Healthy Lunch for Toddler AND Mom

Unfortunately I didn’t learn much about nutrition or proper meal planning when I was growing up so I have been trying to teach myself all I can in order to provide nutritious meal for my family.

Recently I decided on a very simple solution for myself, a large salad. I make a killer, everything on it salad so I actually ENJOY eating just a salad at lunch. Hubby not so much but he gets leftovers from dinner the night before so he is taken care of. But since I started doing this I have worried about what Daniel was eating for lunch. He is such a “monkey see, monkey eat” little kid that if I offered him something I wasn’t eating he wouldn’t eat it either. I can’t feed him a salad for lunch, he chokes on the lettuce & doesn’t quite have the whole salad concept down. But he does like all of the elements I add to my salad.

During his nap today I stole a few quiet moments while I was nursing Joseph to read a bit of a nutrition book I am trying to work through. Since my reading time is limited to about 10 minutes a day I jumped right to the chapter on feeding your toddler. The authors (Dr. & Mrs. Sears) explained that toddlers need to have food presented differently in order to match their lifestyle.

Toddlers are always on the go (ESPECIALLY boys!) and exploring their world but their stomachs are only the size of their little fist. Because of this they need nutritionally dense food, such as eggs, cheese, olives, avocado, etc.) They also need it presented in a way that accommodates their need to explore & snack as they get hungry again. They suggested a snack tray, filled with different nutritionally dense foods as well as some “fun food” presented to the toddler at their level that they could snack on through out the day. I decided to try that today for lunch.

Since many of the nutritionally dense food they suggested are items I already put on my salad each day I started by pulling out all my salad items and then threw in a few “fun food” items that I thought he would like.


Here is what I had:

  • crackers with cream cheese*
  • yogurt dip*
  • mozzarella cheese (any cheese will do, I am just using up leftovers from Christmas’ cheese plate)
  • artichokes
  • olives (I had kalamonte b/c we all like them but you might want to try black if your toddler isn’t used to such strong flavors)
  • hard boiled eggs
  • Fresh Market bacon (Fun food is OK is small quantities, for mom & toddlers)
  • lettuce* (for me not the toddler)
  • parsley (mostly for me but I did put a few leaves in his tray to see what he would do with them)
  • carrots
  • tomatoes
  • peaches
  • dried blueberries
  • dried cherries
  • avocado
  • banana*

*I actually ran out spaces in my tray so I didn’t use these items for this tray but might next time I make it so he has some variety.

My little helper woke up before I had a chance to do more than cut the lettuce for my salad so he came in the kitchen to help me finish making our lunches.


An he started snacking a little early.


Having him “help” actually worked out great because he saw that I was putting the same items in his tray that I was putting in my salad bowl so he was more inclined to eat them. He even started polishing off the carrots first, an item that I normally cannot get him to eat!

Here was the final tray:



As you can see carrots and blueberries took quit the hit before it even left the kitchen.

I placed the tray on a chair at his level and allowed him to graze at his leisure.


And when we got ready to go to the park or grandma’s I just slipped the snack tray into a gallon ziploc bag to go with us.

So far this has worked well for us and I can expand the list of items so he always has new foods to explore.




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