Tasty Tuesday–June 24, 2008

Last week, I discovered that, during the summer, the lunches come pre-prepared to O’s daycare. They can’t read the labels of this pre-prepared food, and since O has a peanut allergy, his teacher asked if I could bring his lunch for the summer.

Sure, no problem, I thought. It’s only for the summer, and it can give me practice for when I need to pack a lunch when O’s older and in a more formal preschool/school setting. So, I headed to the grocery store and promptly became overwhelmed. It’s hard enough for me to plan a dinner ahead of time, but lunch too? Let alone a healthy lunch that wouldn’t take too much time for his caregiver to prepare for him.

That first night, I ended up buying some lunch meat, some fruit cups, cottage cheese and forgetting bread. For his lunch that next day, he ended up with some turkey and cheese tortilla pinwheels. I bet his teacher thought I was being creative, little did she know. I went back to the store on Tuesday and bought a whole bunch of Chef Boyardee. Uh, not exactly the healthy, balanced lunch I was aiming for. I don’t mind leaning on the Chef every once in awhile, but I don’t want it to become the staple of his lunch.

So, more experienced, lunch-packing WMAGs, what do you put into your child’s lunch? Any quick, inexpensive, healthy lunch ideas? I need HELP! And so does one of our faithful readers, Miranda. She actually wrote us with a similar dilemma, and it’s what prompted me to write this post.

21 thoughts on “Tasty Tuesday–June 24, 2008

  1. J's Lawyer says:

    Gosh, when J went to preschool, there was O.N.E. child with a peanut allergy, and O.N.E. child with a total tree nut allergy! NO ONE in the preschool could bring in ANY thing within the category. They changed the fall curriculum to avoid ANY leaves/nut projects.

    The daycare doesn’t do this? I was led to believe that this is the ‘norm’ with the younger ages.

    Kind of tough when one has a child that ONLY eats peanut butter and grilled cheese.

    I did buy Sunflower (not peanut, not tree nut) and made PBJ sandwhiches. Also, almond butter (not peanut, but, it is a tree nut)is fantastic.

    Maybe you could run those choices by your allergist, and see what he/she says?

    Otherwise, bring on the hi-carb, low protein foods! 🙂

  2. Cassie likes those Jello chocolate pudding cups. Yogurt, of course. Cheese sticks. Goldfish. Fruitabu. All the precut fresh veggies (Kroger now has a lot of these in organic.) Hummus. Cottage cheese. Turkey pepperoni. Does this help?

  3. Anonymous says:

    My son too has a peanut allergy and our preschool bans p-nut products as well. Our favorites: chicken nuggets – the Target brand has a reasonable amount of fat/per serving, soynut butter and jelly sandwhiches, cheese pizza, cold pasta or mac-n-cheese. All of which are in line with a preschoolers nutritional needs – don’t sweat the fat.

  4. Anonymous says:

    We pack lunch for my sone two days a week when he’s in daycare. He’s a picky almost 3 year old. It’s easiest to buy about a pound of thin chicken breast and make chicken fingers (fresh) in advance, then dole them out throughout the week. Another quick and easy option is to make some minute rice and on top, lay “rolls” of slices of luncheon meats – roast beef and turkey. Also, lots of snacks since he’s so finicky – yogurt cups, apple sauce cup, grapes, strawberries, banana, mini-bagel all go in his lunch bag every time. He can “graze” if he’s not happy with his main meal.

  5. Grilled cheese – either make your own or Smuckers frozen – the defrost by the time they eat them – and it helps keep the yogurt cool. Also bagel and cream cheese. My oldest is REALLY picky, so it isn’t easy!

  6. First off, thank you SO SO much WMAG for posting this topic for me! I have tried one of the wrap suggestions (I used garden veggie cream cheese, turkey, and ham, and unfortunately got negative feedback from Gracie.
    However, I’m going to try doing the pinwheels and maybe some of the fruit. Gracie will be starting preschool in August, and we have to provide a morning snack/breakfast and they provide lunch three days a week, so parents are only required to provide the other two days. Keep the suggestions coming and thanks to those of you who offered advice already!

