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Preschool lunches - Reviving a thread I saw a few weeks ago

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
My son just started preschool this fall and I have been really enjoying packing his lunch! I was hoping to start a thread with creative lunch ideas. I will start with my own and hopefully get the ideas going. I just know there must be as many ideas for exciting lunches as there are kids!

First of all, I present the lunch in such a way that is easy for him and his teachers and also looks like fine dining! At goodwill I found an old basket (about 8 inches square) with handles. That is his "lunch box." Then, I took remnant fabric (ours has dragons and apple trees and a little boy prince pattern) and hemmed these into 8 inch square "napkins." I line the basket with one, fold one for his napkin and then use one to cover the lunch basket. It has been such a hit that the teachers have asked the whole school to copy this so that each child has a "placemat" that equates to "this is my food, that is your food." It helps with food sharing, etc.

The other thing I did was buy 4 or 5 of the small glass containers from Frigoverre (a brand I see lots of places - Whole Foods has them) and I put all of his food in these. It cost more initially but I get to reuse them over time and don't have to buy baggies. Also, if something needs to be reheated at school, I feel safer with them being reheated in glass instead of plastic. And it also teaches him (I think) to honor his food because he is eating out of real dishes of sorts. The preparation that goes into his lunches also sets an example of reverance and gratitude that I want my son to have about food.

As far as lunches go, here are a few of my favorites:

whole grain pasta - not long noodles but short, fun shapes that he can spoon or eat with his fingers. My two favorite preparations are either pesto and peas or butter and fresh parmesan grated. Simple and he loves them. Oh, I also splurged and bought a $25 thermos container that keeps his food hot until lunch time. It is about 3 inches wide and 4 inches tall so it fits in his basket - not a great fit but okay. I bought this at Rite Aid or Target. Since I've already used it so much, it has paid for itself!

brown rice and veggie sushi - like 3 or four pieces with avo/cucumber/carrot

rice crackers (the little flat round ones) with cream cheese spiced with garlic and herbs from our garden and turned into "sandwiches." I usually stack these 6 or 7 across in the little glass containers - the way a sleeve of crackers are packaged. (If the cream cheese feels too thick, you can add milk or cream and whip it up.)

Believe it or not, I always save a drumstick from our roast chicken and I just send an entire plain drumstick - which my son loves!

Hummus with carrots for dipping. My son won't eat store bought hummus so we started making our own. Then, when he brings hummus and carrot sticks to school, he eats them ALL because the hummus is his own creation!

Mini whole wheat pita bread with either almond butter/coconut/raisins or cream cheese and cucumber.

Raw food "burritos" - these are washed lettuce leaves left whole. I usually use red leaf or butter lettuce. Then I spread a leaf with hummus and go from there. Other toppings can be shredded carrot, cucumber, almonds, olives, sprouts...anything your child likes. A sweeter version of this is almond butter with apples, raisins, coconut, grapes cut lengthwise in half, or any kind of melon too. Roll them tight and they are the perfect finger food.

Okay, that's about it for my repetoire...let's keep this going! We are two months into school and I'm running out of new ideas.
post #2 of 22
I love the basket idea! This alternative school that we are planning to send our b/g twin toddlers to when they get older uses the lunch basket. Serious kudos on the basket cover placemat idea!

The twins are sent to daycare with a full lunch that is not jarred (unless we run out of food altogether ) As a rule of thumb we try to put together poultry/dairy, grain and fruit or veggie each time.

We try our best to give them finger food, though once in a while they will require help with a spoon. Their lunch would be something like this:

Turkey hotdog julienne
Parmesean cous cous (they LOVE this!)
Cut up organic veggies
Unsweetened soymilk
Cut up banana Pieces

Rice animal pasta with tomato sauce (messy!)
Mozzarella julienne
Cut up apples
Unsweetened soymilk

Cut up veggie burger w/ ketchup
chopped broccoli florets cooked with goat's cheese
Cut up canned peaches
Cheddar bunnies
Unsweetened soymilk

Some days I hit a major roadblock in ideas due to their limitations in what they can eat until they get molars. Sometimes they just get a double portion of mac and cheese and applesauce.

I tore out an article out of Parents magazine about setting up a pick and choose your lunch. You have three groups of food with 5 choices each. 5 main courses (ranging anywhere from sandwiches, soups, drumsticks and wraps), 5 fruit or veggie and 5 grain/snack type food. It would take over 150 lunches before you could repeat a meal. I plan on using that method as the twins get older and get more diverse. I am putting together a makeshift list for DH when he needs to come up with some ideas for their dinner and I am not home yet

I might add that the Parents magazine was a gift from my mother. I'm letting the subscription lapse.
post #3 of 22
Thread Starter 

I was about to squash the thread so thanks for posting!

