The most frequent question I get asked by readers is what do I feed Jane at mealtime? All us moms are in the same boat –toddlers are complex, finicky little creatures and feeding them things they’ll actually eat can take a whole lot of energy and creativity! For the most part, Jane is a great eater; she tries lots of things and enjoys a good variety of foods. We’re very consistent with breakfast – she eats eggs and a smoothie everyday. For dinner, she will generally eat a broken-down version of what the adults are having.Lunch is our biggest challenge though! She usually eats it right after her nap and can be a little bit cranky as she wakes up hungry and ready for a meal. It’s the toddler-version of hanger (I get that way too, it runs in the family!). My lunchtime solution has been to offer her snack-plate, with a few different bites that are easy to pull out of the fridge and quickly prepare. I thought I’d share a bunch of the things that I add to her “snack plate lunch” each week to spark ideas for packing lunches in time for back to school. We eat these at home most days, but they’re also great for packing up in a bento-box style container for lunches on the go!
To start, I try to include one protein element on her plate. All-natural deli meats are a quick and easy solution. I keep lots of the McKenzie Natural Artisan Deli products in the fridge to quickly assemble sandwiches, wraps, or serve them on their own! We all know food is a visual experience – so sometimes I like to make it fun for Jane by dressing up some McKenzie Oven Roasted Turkey and sharp Vermont cheddar sandwiches with cookie-cutter shapes (and the cookie cutter helps press the sandwiches together – easier to manage for little hands!). I’ll save the scraps of the sandwich on a plate for me so I don’t waste the rest of the sandwich.I’ll also use wraps or whole wheat bread that I’ve pressed down a bit with my hands to make little snack pinwheels filled with McKenzie Artisan Ham and Swiss cheese. A fun alternative to sandwiches and wraps is to place turkey slices on top of a crispy cracker with a few slices of avocado – Jane loves the crunch! I also chop up bits of McKenzie Artisan Ham and fold them into eggs (and sometimes hide veggies in there too!) to bake off little frittata-style egg bites. Use a mini-muffin pan and prep them in advance, just reheat for a few seconds in the microwave! These are great to have on hand for busy mornings too as a breakfast option.Once I’ve tackled the protein on the dish, I add in a fruit and/or veggie. Jane’s favorite is chopped up strawberries! Other ideas are slices of bananas, apples with peanut butter, mixed berries, or another favorite: broccoli or cauliflower “tots” from the frozen food aisle. Finally, I’ll add one more element to the plate to round it out with something that she loves – cubes of cheese, crunchy veggie sticks, pretzels or trail mix, a spoonful of hummus for dipping, or scoop of pasta leftovers.The fun part about this snack-plate/bento box idea is that you can prep a bunch of ingredients at once (make a batch of the frittata bites, pre-slice fruit, cube cheese, prep roll-ups) and then pluck them out to quickly assemble ylunch! If I’ve learned one thing as a parent recently, it’s that when kids (and moms!) are hungry, every second of time is precious. Tell me in the comments if you have other ideas for what to pack in your snack-plate/bento box lunch, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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Please note: This post was created in partnership with McKenzie Deli (available at Shaw’s deli counters throughout New England). Thank you for supporting brands that support this site!