Chase’s teacher repacks what the kids don’t eat for lunch and I LOVE that she does this for a myriad of reasons: 1.) I reuse his leftovers. Whatever he doesn’t eat as his lunch that day automatically becomes part of his after school snack. I simply re-plate it and add a few “new” foods to spruce it up a little. 2.) I can see what foods are never a hit. This doesn’t mean I’ll stop including vegetables in Chase’s lunch but it does mean I’ll offer him veggies I know he’s more likely to eat (carrots) more frequently than the ones he will often pass over (bell peppers). Below the photos of Chase’s lunches, I’ve included notes about what he ate from that day’s lunch since a photo of a child’s lunch can be deceiving since (at least in our experience) they rarely eat everything that is packed for them.
I have a simple formula I stick to when it comes to assembling Chase’s lunch everyday and it looks like this:
- Include one fruit
- Include one vegetable
- Include a source of healthy fats
- Include a source of protein
Chase’s Bentogo Bento Box makes it really easy to check all of these boxes off and assembling his lunch before school every morning doesn’t take long at all. As for his drink, he gets water with lunch every day. (He uses and loves this stainless steel water bottle.)
And since I am sure I’ll get questions about the lack of animal protein in Chase’s lunches, I’ll quickly address this by saying Chase doesn’t love meat. He will eat burgers and sausage and occasionally chicken nuggets (only the frozen kind — he doesn’t even like Chik-fil-A) at home but the majority of his protein comes from nuts and dairy as well as whole grains since they have protein, too! Also worth noting is the fact that Chase’s preschool does not have any allergy limitations so nuts and peanut butter are a staple in his lunches.
10 Preschool Lunches
In Chase’s lunchbox: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on Dave’s Killer Bread (Thin Slice — love this for both boys!), cucumber slices, apple slices, leftover chocolate chip cookie dough Larabar rolled into balls, From the Ground Up cauliflower stars cheese crackers
What he ate: Sandwich (but not the crust), all of the chocolate chip cookie dough Larabar bites, half of the cucumber slices, half of the apple slices, none of the cauliflower crackers
In Chase’s lunchbox: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, sliced colby jack cheese, cashews, cucumber slices, carrots, strawberries
What he ate: Sandwich (but not the crust — do you see a pattern here?), all of the cheese, all of the cashews, one cucumber slice, half of the strawberries, a couple of carrots
In Chase’s lunchbox: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Bitsy’s Cinnamon Sweet Potato Graham Smart Crackers, dried cranberries, sliced yellow bell pepper, clementine
What he ate: Sandwich (no crust), all of the crackers, all of the clementine, none of the cranberries, none of the bell pepper
In Chase’s lunchbox: Whole wheat pumpkin muffin (topped with sprinkles for a little flare), strawberries, carrots, cashews, leftover Larabar rolled into balls
What he ate: All of the muffin, all of the cashews, half of the strawberries, a few of the Larabar bites and a couple of carrots
In Chase’s lunchbox: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Simple Mills crackers, cashews, cucumber slices, strawberries
What he ate: A few bites of sandwich, all of the crackers, all of the cashews, one cucumber slice, a couple of strawberries
In Chase’s lunchbox: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, leftover Larabar rolled into balls, carrots, strawberries, string cheese
What he ate: Sandwich (no crust), all of the Larabar bites, all but two carrots, half of the strawberries, none of the string cheese (this surprised me because he almost always eats cheese in his lunches!)
In Chase’s lunchbox: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, apple slices, leftover Larabar rolled into balls, raisins, cucumber slices
What he ate: Sandwich (no crust), all of the raisins, all of the Larabar bites, half of the apple slices, one cucumber slice
In Chase’s lunchbox: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies, leftover chocolate chip cookie dough Larabar rolled into balls, carrots, apple slices
What he ate: Sandwich (no crust), all of the Larabar bites, a couple of carrots, half of the apple slices, all of the Cheddar Bunnies
In Chase’s lunchbox: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, pistachios, carrots, hard-boiled egg white (he hates the yolks) sprinkled with pink Himalayan salt, leftover chocolate chip cookie dough Larabar rolled into balls (Note: I asked his teachers if a hard-boiled egg white was too smelly to pack in a previous lunch and they said it was just fine!)
