After I posted Owen’s cutesy Valentine’s Day lunch I got a comment asking me for more info about what I usually send for him for lunch at school. In fact, I posted the same picture on my personal Facebook page and it started a long conversation about the same sort of topic (“what is that?” “how do you make it?” “where did you get that cute lunchbox?”). Apparently this is a hot topic!
It’s a hot topic that I don’t touch very often because I know talking about food can bring out strong emotions in some people. Yes, many mamas out there would simply like to see what others are sending for toddler/kid lunches to get ideas for themselves (I fall into this camp!), but I have noticed that when I have posted about food in the past it either elicits criticism of my own choices, or criticism that it seems like I am judging other peoples’ food choices if they don’t eat just like me (ahem, this post).
So before I even broach the subject of food, I’d like to say: I think a lot about what I feed my family and what I eat. We have some dietary restrictions (with Benjamin and Owen both eating strictly gluten free, which means not even using products that say “processed in a facility with wheat”). I have a philosophy that I do my best to follow, which includes eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods. We eat snacks out of bags and frozen chicken nuggets once in a while, and I don’t consider this to be “cheating” or “bad” or detrimental to our overall health. That said, I am NOT judging you for how you eat, or how you feed your kids. We all make choices for different reasons. Please don’t hate on mine, and I won’t hate on yours.
So for those of you who want to hear how feeding Owen is going these days WITHOUT judging, here it is! On a normal day, he eats breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks. He has milk before breakfast and at lunch and dinner. Now that he’s using an open cup at lunch and dinner, he drinks FAR less milk than he used to, and water in between meals. I am very blessed to have a good eater. Sure, he’s gone through picky phases and throwing food on the floor phases and food strike stages, but overall he is an adventurous and open-minded little foodie. We have established that if there’s something he doesn’t want to eat, he has to take one “no thank you bite” before he can refuse it. Recently we’ve started introducing treats after dinner like “special cereal” (Honey Nut Chex), animal crackers, fruit, cookies or a few mini marshmallows.
Breakfast consists of generally the same 3 buckets. Grains (something bread-y like waffles or pancakes, which we make ahead of time and freeze, Rice or Corn Chex cereal, zucchini/banana bread, etc.), protein (eggs, yogurt, cheese), and fruit.
Lunch is usually a protein (generally leftover dinner protein, gluten free lunch meat, cheese, beans, tofu, etc.), a veggie, and “something else” (which could be another veggie, a fruit, a grain-y side like rice or quinoa, nuts/seeds/dried fruit, etc.).
Leftover roast chicken, cheese stick and red/green peppers.
Edamame, tofu & rice noodles with a sesame/soy sauce from the previous night’s dinner, and steamed sugar snap peas.
Cheese, tomatoes, broccoli/cauliflower, lemon quinoa with parsley & feta.
I love seeing the notes his teachers write about how much of everything he ate. Recently he’s been not eating the veggies that he eats without issue at home, but in the past it was the complete opposite (he would eat everything at school and nothing at home). I don’t sweat it. This is what I offer him. Whatever he eats, he eats. Whatever he doesn’t, he doesn’t.
Dinner is usually a protein (beef, poultry, fish, tofu, beans — since the celiac diagnosis, we have been eating more meat than we did before), a veggie and “something else” (usually a starchy veggie like sweet potatoes or grain like rice, quinoa, pasta or toasted bread).
Snacks are usually a fruit/veggie and something crunchy (pretzels, popcorn, cereal, granola bar). At home I also include nuts/seeds here, but his school is nut free, so we save those snacks for home.
So far this method has been working out really well for us. Owen will even ask me sometimes, “What has protein in it?”. Whenever possible I give him choices like, “For protein for breakfast, do you want cheese or eggs?”. I’m hoping it gives him an idea of how to balance his own meals when that day comes.
P.S. Those cute bento box containers that I use for his lunch are called LunchBots and are sold on Amazon. They are the perfect size for portioned breakfasts and lunches!