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Kids lunch

I have a 5 yr old daughter who doesn't like typical 'kids' food like hot dogs, taco, hamburger, chicken fingers, any sandwiches..she literally runs away from them. She seems to like roasted chicken(dark meat with skin attached) and grilled steak...she also likes grilled fish(she goes for cheek meat, eye balls and meat around fins and tails). These are not kind of food I can pack for lunch which is driving me crazy. I usually pack her mac and cheese(box one), premade pasta(ravioli from Trader Joe's, etc) with olive oil and grated cheese..sometimes, homemade pasta with meatballs(she eats maybe half of it)...I am running out of options. What do you parents pack for lunch? The only vegetable she eats are tomato cucumber salad...she literally gags at other vegetables.

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  1. I'm not sure why you can't pack those for lunch. Many of those foods are things I gave my daughter in elementary school. I packed an ice pack in her insulated lunch bag and everything stayed cool until lunchtime. If you can't send a knife, pre-cut the meats for her. On days when I was really nailed, I would pick up take-out sushi from the grocery store on the way in (rarely - it's just too expensive) and with the ice pack it stayed just fine.

    Other things I would send were bahn mi with the pickled vegetables on the side and microwaveable Indian-style lentils. Even green salads with the dressing on the side worked well. Your daughter's tomato-cucumber salad should be fine.

    A small ice pack is really invaluable.

    1. One of my kids is a huge lover of roasted chicken drumsticks which I pack in his lunch. Burritos are another favorite. Does your daughter like rice? If so, what about a rice salad or sushi? Inari sushi is popular at my house. Baked falafel balls, packed with some hummus, pita wedges or chips, plus the salad sounds great to me!

      1. What about a trail mix with raw nuts and some dried organic fruit? I really like the combination of raw almonds, cashews, walnuts, and then for fruit you can use either goji berries (these are awesome!), raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, etc.

        Then you can also make some sort of salad with grilled chicken or fish in it.

        Maybe throw in a banana or apple or orange too and she should be good to go.

        1. goodness I take roasted chicken in my lunch all of the time
          I have several small containers bento style that fit into my lunch bag.. and a ice pack that fits into a terry cover..
          ( i am lucky we have microwaves at my school) but even if we didnt I love cold chicken...and fish... I have taken civiche,tuna cakes,duck,steak,and allsorts of stuf to school for lunch and I too dont like sandwiches either but I do like wraps.. If she likes tomatos and she may like tomotillos they are great with avacados in wraps...DOnt go crazy.. parents get a little paranoid about food going "bad" before lunch... but the chances are very slim.. in a bag with an ice pack in a climate controlled building when a kid eats within about three to four hours of getting to school... heck japanese kids dont even have ice for their bentos and often have fish and pork in them.

          1. Initially I made the mistake of overestimating my children's desire for variability in their lunches. They seem to be happy with 1-3 alternates for mains that change every week of so and then the same with a handful of alternating sides that change every week of so. So as long as you come up with just 2-3 mains that may be good. Also look out for requested changes based on what other kids have - not that you'll necessarily grant the request.

            I see nothing wrong with cold roasted chicken or steak strips eaten room temp at lunch. Pack an ice pack if you would prefer.

            8 Replies
            1. re: KimMae

              This is really helpful, actually, to remember children may not need the same variability we might...

              ~TDQ

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                The number of days between kindergarten and 12th grade in which I brought a turkey sandwich, carrot sticks, and either Jello chocolate pudding or a granola bar for lunch probably numbers into the 1000s.

                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  bingo. my boys are entering 12th grade: i already know the daily lunch routine from the last 5 years. if there is any variation it is not eaten. period. there is much to be said for repetition...

                  1. re: rmarisco

                    Somehow I missed these replies by you and whitneybee until just now, but I think it's excellent advice, not to worry about changing it up all the time.

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      I packed my own lunches starting in 5th grade. Until i finished 8th grade my lunch and snack were a box of raisins and a yogurt, an apple, a graham cracker with pb, and baggie of carrots. When i was sure no one was looking i would take a diet 7up from dad's stash.

                    2. re: rmarisco

                      Amusing anecdote: My older son took virtually the same lunch every day from kindergarten through 6th grade - a bagel w/ cream cheese, carrot sticks, and an apple. He refused offers of anything different.

                      About 2 weeks into 7th grade, he came home and asked why I always gave him bagels. Sort of outraged about it, actually. He's in 10th now and takes a variety of things for lunch but steadfastly refuses to eat the cafeteria food.

                      1. re: tcamp

                        How do you keep the bagels from getting rock hard?

                        1. re: Monica

                          Thaw in the morning, lightly toast, schmear with cream cheese, wrap in foil or reusable sandwich wrap thing. They are crunchy but stay moist enough to chew (assuming presence of teeth). My kids never complained.