What he ate: Most of his sandwich, all of the egg, half of the pistachios, half of the larabar bites, none of the carrots
In Chase’s lunchbox: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, green beans, hard-boiled egg white sprinkled with pink Himalayan salt, cashews, Larabar bites
What he ate: Most of his sandwich (no crust), all of the cashews, all of the egg, a couple of green beans, half of the Larabar bites
Question of the Day
Are there certain “staples” you include in your little one’s lunch every day?
As you can tell, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich finds its way into Chase’s lunch most days.
These are great! My 4 year old currently asks for a “lunchable” in her bento box each day – rolled ham slices, diced cheese, round crackers, a small chocolate treat of some sort and maybe some cheez its. I’m still working on incorporating more veggies in her lunch. She also loves leftover pesto pasta (made with Aldi basil pesto) in her lunch when I have that available. The pasta goes great with peas or green beans!
Love this post! My son is only 2 yrs old, but I like looking for lunchtime inspiration so he doesn’t end up with the same foods everyday. Like Chase my son hardly eats meat so it’s a lot of pb & j sandwiches and cheese. He also LOVES fruit, but is still iffy on veggies.
Thanks for this post! Unfortunately, my daughter’s preschool doesn’t allow nuts, and that makes packing for my picky eater VERY difficult. They didn’t even mention this rule until I packed her PBJ on the first day, and they called me to say that was a no-no. They didn’t even allow her Kashi Super Food Bites because they contained coconut, which isn’t even a nut by some definitions! OK, rant over. 🙂
I feel your pain! Our preschool was the same: no peanuts OR tree nuts. My son has high functioning autism and is very picky as well. The upside is he doesn’t mind similar things everyday. (He is second grade now and in public school, so its no longer an issue for us).
I was happy to find bars that he liked and were compliant. The Kashi Crunchy Chocolate Chip Chia Granola Bars are completely peanut and tree nut free! As are Nutri-grain bars and Cascadian Farm Organic Chocolate Chip Granola Bars.
I learned some quick muffin recipes that he liked and would make those homemade and send them in. He also loved cornbread (which was compliant) and with organic honey? He was in heaven, lol.
Anyway. Hope this helped. <3
Thanks so much for the ideas! We have tried various flavors of the Nutri-Grain bars, but they’re either hit or miss. I will look for the Kashi and Cascadian Farm bars on my next grocery haul. The muffins are a good idea, too…it’s funny how I always think of trying different muffin recipes at breakfast, but never put one in her lunchbox.
Try the “Fig Bars”- both Costco and Sam’s sell these. My kids (1 and 5) LOVE them for breakfast, lunch or snacks.
This is great! And my son always asks for a “butter sandwich,” so his lunch looks very similar to Chase’s haha. Other staples include the Dr Praegers kids fish sticks or veggie bites or the Veggie Cakes from Costco – my son prefers cooked veggies over raw any day. I also throw in steamed or roasted sweet potatoes a lot or those cauliflower crackers with some hummus. He’s almost 3 but will always eat those applesauce or fruit/veggie pouches so they find their way in there too!
so funny — chase is the exact opposite and prefers raw veggie over cooked! he’ll eat very lightly steamed green beans and lightly cooked broccoli (sometimes) but he’s all about the raw veggies! and i WISH he liked hummus!! ryder looooves it!
So cute! Are you going to start cutting that crust off those sandwiches? Haha 🙂
ha! so i once had someone give me this piece of parenting advice: “don’t do something for your kid that you don’t want to do 1,000 times” soooo that would be a no. haha!!
Cut the crust off and save them and make croutons. 🙂
Sara Wilson says
These are great! Thanks for sharing! My older son has a peanut allergy and I have always been SO jealous of kids who eat PB&J every day! He’s a picky eater and sometimes he will like a food for weeks and then be over it for weeks.
