Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lunchbox Inspiration: How to keep lunchtime exciting!

In this lunchbox:  (top left) sweet potato chips and sun dried tomatoes, (top right) cut up turkey, (bottom left) cucumber sticks and plain yogurt dip), (bottom right) grapes.
Having a two year old, food allergies or not, means that lunchtime (in and out of the house) can be a big challenge.  As you know, I love to cook and prepare food so I consider this to be a really fun challenge - keeping mealtime fun for our kids so they are excited to try new foods!  When packing lunch for your kids, I am always looking for easy ways to pack lunch while still offering plenty of variety.  So far, I have been pretty successful at this!  I am looking forward to sharing these initial ideas with you and plan to continue with more posts about lunchtime in the near future.

First, for lunch at home.  This can be equally as daunting as packing lunch in many cases!  I try to implement one leftover from dinner along with foods that I can drizzle dressing or sauce over and I also make sure to include a nutritious dip of some sort (my two year old LOVES to dip!) 

For lunch on the go, a lunchbox like the one I have in the picture above (a Laptop Lunchbox) is key - we have the box and then the zip-up lunch "bag" to put it in so that we can keep it cold with an ice pack.  It even has a tiny dip container that my little guy loves! 

See my "lunchbox inspiration" links at the bottom of this post to get your creative juices flowing!

Here are some ideas:

Veggies (I always include two)
  • Baby spinach or mixed greens with oil and vinegar (let your child grind pepper, squeeze lemon, or add a pinch of salt!)
  • Cucumber sticks or "chips" (cut into thin rounds)
  • Carrot Sticks
  • Jicama Sticks (on special occasions, I buy this pre-cut at Lunds)
  • Kale Chips
  • Frozen peas (yes, frozen - kids love them this way!)
  • Pickles (we buy Bubbies pickles - lots of probiotic power!  I cut them into sticks)
(We do not do a ton of fruit at lunch, especially when at home.  We save them for snacks and smoothies!)
  • Whatever is in season and/or on sale - cut into bite size pieces
  • Frozen berries
  • Leftover burger (vegetarian option - Quinoa Burgers)
  • Rolled lunch meat cut into small circles
  • Grass fed beef hot dog cut into small bites (we love Thousand Hills)
  • Grass fed beef sticks (also Thousand Hills for us) cut into bite-size chunks.  I will mix them with frozen peas many times - a great snack on the go, too!
  • Small pieces of cheese cut into fun shapes
  • I have seen some great meat and cheese kabob ideas out there, too. 
  • Homemade or store-bought hummus
  • Plain yogurt (we love So Delicious Plain Coconut Milk Yogurt) or CocoKefir's CocoYo (again, a powerful probiotic - get them in any way you can!)
  • Guacamole (I'll mash an avocado with just a little lime and put it in a bowl on the side if we are at home)
  • Cranberry Pumpkin Ketchup (mix a little in with the yogurt!)
  • Brown Rice Cakes (we like Lundberg Lightly salted) broken into bite-size pieces
  • Sprouted corn tortillas (we like Food For Life) with a thin spread of Sunbutter, cut into triangles
  • Bread (whole wheat, GF, or other) cut into fun shapes that are easy for dipping
  • Take a muffin out of the freezer and stick it in his/her lunchbox - it will be defrosted by lunchtime!  If you cut it into quarters for smaller hands, it will defrost that much faster!
  • Tortilla Chips (blue corn are best!)
  • On a special occasion, Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato Chips (a favorite in our house!)
  • When at home, some warm rice or quinoa pilaf
  • Dried Fruit - I cut up 2-3 dried apricots into strips for dessert.
  • Sun dried tomatoes - you can get small bags of these at Trader Joe's.  My little guy thinks of them as a treat (sweet and chewy!)
  • Small chunks of homemade granola or granola bars

Some lunch (and snack!) making inspiration:

My little guy's recent muffin tin lunch!
I just ran across Muffin Tin Mom and am already thinking of all the fun ways I can use a muffin tin to serve lunch and snacks - brilliant!!!! Warning: you may spend way more time perusing her site than you expect. (Hint:  I just bought a silicone Christmas tree muffin "pan" from Target for $2.50 in the dollar bin area specifically for this purpose!!!)

This Lunch Rox is also awesome an addicting. :)

Last but not least (I shared this once before) this is a great idea for older kids or for you and your hubby - freeze single serve leftover soup in mason jars, defrost the night before, warm up in the morning and stick it in a thermos.

This is re-posted at Allergy Free Cookery - another great place for lunchbox inspiration every Friday!

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