Between the ages of one and three years, your baby really becomes one of the family. Use the opportunity of lunchtime to try out different food experiences: chewy, crisp and soft; high calorie and low calorie; sharp and mild; convenience and homemade foods. Lunch time for the toddler is often split in two parts with the first part being the pre sleep meal and the second the post sleep meal. Toddlers are often sleeping over traditional lunch ‘time’ so it is important to be flexible in order to optimize intake. After a nap the Toddler needs some time to wake up before they are willing to sit down to a meal. The challenge is that this is then often close to afternoon snack time and so combining snack and lunch time works wonders and takes the pressure off.
An example of a pre lunch meal would include eating foods like a yogurt, custard & fruit or a fruit smoothie. Post sleep lunch meal would include more finger foods like cheese and crackers, cold meat slices, bread slices and fruit pieces.
Lunch time should be fun and relaxed and is a wonderful opportunity to connect with your little one. You must not let this meal become a stress or battle, rather a time to explore new tastes and textures.
Another important part of a toddlers day is their mid morning snack time or the pre-school lunchbox. This is often one of the best eaten meals of the day for two reasons as the toddler is fully awake and active and often feeling hungry. Secondly this meal is often eaten amongst peers and nothing beats peer pressure in getting a reluctant eater to eat. Lunchboxes are, for most parents a huge challenge as we all want to pack healthy foods our children will eat. A few guidelines when packing a lunchbox:
Pack your lunchbox the evening before, when you have more time and your toddler can help you. Mornings are often to hectic and not all Toddlers (and parents) are morning people.
Include foods from all the food groups:
- A fruit or fresh raw veg eg baby tomatoes, carrot and cucumber slices or a small plum or bunch of grapes, dried fruit, raisins
- An energy food like cracker bread, Low Gi bread, Rice Cakes, potato salad
- A healthy fat, either avocado slices (in season), butter on bread, Nuts and seeds, olives, lite mayonnaise
- A protein food – hard boiled egg, cold meat, slices chicken breast, peanut butter, Nut butter, biltong, yogurt, cheese
- Be sensitive to weather when packing your child’s lunchbox, in summer include a cooler brick to keep food cool and fresh.
- Include a little picture of their favourite thing.
- Avoid packing crips and sweet and cake treats – keep these for special occasions at home or at parties.
- Always send with water. Juice is high in sugar and full of empty calories