I love this! My daughter has the same bentgo and I have the worst time coming up with ideas for the tiny container in the middle. She also is not into meat, so we are working on creative ways to get protein in.
my go-to for that one is cashews or pistachios, raisins and the rolled-up larabar bites!! but i need more ideas, too!
Us to! Our go-to options: peas, berries, cubed or shredded cheese, dried apricot, berries, hummus or dressing (for dipping veggies), homemade energy balls, rolled up homemade fruit leather, Trader Joe’s freeze dried fruit.
Emily S says
We have the same one! I sometimes put ranch or another veggie dip in it or peanut butter for dipping apples.
Sarah B says
We have the same one too, and honestly that is usually where I will put a treat if I don’t use it for a dip or something else small. I have cut some baby carrots and put them in there, but usually it’s a dip or a treat. I found out one regular size marshmallow fits in there perfectly! Or I will put a few m&m’s (usually saved from halloween baskets) or some chocolate chips. I follow the same general guidelines as Julie for at least a protein, a veggie, a fruit, and maybe something dairy (cheese or yogurt usually), so don’t feel too bad putting in a treat 2 or maybe 3 days a week since it’s so small. Although I admit if we were sending this to our daycare they wouldn’t allow the treats, but my oldest is in public school now where it’s not as strict.
I envy the variety you are able to pack for your son and that he eats it. My 5 year old only wants me to pack pasta with butter or brown rice with butter in a thermos. To go with it I include a yogurt and a fruit and that’s it. He’s allergic to nuts, eggs and isn’t a fan of much meat or cheese either. It’s so boring…I wish he would expand his horizons a bit. 🙁 He eats his veggies at home every night at least.
My son wants pasta and sauce every day in a thermos too!! Just cracks me up!!
Love this post! My son doesn’t like peanut butter (how are we even related?!) but I think they prefer we avoid nuts since a couple of kids have allergies so I guess it works out. Our staple is definitely hummus. He could eat it every day! I usually send it with some pita bread or crunchmaster crackers since they have extra protein, plus some fruit, sometimes a veggie (he never eats them but I try!), cheese, etc. I’ve also done quesadillas, deviled eggs, and turkey or ham on a sandwich or lunchable style.
Love this! We have the same lunchbox and it makes me think outside the box as to what to include in each section!
Question — what kind of peanut butter and what kind of jelly do you use for Chase? Always looking for a more natural kind vs. all the added sugar!
Aldi’s and Target both have their own line of simple nut butters not containing any form of sugar. We love them both but Aldi’s with the added salt makes us a bit happier 🙂
Agreed! We really like the Aldi organic peanut butter.
I see someone else already mentioned it but we also love ALDI’s Simply Nature organic peanut butter — that’s a go-to for me for sure. I also buy their organic strawberry jelly and Chase loves it, though all of the jelly I buy does have sugar added. And I’m not sure if you have a BJ’s Wholesale near you, but I buy two-packs of their store brand’s organic jelly a lot as well (Wellsley Farms) and another brand of jelly we like is Crofter’s organic strawberry jelly (I find that one at Whole Foods).
Thanks for sharing this! I strive to serve similarly—nothing too fancy, but decently healthy variety! I always look forward to reading your blog. Thanks for sharing your life with us!
Such a fun post! Also makes me feel like I am over-complicating my work lunch and should just pack simple!
I love this post! Thank you for posting – I always kind of feel like I’m failing by not living up to the IG worthy kid lunches I always see…and wonder if I took the effort to make a fancy lunch, if my picky eater would eat more! I am jealous that your teacher re-packs what he doesn’t eat so you can see – I wish ours would do that! We had major weight gain issues with our son as a baby and one year old, so I get a little nutty about his food intake 🙂
It really is so, so helpful, especially when Chase was 2 years old and SO tiny and I was also worried about food intake. Feeding kids can be stressful!! And I feel ya on not living up to the “perfect” lunches out there –simple definitely works best for our family!
im a little confused about “repacking” is this vs throwing food away?? do they really “unpack” the bentgo box? at my duaghters preschool they just eat out of the lunchbox and close it up when shes done, no throwing anything away…..
YAAASSSS! THANK YOU! I recently got our toddler a Bentego box to try and make lunches more simplified and fun and encourage him to try new foods – he’s very picky and meals are a big source of stress for me. It doesn’t help that I feel like being a stay-at-home mom means I should have these super creative, Pinterest-y lunches (as you said), but I don’t ever feel that ambitious, and then the mom guilt sinks in. So I looooove this – seeing that his lunches look healthy and fun without a lot of effort gives me the encouragement to keep trying! I’d love to see more posts like this in the future!
Right!? No time for a Pinterest-perfect lunch over here!
We LOVE that lunchbox too!! We use that small middle section for hummus sometimes, to dip veggies in. My soon to be 3-year old was on a PBJ kick for awhile, and I also love the Dave’s Killer Bread. For jelly, I like to use the World of Chia strawberry jam – a lot less sugar. We’ve used it for about a year, so she doesn’t seem to miss the sweeter taste of actual jelly.
Does Chase like grilled cheese? I’ve had a lot of success using King’s Hawaiian rolls and making a turkey and cheese sandwich – I microwave it for 30 secs so the cheese is melted and she seems to still like it at lunchtime. I also sneak turkey in her quesadillas sometimes.
OOOH! Where do you find that jelly!? I want to try it for Chase! And he does like grilled cheese — I need to do that one more often! And quesadillas are always a hit with him as well.
I find it at our local grocery store, near all of the traditional jellies. You can also order it on Amazon – they have a few different flavors, but strawberry seems to be the favorite in our house.
Why do you want to try a lower sugar jelly for such a tiny kid? Or give him cauliflower crackers or thin bread? I don’t know what my kid will want to eat, and he’s also small, so I try to pack in the calories wherever he’ll eat them.
Hi Jules! I totally get wanting to maximize calories for a little one! And since he still prefers playtime to eating, I try to get him his calories from the most nutrient-dense sources possible. He also gets plenty of sugar/sweet treats so a lower-sugar jelly seemed worth a try to me. (And if it’s not something he likes, no big deal! Clearly regular sugary jelly is working well for him at the moment.) As for the bread, this is solely based on his tiny mouth/size! Bigger bread/slices seem to overwhelm him and I noticed he’d eat LESS of his sandwich and waste more when it was made thicker slices of bread.
You can also make chia jam at home suuuuuper easily: https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-easy-chia-jam-with-any-fruit-222310. And, as you know, that chia is just loaded with protein and calcium, so it’s not the low sugar that sells us; it’s getting the good stuff in. We also often do a small container of homemade chia pudding with coconut milk and frozen blueberries. It gets eaten every.single.time and is loaded with all kids of good stuff….and takes 2 seconds to make the night before.
Katie @ Live Half Full says
I do not have to pack lunch since my preschool son is in a daycare setting, but I tend to follow the same trend for dinner since we are always in such a rush. I tend to follow the same “formula” and these were good ideas! My son is a huge fan of cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, not a huge carrot or celery fan, but he will eat Dr. Prager’s Littles so I use those a lot!
I love those little boxes for kid lunches. I feel like so many kids like everything in separate compartments. My little guy is obsessed with cheese and asks for it with every meal. I had to get tricky so now I top veggies/pasta/chicken with a tiny bit of parmesan cheese and so far it is doing the trick.. ha hopefully I am not setting myself up so a lifetime of adding cheese to everything! Cute lunch ideas, love them!
Hi Julie! First this was so helpful! Thanks! Two questions for you.
1. Do the apples slices brown before he gets to eat them or does the container keep them from browning?
2. Does he also have a morning snack or is this the food he gets while he is there? (How long is he at school?)
Thanks so much!
Hi Sara! The apples get a little brown but not too bad at all! And not bad enough for chase to notice too much (and he WOULD notice). I make his lunch about 20 min before we leave for school (around 8:40am) he eats it around 11am. They don’t do a snack at his school but preschool pickup is at 1pm so he’s ready for a snack by then which often looks like lunch 2.0 since I replate whatever he doesn’t eat with a few little additions.
