Ah the long lunch. You remember it. On those glorious days when work wasn’t too crazy, perhaps the weather was nice, and you decided it would be delightful to spend a little extra time enjoying a savory salad on a bright and sunny day. Flash forward. If you aren’t scarfing down your lunch at work to make sure you wrap up that project in time to get to daycare, then you are probably finding yourself negotiating with tiny terrorists over what items they deem acceptable for consumption at toddler lunch time. So sad. When will lunch improve? Will they ever want to eat anything besides a handful of marshmallows plucked out of a bowl of lucky charms?
Cheer up friends! While toddler eating can be quite the perplexing situation, we’re here to tell you that a few simple steps can lead to a low stress and perhaps even fun eating experience with your twins. Toddlers can be tough when it comes to food, but it will get better. Putting in some legwork at this stage will set them up to be healthy and adventurous eaters throughout their life. Check out these steps and see how you can revamp your lunch game for the win.
Like all good things in life, a good lunch usually requires a bit of planning. Everyone’s time constraints are different, but scheduling some time before your week begins to plan out basic meal options will go a long way to stress-free lunches. In addition, planning will help your wallet as you aren’t scrambling and running to the store unnecessarily for needed ingredients. The more time you spend wandering a store searching for what you need, the higher the chances that you are blowing your budget. Set aside some time, make a list of what you need for the week and try to buy it in one outing (or even better order online for pickup or delivery).
Even more helpful, if you can spare some weekend time, prep what food you can ahead of time for the week. Cutting up fruits and veggies or portioning out snacks will go a long way in making lunchtime smooth sailing. Convenient healthy snacks and lunches will help the whole family to stay on track and make good eating choices.
If you want to read a really engaging “parenting book,” check out Bringing Up Bebe: One American Woman Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman. In this oftentimes hilarious memoir of life as an American Expat in Paris, Druckerman discusses the ups and downs of the French parenting style. When it comes to food, she notes that veggies are generally offered first, snacks are kept to a minimum so that children are hungry for meals, and meals are kept short and sweet (think 20 minutes).
While we might not all be Francophiles, implementing these mealtime gems just might help ease your lunchtime blues. Save their favorite dishes to the end (we’re looking at you mac ‘n cheese) and start with a fun crudité. There are so many veggies to choose from, find one that they love (and keep trying). Keep the mid-morning snack as light as possible and early enough so that when lunch time rolls around, they are ready. Once they get the hang of the routine, they’ll be begging for those veggies. Lastly, you may want to hold off on offering water or milk to your little milk hounds until they have consumed a good portion of their lunch. Filling up on liquids makes it less likely that they will get to the end of their lunches.
Planning on serving things you know they love will ensure that at least part of the meal will be easy. But offering unfamiliar foods or foods they don’t particularly care for repeatedly will help them become better eaters. Typically, kids need to try foods at least 10-12 times to determine if they like it. Given this tidbit, a good long-term strategy is to offer new foods ever so often, perhaps prepared in different styles, along with the foods you know they enjoy. Maybe you serve 4 different items at lunch. Have one of them be something new (or recently tried but not liked), and keep rotating that spot so that new flavors are continually hitting their pint-sized palates. Don’t be afraid to sneak some new flavors into their favorites (i.e. butternut squash or cauliflower in their beloved mac ‘n cheese) from time to time.
Sure, you aren’t going to get away with serving them a cold gazpacho without spoon feeding it to them, but there is a heck of a lot that you can easily train them to eat independently. At the toddler stage, cutting things into bite sized pieces that can easily be grabbed or poked with a toddler utensil will make your job easier. A plate of chopped carrots, hummus, cheese and crackers is generally something they can serve themselves. If you do want to serve something messy like soup or yogurt, Amazon has handy dandy fillable reusable pouches for your toddler.
Okay let’s be real. Most of you are not going to have time to carve a cheese sculpture that resembles the Magic Kingdom Castle as part of your lunchtime routine. Thanks to Pinterest, there are a lot of overachieving lunch artists out there that are making the rest of us look bad. BUT there actually are lots of simple and fun ideas that won’t make you want to beat your head into a wall. Maybe line up the fruit and veggies to look like a smiley face? How about using a cookie cutter on sandwiches to make them start shaped? A few cute tricks up your sleeve can go a long way toward toddler lunchtime bliss.
Check out these fun Buzz Feed ideas:
We hope these ideas have inspired you to make some fun and healthy lunches for your twinzies. Remember, toddlers can be tricky when it comes to eating healthy. Instead of being discouraged that a meal isn’t going well, remember that there are over 1,000 meals offered to them each year. There are plenty of chances for making healthy choices. Take the pressure off. Relax. Let them take from the meal what they will and over time, it’ll get better. Bon Appetit!