You gave me some great ideas to add to our repertoire. Moz julienne, paremsan couscous and cooked broccoli florets are going in his lunch next week! Btw, I came up with a new one today he liked...
I bought the organic/healthy(-ish?) version of ritz crackers on sale at whole foods so I slathered these with peanut butter and a banana "disk" to make petite pb/banana sandwiches. They were all gone this afternoon!

Hope some other mama's chime in here. I'd love the ideas.
post #4 of 22
shoot, im gonna steal some of these ideas for me im going back to work in a daycare in a few weeks, and while we can eat with the kids, im trying to eat healthier, and unfortunatly alot of the stuff is not so great. when i was there before i usually took leftovers, and everbody was walking in to the breakroom to see what i brought, cuz the microwave made the whole hallway smell good
post #5 of 22
: :

I'm a SAHM and will homeschool, but I still run out of ideas often on lunches - I like these ideas!
post #6 of 22
Fantastic ideas!

Here is another question (that should perhaps be its own thread, but I think Brooke loves me enough to forgive my hijacking

My dd just goes to preschool for three hours in the afternoon, parents sign up to bring snacks once a month or so, but only from a list given by the preschool. So far I am less than impressed with the snacks....teddy grahams and juice, etc, etc Last year they used to do things like celery with peanut butter and raisins - which the kids put togehter themselves, but this year it is all prepackaged stuff. Any ideas on how I can encourage them to adopt a healthier snack schedule?

post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 

Preschool snacks

Hey Jeanette, It's funny I just found this today and I happened to be in charge of snack for the school today. It was my second turn. Luckily Satchel's preschool is health conscious and wants wholesome snacks. But I wanted a little better even than what they were serving so I took over and started placing the school's food orders! Each family has to do volunteer hours anyway so I made it my mission to take over the food. I use Mountain People's warehouse but there are other whole food bulk distributors out there -if you want ideas let me know. The director makes the list of types of foods but I choose the actual products so I can make the crackers whole grain, the fruit organic, etc. I also started a "Snack and Lunch Idea List" near the sign in book so all parents pass by each day. The list is actually growing and people are getting excited by the ideas. Recently I started bringing empty boxes of whole grain crackers Satch loves or the Kamut pasta that is actually delicious and doesn't taste like dust. This way people will recognize brands they aren't familiar with. Plus, filling Satchel's lunch with wholesome foods and bringing extra for the teacher to share with his friends shows other parents that the kids actually like healthy food. One of Satchel's favorite snacks is Mary's Gone crackers (whole grain with flax seeds in circles the size of a ping pong ball) with herbed soft cheese - goat or cream cheese are easy to spice up with garlic and/or dried herbs - sandwiched between two of the crackers. When I'm lazy and price isn't an issue I buy Boursin cheese from the market already flavored. All the kids go bezerk over this one. Now other mom's are sending it regularly and the
school has them on their snack menu. Hope these ideas help. If you find something else that works, let us know too!
post #8 of 22


I love your lunchbox ideas- It sounds a lot like a japanese bento box. I *love* the Frigoverre storage containers... I have a whole set (1 of each size) that I bought at Williams Sonoma and it was pretty reasonable, considering how often I use them. I'll have to look for the individual smaller ones now.

We plan to start DD at preschool next fall so these ideas will come in handy. I was initially thinking of one of those soft vinyl lunchboxes but then I read about the lead many of them contain!

Keep the lunch ideas coming- They're great and I can use them here at home too.

One of DD's favorite lunches is almond butter and good jam on sprouted wheat or sourdough and some grapes sliced and/or carrot sticks with "dipping sauce" (usually balsamic vinaigrette). She also loves asian type noodle or rice bowls with meat or tofu and teriyaki or soy sauce and carrots.

post #9 of 22
LOVE the food ideas and the basket idea. Thanks!

Just curious, but about how much does the basket weigh when packed with the glass containers full of food? My preschooler has some muscle strength issues and I'm not sure she could manage this, but I LOVE this idea and would like to try it!
post #10 of 22
wow, my lunches are so boring. But I am loving this thread.
post #11 of 22
post #12 of 22
Wow! I am loving this thread! Between J's sudden "I'm four now so I think I'll be incredibly picky about every morsel that goes into my body" (wasn't it just yesterday I had to stop her from eating gravel at the park? How they grow!) and my pregnancy-induced loathing of the kitchen our lunches have been a little ... erhm, .... lacking around here. Very basic pb'n'j's on most days

Thanks for the ideas and inspiration!