Thank you for sharing! First, you’re beyond lucky to have no allergies issues to deal with. Someone in my daughter’s class has a severe peanut allergy and we are told to not send food that was just manufactured in a facility that is not peanut free. I completely understand why these allergies are scary, but man is that tough! (side note, did you know m & ms are not manufactured in a peanut free facility?!?) Second, I have a 4 year old who also seems to hate animal protein. I honestly think it’s a texture thing. One thing that has helped us a lot is adding a little sauce to things, even if it’s just marinara. She never eats it all but will take a few bites. Occasionally she will shock me and eat all of something if the sauce is good enough!
Imagine if your child actually had the life threatening allergies! I get it that it’s hard on everyone when you have to pack only safe food, but keeping the allergic child safe is most important. My child could actually die from trace amount of peanuts or tree nuts. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for non-allergic kids not to eat the unsafe foods while they are at school. Just my two cents bc the way your comment reads, it comes off a bit negative.
Liz, I apologize if my comment seemed negative, as it wasn’t intended to be. My niece has a severe peanut allergy. I completely understand why they’re so dangerous, it doesn’t make it any easier to try to find creative, healthy things to send to school. That was my point. Seeing what my sister goes through with my niece makes me thankful everyday that neither of my children suffer from severe allergies. Both my niece’s allergy and having to shop safely for school has been a learning experience for my whole family!
Thanks for your reply. I definitely understand the challenges! I guess what I meant was that it’s even more challenging for families that actually deal with severe allergies! We aren’t able to just go out for ice cream, or to dinner anywhere we want. We spend a lot more on specialty groceries, etc. It sounds like you have a birds eye view into how hard things can be and that you understand the severity. It is definitely difficult to find healthy and safe foods to pack for school (and also to eat at home for our family). I’m sensitive about the subject and this post with the peanut butter and nuts being packed every day and then reading some of the comments about how lucky Julie is that their school isn’t nut free just set off my sensitivity even further. I apologize for misunderstanding your comment.
Sara Wilson says
I almost started crying at a playdate once when the three other moms said they had the hardest time coming up with lunches for their kids (for that one day!) Because my son has a peanut allergy. They usually did PB and J every day. I’m so envious. But I sat there thinking, “I have to come up with alternative lunches every single day because of my sons peanut allergy.” It was awful.
Exactly!! And I have been in that same scenario many times. I’m so sorry. It’s been even harder now that my kids are both in elementary school and my son is the “reason” that the parents have such a hard time packing snacks and lunches. It’s been really isolating for me as a stay at home mom too, because finding friends who really understand the allergy and are willing to accommodate us has been harder than I ever dreamed it would be. I still remember a time when my oldest was not yet 2 and we also had my youngest as a newborn, standing in line to meet Santa and letting our toddler eat trail mix while she spilled it all over. The thought now terrifies me. I’ve dealt with extreme anxiety bc of my son’s allergies, to the point of being hospitalized and medicated. Thinking your kid could die every day from something that is literally almost everywhere is a feeling that I wish no one had to deal with.
Sara Wilson says
It really is so scary. I took my son to a birthday party years ago, got him a plate of food, left to get food for myself, came back and the host’s mother in law had put a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on his plate. Thank goodness he knew not to eat it but it completely freaked me out. It is so hard feeling like the “different” one who causes other people to be inconvenienced. But I wish people would have empathy for just how difficult it is daily for people whose kids have serious allergies. Your child is very lucky to have you looking out for him!
You’re so lucky you can send nuts to school! Our school is nut free and in my 2 year olds room, also egg free. It makes it very hard for us to send healthier snacks because we relied on nut based snacks quite a bit. Love the idea of including veggies, even if he doesn’t eat them. We really need to start doing that and hopefully they’ll just start giving in and eat them.
I feel so much better seeing this. We just started packing lunch for my five year old and she only wants PB&J every day. I tried other sandwiches and stuff and she wouldn’t eat it. I felt guilty not doing more variety. But her lunches look really similar to these every day. She did get a comment from a “friend” in her class about the “healthy” food in her lunch since I send tomatoes and carrots and fruit every day. But she loves it so I am going to keep sending it!