                2. Does she like soup? My 7 year old prefers thermoses of hot soup or pasta with butter or sauce over most sandwiches.

                  1. Does she eat hard boiled eggs? We used to get a HB egg, a chunk of cheddar and some buttered bread for a kiddie plowman's lunch when my mother ran out of ideas/lunch food. Would she eat those packages of cheese and crackers that are in every mini mart as a sub for a sandwich?

                    1. Why can't you pack roast chicken? I understand not packing fish, but my kids take roast chicken to school sometimes.

                      It sounds like you pack a lot of pasta -- what about leftovers? My kids will take chicken, pasta, Chinese food, indian stuffed flatbread (paratha), hummus and pita, pizza, etc. I pack a variety of foods. I do pack sandwiches but I do things like cream cheese and cucumber, or a chicken hummus wrap. We don't do "kid foods" like nuggets or hot dogs very often in our house.

                      I pack bento style meals so I always fit in a veggie or fruit of some sort. If she like cucumber salad, then find different versions for her to try, or incorporate some new ingredient to change it up. I do sliced cucumbers, grape tomatoes, baby carrots, etc. for veggies. If I don't' have a veggie then I do a fruit like sliced strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, etc.

                      There's no rule that says you can only send "kid foods" for lunch everyday!

                      75 Replies
                      1. re: boogiebaby

                        Another mom here who packs a lot of leftovers. I heat them that morning and put in a squat thermos and they stay warm enough for her to enjoy. Pastas, asian foods mixed with the leftover rice, bean salads, slices of pizza, hummis and some pita, cheese and crackers. It gets easier the more you do it.

                        Also agree that most kids really don't mind eating the same thing every day.

                        1. re: LulusMom

                          I also swear by those thermos containers. I preheat the thermos by filling it with boiling water and also heat the food before putting it in -- the combination keeps everything nice and warm until lunch. Rice or pasta in the thermos with a leftover protein from dinner the night before on top (chicken, carne asada, sausage, etc. Chili with pita or tortilla chips on the side.

                          My son also doesn't like sandwiches, but will often eat a deconstructed version...salami, cheese and bread all separate, for instance. Cold pizza is always popular with my kids too.

                          And I know that many are saying that they don't use ice packs, but here in Southern California I find them important for both preservation and taste (warm cantelope, eww). And at my son's school they actually do keep the lunch boxes in a bin outside the classroom.

                          1. re: mebby

                            I'm also in SoCal and our kids have to keep their lunches outside too. There's not enough room in the classroom for 25 lunchboxes (most kids bring lunch). I have to use ice packs in their lunchbox if I'm sending anything that needs to be room temp or cold. Otherwise, like mebby mentioned, the fruit/veggies get warm, as does lunchmeat and the cheese starts sweating, etc. Not appetizing. If I'm sending a Thermos food jar with hot food and nothing cold on the side, then I don't include an ice pack -- I just add ice to their drink bottle to keep the juice cold.

                            1. re: mebby

                              Yes, that trick of boiling or very hot water in the thermos works really well.

                              Lulu is the same about sandwiches! We thought we'd finally gotten a handle on this when she loved the cucumber sandwiches at a fancy tea we went to, but when I put them in her lunch box by day 4 she told me she didn't like them anymore. The kid will eat anything except ... sandwiches. So weird.

                              1. re: LulusMom

                                Deconstructed sandwiches worked well for us. Meat, cheese, veg, and crackers. All separate, in separate containers. Yes, more washing to do, but at least the food got eaten.

                                1. re: rockycat

                                  Lulu's problem (aside from the dislike of sandwiches) is that she cannot stop herself from chatting during the specified lunch time. There have been days when her lunch comes back barely eaten, and I know it is all stuff she loves and it is because she was telling a story or something. Exasperating. But yes, cheese and crackers and a cut up veg works well for her, if she can find the time to stop chatting.

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    haha.. this was a problem I use to have in kinder too! that and I use to feed my lunch to other kids,,, my mom bought this tiny kitchen timer with a ladybug on top it timed three minutes and when it went off I had to eat. if i finished eating then I could tak again,

                                    1. re: girloftheworld

                                      LOVE this idea! It could work wonders for us at breakfast. The girl is a chatter, and she comes by it honestly (believe it or not, from her dad, not me). I love the special pretty timer idea. Brilliant - thank you.

                                    2. re: LulusMom

                                      I know I've told you this before, but I swear I gave birth to Lulu's older sister. This is EXACTLY the problem I've had for the past 5 years. We never solved it. Middle school (with a cafeteria and a 28 minute lunch period) started yesterday, though, so if you talk you don't eat. It will be interesting to see what happens.

                                      1. re: rockycat

                                        Funnily enough Lulu and I were just talking about you and rockyJr. last night at dinner as we ate dumplings. Lulu is still so impressed at the idea of being a dumpling for Halloween.

                                        One thing I've done to encourage eating is to make small, healthy lunches and add a "fun size" treat - like a small Reeses cup or kit kat bar - that only gets eaten if everything else is gone. She's very good about sticking to the rule, and it encourages her to eat. Incentive!