  7. Is there a Trader Joe’s near you? There are some groovey things in the freezer section that might work out well as finger food for a somewhat-adventurous kid — gyoza (little dumplings with veggies and/or meat), samosas (pastry-type things with Indian filling), tortellini with various fillings, vegetarian “chicken” nuggets or corn dogs, etc.

    If you’re into pasta salads or rice salads, maybe they’d work well as kid-food too.

    Of course, these might be completely outlandish ideas for kids who are picky. Feel free to laugh. 🙂

    I also rather like the food-play potential of those “Lunchables” things, although the pre-packaged ones really gross me out for some reason. If you share my aversion, it’d be easy to make your own with a variety of ingredients. 🙂

  8. My 4 YO DS and 2 YO DD are in a Jewish camp, so everything must be Kosher and no meat.

    I make them: noodles with marinara sauce, morning star “chick n nuggets”, cut-up veggies, homemade yogurts cups, Small rice balls, cut up fruit, graham crackers.

    I don’t believe in packaged foods, and these little lunches only take another 10 minutes to prepare.

  9. Sutrat,
    There is NOT a trader joe’s near me, but thank you for the pasta salad suggestion. Gracie also likes grilled chicken, so I might be stealing the “leftover dinner” idea from one of the other commenters.
    I like the convenience of the lunchables, but join the consensus here that I don’t really like the pre-packaged food. And it might be cheaper to make my own anyway!
    She loves fruit especially apples, so that is an idea itself. Thanks ladies!

  10. j’s lawyer–I think Sunflower butter could be cool (is it any good?), and I’ll ask about Almond. O’s not allergic to tree nuts but sometimes allergists are weird.

    anon–Gotta check some of those suggestions out. Soynut butter–tasty?

    josie–Heading to your site once I finish this comment…

    2nd anon–I’ve been throwing all sorts of things into his lunch, but his teacher/caregiver isn’t giving half to him. So I’m going to write a little note in the lunch eat day of what she should serve him and when. I just had to throw out a Stoneybrook Yogurt cup… broke my heart.

    3xmom–Have to check out those Smucker’s grilled cheese!

    sutrat–We have a TJ’s, unfortunately they have peanuts in almost everything they make. The rice and pasta salads–interesting! Maybe a antipasto one day? I actually thought I was going to use Lunchables that first day, but when I got to the store and looked at them, they just sort of icked me out.

    Pavlina–Thanks for more suggestions–what are rice balls? O loves rice, so he might take to these, but not sure what they are?

    Miranda–I hope these ideas helped you! We were glad to help out (plus I got some help in the process!)

  11. Chief Family Officer says:

    I would say, for starters, don’t feel bad about sending him with the same lunch a few days in a row (nothing wrong with pinwheels all week long, if he likes them). Or, for example, if you buy deli meat, make up a Lunchables-type box that he can have for a few days in a row. (Tip: Silicone baking liners make fabulous dividers/containers within a reusable plastic container.)

    My favorite thing to pack is leftovers. My son had pizza for dinner Sunday night, and for lunch on Monday and Tuesday. I rounded out the lunch with some cut up fruit (packed into a silicone baking cup), a hard boiled egg (he loves eating the white), and a couple of small cookies (Trader Joe’s vanilla wafers and/or animal crackers taste good, don’t contain anything really bad, and fit nicely in those – you guessed it – silicone baking cups).

    I keep foods in the freezer for when there aren’t leftovers or my son doesn’t like what we had for dinner. Leftover mac and cheese always goes into the freezer in individual portions. But I also keep store-bought stuff – taquitos, nuggets, that sort of thing. If you put them into a lunch box in the morning and then keep them cold, the texture is acceptable even if they’re microwaved instead of baked.

    Finally, my favorite resource is Lunch in a Box. Biggie dissects her preschooler’s lunches, and I’ve picked up so many ideas and tips. I love that site!

  12. funny, i just gave my 7 year old a lunchable for his “sack lunch” at camp and he was thrilled. i was not, but it was a one time deal.

    tela – my husband thought soynut butter was an ok substitue for peanut butter. i refused to try it because it was a weird color, but we sure mourn not having peanut butter around our house anymore. my 18 month old has an allergy and i’m not looking forward to the school age days. that’s too bad that the daycare can’t provide lunch for your son.

