's Homegrown brand are some of our favorites,
Try this early with your young toddler so that they are used to their mac looking a little different each time! Have an older toddler set in their ways and will only eat the mac and cheese from the blue box? Use the strategies in step 7 of our Toddler Course to slowly graduate away from foods presented the same way each time.
Additional tips to try: