how to create quick nutritious lunches for your little ones…
Come and take a peek into lunches at our house and hopefully you will come away with a few ideas for your own family.
In an ideal world, lunch would be the meal I’d gather my family round the table for a big warm meal. The large meal would sustain us for the work and play that we had for the afternoon and in the evening we would have a small quick meal together before we slowed down for the night. It never really occurred to me how backwards we have it, eating the largest and filling meal at night when all of our energy is already expended. But unfortunately, our modern busy life doesn’t really work that way. My husband works out of the home and isn’t home until 6:30 in the evening. So it is what it is and we have our biggest meal in the evening.
While I love cooking, I just don’t have the time to prepare 3 warm freshly cooked meals every single day. I like to start the day off with a cooked large breakfast to give everyone a bit of extra energy. Then by the time lunch rolls around, everyone is starving again (even though they have had a snack between) and I have to find something quick.
We usually combine some kind of leftover with other bits and bobs to make a well-balanced meal that will give my kids enough energy to sustain them. I make sure to include at least some vegetables, protein and fat. Sometimes I throw in some other things as well, but those first groups are a must. If you want more guidance on putting together a well balanced my meal, check out my post about learning to balance your plate.
I’ve included pictures and descriptions of a weeks worth of lunches that I fed to my little ones. These meals are simple, nutritious a take minutes to throw together.
Hummus Bowl including Wholemeal Pita, Red Peppers & Snow Peas (mangtout). This is probably the most common meal at our house and often has a piece of fruit and some nuts thrown in with good measure. The boys love hummus, especially my baby (though it is extremely messy). We are lucky over here in the UK and can get store-bought hummus without all the preservatives and soy added in, but I only found one brand of hummus I could eat in the States since my little one is allergic to soy. If I lived over there, I’d probably make it at home.
Tuna Salad on Rye Sourdough with Cucumber Noodles and Clementines. For the tuna salad I either chop up tiny pieces of onion or grate it into the tuna itself and mix it with some mustard, a bit of mayonnaise and some salt and pepper. Sometimes my kids are in the mood to add a spinach salad to their plate, but some days they aren’t. Little ones are so fickle. Often when I make this I thrown the tuna on top of a bed of spinach for me and chop up some tomatoes as well.
Hardboiled Egg, Oatcake & Cheese, Cucumber Noodles, Tomatoes, Asparagus and Sunflower Seeds. A little of this and a little of that. This is grocery shopping day lunch when I need to clear out the fridge and are all out of our normal lunch foods. I tend to keep hardboiled eggs on hand at all times, I’ve even started pre peeling them for quick access.
Black Beans and Vegetable Stir Fry with Basmati Rice. This is one of my favourite lunches, you really can’t go wrong with a stir fry meal and I just love black beans (as do my kids). I make a big batch of beans in the slow cooker and then freeze them in small containers to pull out for lunches. I only get to eat black beans for lunches because my husband hates them, so I try to use them as often as I can. All you need for the stir fry is some chopped veggies, some coconut or sesame seed oil and a few dashes of soy sauce, tamarind sauce or if someone is allergic to soy like in our family we use coconut aminos.
Leftover Pasta with Bolognese Sauce, Blackberries and Red Peppers. This could be any leftovers we have from earlier in the week that need to get used up. As you can see, I’m all about leftovers and my family has no choice in the matter. It’s economical and simplifies my life greatly.
Lemon Mustard Fish Cakes (recipe here), Romaine and Cabbage Salad, Frozen Fruit, Clementine & Raw Soaked Nuts (check out my post here about nuts). These fish cakes are tasty and easy to make and I store them in the freezer so I can pull them out for a quick nutritious lunch or dinner. My teenager especially loves them and they are great for baby led weaning because they are so easy to hold.
Hardboiled Egg, Avocado, Cucumber Noodles, Nuts, Frozen Raspberries and Gram Flour Sesame Sticks. Avocados are great to throw into lunches because not only do kids generally love them (mine love guacamole most, but I was lazy this day and just served slices) but they are full of essential healthy fats. Kids need these fat even more than we do because their brains are developing so rapidly. I’ve also found that my kids are obsessed with frozen fruit. They sneak it like candy. It it usually much cheaper than fresh fruit and store for much longer. If you struggle getting your kids to eat fruit, try it frozen the novelty might just get them to take a chance.
I hope that you come away with some ideas for your family and that it shows you how simple it can be to eat nutritious lunches. Sure you could make something warm every meal, but who has the time or the energy. Sometimes you just need to simplify and these kinds of lunches are perfect for that.
What are some of your simple lunches that you and your family eat?