  13. J's Lawyer says:

    Come on down! I will make you and O a sandwhich on both Sunflower butter AND Almond butter. AND, I have a whole jar of unopened Soynut butter that you can have. I was going to pitch it. I already have the almond butter and the sunflower butter, plus peanut butter…do I really need soynut butter, too?

    My preference is prolly the almond butter, but, it has to be refridgerated, and I don’t like spreading it on bread too well…it kind of tears the bread, KWIM?

    I am amazed the the wide variety of foods some of your children eat! I can wish/hope/pray that one day J will take a detour into the food world. His motto and mantra is, “I can’t like that”.


    PS- am I the only one that has to re-create an account each and everytime I want to post? What am I doing wrong???

  14. Oh — another idea — if eggs are OK, there’s always egg muffins! They’re very easy to make and customize, and you can cram them with veggies and/or leftover bits of meat, too…

  15. CFO–Great tips! Help me out though… what are Silicon Baking Liners? I have never heard of them, but yet again, I have never heard of a lot of things in regards to cooking! I’m definitely going to do the leftovers thing more.

    suefam–I feel your pain. I really loved me some peanut butter. I still do, I just don’t eat it. I think I might’ve had some soynut butter before, although I can’t remember. I think I thought it tasted nasty.

    j’s lawyer–Might just have to take you up on that offer. I don’t know about the creating an account thing… are you signing in with your blogger account?

    sutrat–Eggs are OK, and those egg muffins look delis! I am book marking that site.

    And thanks to everyone who offered up sites. They are all bookmarked now!

  16. I second the Smuckers grilled cheeses, but be aware they can be hard to find. The only place around here that we can seem to find the grilled cheese is Target. Everywhere else carries the PB&J, but not the cheese. We buy 4 boxes at a time. Alex loves his “circle cheese sandwiches.”

    He also gets Easy Mac, a bagel with cream cheese, ham and cheese sandwiches, Dino Nuggets (BJ’s sells big boxes of them, both kids love them)… Another thing is soup, as long as the daycare will nuke things for you. I guess you’d need the microwave for the Easy Mac too, unless he’ll eat it cold.

    Then for sides we do fruit bowls, chips, an apple (nice and hardy) or a banana, yogurt cups, pretzels…

    I do know what you mean about having to throw out food, it’s hard to find the right balance. Remember too that the kids usually get a much shorter period of time to eat their lunches there than at home, so it may not be that the teacher isn’t giving it to him, but that he runs out of time. Especially if O is a slow eater like Alex.

    Zach gets leftovers a lot, but Alex won’t eat them for some reason. A meal he loved one night will get his nose turned up the next day.

  17. Costco has spinach bites that are found in the refrigerated section near the meats. These are tasty, healthy, and easy. I buy the large package at costco, freeze them, then dole them out for his lunches. They have several other similar items that work well too.

  18. So glad that I’m not the only one who thinks Lunchables are gross. My 4 year old always asks why her friends get them but she doesn’t. I am obviously very unimaginative in the lunch dept. compared to a lot of you. Plain cold macaroni, ham/turkey & cheese sandwiches. Applesauce, yogurt, fruit, cereal/granola bars, string cheese are our lunch staples.

  19. First, don’t feel like you have to be creative. My boys are 6 and 9 and they will literally take the.same.dang.thing EVERY day for the whole week. It works out well because you can buy regular things like grapes or raisins or carrot sticks or string cheese or crackers or cookies and just use a little each day (I am a big fan of Ziploc bags). My kids LOVE GoGurt, and you can freeze it so that it thaws out by lunchtime and keeps everything else cool.

    I never thought about sending the Uncrustables…just letting them thaw. That’s a great idea.

    btw, I also pack my husband’s lunch and he eats the.same.dang.thing everyday too.

  20. When my son was at his last center, I had to pack his lunch. I would give him soup — a lot — drain the liquid off, and you have pasta, veggies, a little protein, etc all in there. He LOVED it and is still a huge soup fan. I’d also give him leftover pasta — his favorite is penne with a can of diced tomatoes and some mozzarella thrown in at the end. String cheese and fruit cups were always on hand to add in for snack.

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