Love this post! PB & J is a staple for us! I include carrots and cheese and a fruit. My 4 yr old LOVES frozen peas. And when I say frozen, I mean we can’t cook them or thaw them. He likes them frozen! haha He gets lunch at preschool 2x a week and they say he eats the meat, but he sure doesn’t eat any meat at home! He does love eggs, so we get a lot of our protein from there.
rachel simmons says
lol yes my daughter also loves frozen peas!
I was wondering if Ryan takes a lunch every day and what are some healthy lunches that he packs.
A fun way to navigate the “no crust” thing – I use a cookie cutter (a heart, a Mickey head, a star) to cut out the part of the sandwich my daughter will eat. She eats her whole sandwich (and it’s cute), and I get a small snack while making her lunch (no waste). Win win. 🙂
Since I browse pinterest way too often, this post makes me feel so much better! My daughter’s lunches look pretty much exactly like this except in a purple bentgo 🙂 I love the idea of the Larabar balls…we’ll have to try that! That tiny circle in the middle is also generally filled with some sort of dip for the raw veggies…girl loves some ranch dressing or guacamole.
I love this post -can relate to it so much. My 5 year old eats many of the same things as Chase. He also likes cheese tortellini, bowtie pasta (and other fun shapes) with marinara sauce in the little circle to dip it in. Sometimes we pack soup in a thermos (not heated) – he likes Campbell’s chicken noodle and their fun shape variations (like Paw Patrol). He also likes creamy tacos (tortillas with cream cheese or occasionally cheese and a few black beans). I’ve done the tortillas with cream cheese (or pb), apples like you have posted in the past too. Other things we put in the little circle – chocolate graham cracker goldfish and fruit snacks/swedish fish.
Wow, I can’t believe they let you bring peanut butter to school! My kids (4 and 19-months) have never had a PB&J, which is kinda crazy. But it’s not allowed anywhere these days.
We moved to Portland this year, and the best thing is that they serve lunch at our daughter’s preschool! It’s amazing! It’s also super cute because they do it “family style” so all the kids can pick what they want to eat. They do a bean/legume, a grain, a veggie, and a fruit. She’s had lots of variety! And I do not miss packing a lunch every day.
rachel simmons says
We also have (thanks to you!) and LOVE the “bentgo” box! My 4 yr old daughter goes to preschool 5 mornings a week and secretly LOVE packing it! We although, are *not* allowed nuts of any kind, which realllly limits things! I pack a small treat (if the tiny circle portion of the lunchbox isn’t used for ranch or hummus), a protein, my daughter is such a meat lover, and doesn’t really care about carbs, cheeses, veg and fruit… I usually pack her turkey meatballs, sliced turkey, nuggets or chicken salad, and sometimes leftover mac and cheese, i’ve also made grilled cheese, fruits include: strawberries, mandarin oranges, cut grapes, or apple sauce, veggies: peas, carrots, i need to try edamame (she loves them!), cheese is cheddar cubes or string cheese, treats include small cookies or annie’s gummies… and a cracker of some sort, goldfish or graham crackers…i do something different everyday and she eats mostly everything, she is a great eater. she also gets a mid-morning snack, so i usually include veggie straws, granola bars, cliff bar kids products, cheddar bunnies, etc…. and water!
also olives! My daughter loves olives!
This post is super helpful! This is mostly all things my toddler likes. Often, posts I see other places include so many things he would unfortunately never touch. Would love to see more posts like this for breakfast and dinner. I am always struggling to include more variety in my sons diet, while still keeping it toddler friendly.
I’m currently expecting my 2nd child and the fact that Ryder is a more adventurous eater gives me hope haha!
I love these ideas! My son is only 15 months, but I pack his lunch every day. His grandparents watch him during the week and it helps them out. He loves when I make pinwheel sandwiches with various fillings like hummus + cheese + avocado, PB&J, turkey + cheese + mustard.