This post could have been called ‘Encouraging Independence in the Kitchen’ or ‘Lunches Young Kids Can Make’, but let’s be honest – I am simply feeling lazy about fixing lunches now that summer vacation has hit our house! Here are some ideas that are working for us, and many of them do have the added bonus of involving the kiddos in lunchtime prep. A win-win, right?
Muffins: My kids love muffins – I mean, really love them! Even when I adjust the recipe to use whole wheat flour, substitute applesauce for the oil, add shredded veggies – love them! Their favorites are pumpkin, zucchini, and banana. When I make muffins, I always bake a double-batch and put some in the freezer. Then, lunch can sometimes be a muffin, a piece of fruit, and a string cheese. Works for me!
Yogurt Bar: Yogurt is something my kids will reliably eat, so this is often a breakfast or lunch choice for us. For an extra protein boost, use plain Greek yogurt and sweeten to taste. Something about all those little bowls of toppings makes it seem like a treat!
- toppings: granola, cereal, sliced fruit, berries, raisins, dried cranberries, nuts, sprinkles
- stir-ins: jam, peanut butter, honey, maple syrup
Tortilla Roll-Ups: This is another fun assemble-your-own meal that can be sweet or savory depending on your child’s taste.
- Sweet: peanut butter, jelly, cream cheese, honey, thin slices of banana or apple, raisins, chopped nuts, etc.
- Savory: cream cheese or Laughing Cow soft cheeses, slices of meat, thinly sliced or grated veggies, lettuce, avocado, etc.
Finger Food Tray: For some reason, when I cut things into small pieces and put them in a divided tray, my girls devour their food. I don’t know the psychology behind it, but it works! When we’re playing outside and don’t want to bother coming in, this is usually the lunch I bring outside.
This is also a great way to use up odds-n-ends you have in the fridge or pantry. I have used divided condiment trays, muffin tins, scone pans, ice cube trays, etc. A few food ideas:
- Sandwiches or cheese quesadillas cut into bite-size pieces
- Cheese cubes
- Mini nitrate-free hot dogs, pepperoni slices, or deli meat roll-ups
- Cereal bar pieces
- Fruit chunks with toothpicks for picking up
- Crackers, mini rice cakes, or pieces of bread, english muffin, etc.
- Veggies – the more thinly I slice carrots, celery, and cucumber, the more likely they will eat them.
- Dips: ranch, peanut butter, yogurt, cream cheese, hummus, guacamole– whatever goes with your food!
Smoothies: This does require my help, but tossing things in a blender is not so hard! We generally use unsweetened vanilla almond milk or orange juice, yogurt, a banana, and some frozen fruit (mango and strawberries are the current favorites). Two of our favorites are a creamy tropical smoothie and a chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie. I almost always add chia seeds or ground flax for a nutrition boost, and sometimes a handful of spinach, too.
If I prep the fixings ahead of time, my girls can make themselves sandwich skewers or a big salad. English muffin pizzas are always a hit, too – all I have to do is man the oven!
I would love to hear your simple, kid-friendly summer lunch ideas – I need more ideas so I can maintain this laziness all summer!