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Lunchtime with Toddlers

Toddlers are selective, predictable, and stubborn. Here are some tips to make lunchtime fun for your toddler!

Schedule: A key to good behavior during a toddler’s lunchtime is keeping to the same schedule every day. Sit down at the same time each day for lunch with your toddler.

Keep portion sizes small: In most cases, a serving of any type of food is about one tablespoon for every year of your child’s age.

Be patient trying new foods (or even new versions of old favorites): Raw broccoli, chopped broccoli, and broccoli soup—we all know its all broccoli, but expect your toddler to be suspicious. It can take a child more than ten times to try a new food.

Choices: Offering one large food item (a sandwich for example) for lunch will not go over as well as offering three to four small food choices. Provide a balanced healthy lunch every day that includes protein, fruits and/or vegetables, grains, and calcium. Food choices can be very simple and include things like:

  • Cheese: cubes, slices, or sticks
  • Toast or mini bagels with cream cheese and fruit spread
  • Mac and cheese with peas and ham (recipe below)
  • Lunch meat slices rolled up or cut into squares
  • Fruit (toddler bite size): cooked apples, bananas, berries, pears, peaches, etc.
  • Mini muffins
  • Steamed vegetables (toddler bite size): broccoli, carrots, green beans, peas, etc.
  • Yogurt
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Graham crackers
  • Dry cereal (low sugar, whole grain)
  • Pretzels

Food Temperature: Toddlers are sensitive to temperature—serve food slightly warm, room temperature, or slightly cool. Always check the temperature of foods before serving them.

Choking: Many foods are choking hazards until your toddler is over three years old. Avoid small, hard pieces of food. The most common choking hazards for toddlers are nuts (other than ground), peanut butter, whole grapes, raw and hard fruits and veggies, chunks of meat, pieces of bacon, hot dogs, popcorn, potato chips, and raisins.


Recipe: Mac and Cheese with Peas and Ham 

Here’s a terrific recipe for a cheesy and warm lunch. The recipe below makes a large batch that can be frozen into small, single serving containers.  Just warm up for a quick and tasty lunch.

Ingredients:

Classic Cheese Sauce (see below)
1/2 cup frozen peas 
1/2 cup chopped ham
3 cups dry elbow macaroni

Directions: Make classic cheese sauce (recipe below). Prepare the peas and the macaroni according to the package directions. Drain the macaroni and peas in a colander and rinse with water. Return the macaroni and peas to the pan. Over low heat, add the ham and cheese sauce. Toss gently to completely coat the macaroni with sauce. Serve warm.

Classic Cheese Sauce 

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups milk
1-1/2 cups cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and sauté for two minutes. Continue to stir and pour in the milk very slowly. Add the cheese. Continue to stir until melted. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

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