I also wanted to throw out the link to this blog that I recently found called Vegan Lunch Box - we're not vegan, but I've gotten loads of good ideas from her! I thought you all might enjoy it, too
post #13 of 22
Just was doing a search on bento boxes since my older two will be going to pre-k/k this year, and thought this thread should be bumped. Great ideas in here!
post #14 of 22
Oooh, thanks! I'm packing my DS's lunch every day this year, and I don't want it to be the same old boring stuff every day. Here's what I have planned for the first week & a half:

Thursday, August 16
Turkey, Provolone & Ranch tortilla roll-ups (2)
Black beans in Thermos
Strawberries & blueberries
Oatmeal cookies (2)
Juicy Juice box

Friday, August 17
Garden vegetable soup in Thermos
Oyster crackers
Granola bar
Juicy Juice box

Monday, August 20
Turkey & Chipotle cheddar sandwich on whole wheat with Miracle Whip
Dill pickles (2)
Pineapple rings & blueberries
Strawberry Newtons
Juicy Juice box

Tuesday, August 21
Refried bean & cheese burritos (2 - cut into 1/4ths) with salsa for dipping
Tortilla chips
Kiwi fruit & strawberries
Oatmeal cookies (2)
Juicy Juice box

Wednesday, August 22
Chicken noodle soup in Thermos
Oyster crackers
Granola bar
Juicy Juice box

Thursday, August 23
Turkey & Provolone on English muffin
Canned corn
Pineapple rings & kiwi fruit
Strawberry Newtons
Juicy Juice box

Friday, August 24
Mac & cheese in Thermos
Blueberries & strawberries
Oatmeal cookies (2)
Juicy Juice box
post #15 of 22
Just a few ideas.... these are really simple but sometimes I forget the most simple of things so just putting these out there:

Applesauce - didn't see that one mentioned but my son loves the organic unsweetened applesauce and it would be easy to add to any lunch

Quesadillias - you could make these cold ones with fresh ingredients like even a taco salad type one or pizza one, etc.

Fried Rice - my little guy loves this one

English Muffin/Bagel Pizza - fun for little hands

Pitas - stuff them with anything, avocado and turkey with ranch is a favorite here

Sandwich puzzle - cut the sandwich into pieces and have them put it back together (good with cookie cutter in the middle and the outside peices cut at angles)

Rice and beans - we mix steamed veggies in ours

Tuna or egg salad with crackers

Fruit leather

post #16 of 22
My dd is starting preschool 2 days a week, next week. They eat family style for lunch, but the food is not so hot. It looks nutritious, but the quality leaves something to be desired. I am going to send her lunch, but I'm trying to imitate what is on the schools menu, unless it is gross or my dd won't eat it.

For August

Schools menu - taco, lettuce, cheese, rice, orange wedges
My menu - taco meat, lettuce, salsa, tortillas, oranges

Schools menu - pizza, peas, carrots, pineapple
My menu - homemade pizza, green beans, carrot sticks, apple wedges

Schools menu - cooks choice (that usually means some kind of lunch meat sandwich on gross whole wheat bread, that's not actually very whole wheat)
My menu - Natural sausages and cheese chunks, homemade biscuit with butter, blueberries, and small salad

Schools menu - fish nuggets, broccoli with cheese, peaches, dinner roll
My menu - chicken nugget, steamed broccoli, rice, berries, homemade dinner roll

Hopefully this will go over well.
post #17 of 22
Ugh...DD went back to day care today and I felt so dumb trying to pack her lunch this morning. I was completely un-prepared. I wound up sending a jelly sandwich cut into triangles, some cut up cheese, and some organic vanilla cookies. Not a fruit or veggie in sight. And because she went to a new day care I feel like the first lunch sets the precedent. I will definitely send something better tomorrow. Maybe a pasta salad, with whole wheat elbow macaroni, some peas, and feta cheese, a hard-boiled egg, and a banana.
post #18 of 22
I am getting so inspired here. My dd is very particular with foods. I don't have any creative ideas, but I know she'll always eat a BLT or cheese quesadilla. Maybe if I get creative with lunches she'll eat better.

We haven't gotten a lunch box yet (I'm avoiding the whole lead thing) and wanted to sew up some sacs. But tell me about this basket. How do you keep a 5 or 6 yo from spilling the basket and breaking the jars?
post #19 of 22
post #20 of 22
Try www.reuseablebags.com for lead free lunch bag options, and they are cute too!
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