Lunch Time with Toddlers

by Cheryl Tallman

toddler with broccoliToddlers can be selective, predictable and stubborn. Here are some tips to make lunchtime fun for your toddler!

Schedule: A key to toddler lunchtime good behavior is keeping to the same schedule every day. Sit down at the same time each day for lunch with your toddler.

Keep portion sizes small: In most cases, a serving of any type of food is about one tablespoon for every year of your child's age.

Be patient trying new foods (or even new versions of old time favorites): Raw broccoli, chopped broccoli and broccoli soup -- we know its all broccoli, but expect your toddler to be suspicious. It can take a child more than 20 times to try a new food.

Choices: Offering one large food item (e.g. a sandwich) for lunch will not go over as well as offering 3-4 small food choices. Provide a balanced healthy lunch every day that includes: protein, fruits and/or vegetables, grains, and calcium. Food choices can be simple:

  • Cheese -- cubes, slices or sticks
  • Toast or mini bagels with cream cheese and fruit spread
  • Mac n' cheese with peas and ham (recipe below)
  • Lunch meat slices rolled up or cut into squares
  • Fruit (toddler bite size) -- cooked apples, bananas, berries, pears, peaches, etc.
  • Mini-muffins
  • Steamed vegetables (toddler bite size) -- broccoli, carrots, green beans peas, etc.
  • Yogurt
  • Whole-grain crackers
  • Graham crackers
  • Dry Cereal (low sugar, whole-grain)
  • Pretzels

Food Temperature: Toddlers are sensitive to temperature so serve food slightly warm, room temperature or slightly cool. Always check the temperature of foods before serving them.

Choking: Many foods are choking hazards until your toddler is over 3 years old. Avoid small, hard pieces of food. The most common choking hazards for toddlers are nuts (other than ground), peanut butter, whole grapes, raw, hard fruits & veggies, chunks of meat, pieces of bacon, hot dogs, popcorn, potato chips and raisins.

Mac n' Cheese with Peas & Ham

bowl of macaroni and cheeseHere's a terrific recipe for a cheesy, warm lunch. The recipe below makes a large batch that can be frozen into small, single serving containers. Just warm up for a quick and tasty lunch.

Ingredients:

Classic Cheese Sauce (see below)
½ cup frozen peas
½ cup chopped ham
3 cups dry elbow macaroni

Directions:
Make classic cheese sauce (recipe below). Prepare the peas and the macaroni according to the package directions. Drain the macaroni and peas in a colander and rinse with water. Return the macaroni & peas to the pan. Over low heat, add the ham and cheese sauce. Toss gently to completely coat the macaroni with sauce. Serve Warm.

Classic Cheese Sauce
2 Tbsp of butter or margarine
2 Tbsp flour
1½ cups milk
1½ cups cheddar cheese, grated or diced
Salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and sauté for 2 minutes. Continue to stir and SLOWLY pour in the milk. Add the cheese. Continue to stir until melted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the So Easy Baby Food Basics: Homemade Baby Food in Less Than 30 Minutes Per Week and So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years. Visit Cheryl online at her website for more delicious tips.

Copyright © Cheryl Tallman. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.