                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                          Yep, I do this too sometimes. I'm not generally in favor of using sweets as a motivator, but when it's just a small treat in their lunch and they know that they need to eat real food first in order to have it, it does help (in my mind there's a distinction between it being a reward for eating and merely knowing that you have to eat your healthy food first, but that may be a giant rationalization).

                                          I do a single Hershey's kiss or a granola bar with chocolate chips or use up the last of the Xmas/Easter/Halloween candy one piece at a time. But, like Lulu, my kids both stick to rules and wouldn't dream of throwing out the good food and just eating the treat.

                                          1. re: mebby

                                            I know, I so very much agree with you that using sweets as an incentive is not the best idea. But ... it does seem to work, and she never ever eats it if there is other food left over from lunch (and her school is good about sending everything uneaten home so that parents have some idea). I'm trying to figure out whether or not I should just lighten up and let her be hungry when she gets home and have to wait for dinner.

                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                              FWIW, I'm fine with an after school snack if it's not too close to dinner, especially since my son plays hours of sports every day and just can't hold out. But my rule is that if you haven't eaten all of your lunch, that's your snack option.

                                            2. re: mebby

                                              we put our candy out for the 'candy witch" at halloween.. we could keep afew of our favourite pieces then the res in t big caldron left on the porch and the candy witch came and took it leaving some new books or a toy in its place... mom would take the candy to the childrens hospital or the family homeless shelter...when we got older she let us take it..

                                          2. re: rockycat

                                            For my son, lunch interferes with the amount of time he can play sports. He swore that this year would be different, since in third grade you play first then go up to eat at a specified time. But in the first three days it hasn't really worked out that way. He plays sports for probably three hours every day, sometimes fueled only by a few baby carrots.

                                            In my experience, middle schoolers hit that growth spurt and start eating you out of house and home, particularly girls since they tend to shoot up sooner, so maybe it will work out for your daughter.

                                            And your daughter was a dumpling for Halloween? That is so cool!

                                            1. re: mebby

                                              Yes, I'm curious about the dumpling for Halloween idea.

                                              Am in the position of needing to pack a toddlers lunch --to send with him-- for the first time ever on Tuesday and am in a very slow panic.

                                              Bought a cute bento box but am now suddenly doubting whether he can open it on his own. (I fear he'll open it upside down, all the food will spill on the ground, and he'll have no lunch at all).

                                              I think I'll just start easy, pb and banana sandwiches and fruit and veg and go from there. Maybe peanut-y noodles. Have a mind block otherwise. He won't eat cold hard cheese so that's not an option.

                                              Are mini-meatballs or small meatloaf good cold?

                                              ~TDQ

                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                Put a sticker (or have him do it) on the top side of the bent box so he knows which side is up.

                                                1. re: cheesymama

                                                  Thank you, I was thinking along those lines...

                                                  ~TDQ

                                                  1. re: cheesymama

                                                    Have you looked at casabento? it is where I get a lot of my lunch stuff... I also make a lot using silcon cupcake liners

                                                    http://casabento.com/shop/en/

                                                    1. re: cheesymama

                                                      Ok, we had a trial lunch box run for lunch today. Went pretty well. Yogurt, good. Applesauce, good. Blueberries, good. Choc bunny grahams, good. Turkey roll-ups with cream cheese, dill pickle spear, and lettuce: lettuce, offensive.

                                                      After his nap he demanded his lunch box and is now carrying raisins everywhere in it, already learning the valuable lesson of contents will spill if you don't open it sticker side up. (He did fine at lunch, but forgot later.)

                                                      ~TDQ

                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                        Adorable. And isn't it funny/weird the little things that they suddenly find offensive??

                                                    2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                      I love cold meatloaf.

                                                      As for the cheese, won't it not be cold by the time snack time comes around?

                                                      I think starting with pb and banana sandwiches sounds perfect. Maybe some blueberries, cut up strawberries, sliced green pepper on the side.

                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                        Maybe I should re-phrase--he doesn't like hard cheeses unless they are melted. Pizza yes, cheese sticks or cubes, no.

                                                        Yep, I'm thinking pb+banana sandwich and fruit and broccoli (which he loves) for day 1. Maybe 3-4 chocolate bunny grahams for "dessert."

                                                        ~TDQ

                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                          Oops, sorry I misunderstood about the cheese.

                                                          Your plan sounds perfect, and if it is something he'll happily eat, just go ahead and serve it to him again the next day.

                                                          How does he do on leftovers, do you think?

                                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                                            I think he'll do fine on leftovers, except that he's really fussy about the temperature of his food, often claiming that food that is merely warm is "too hot." So, I don't want to subject anyone to needing to warm up his lunch right right now. And I want to have time to experiment with the thermos before i start sending that with him. (And I will need to start experimenting because I really would like him to have warm food in winter. )

                                                            So, for now, I'm trying to send him with things that can be eaten cold or at room temp.

                                                            ~TDQ

                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                              Totally understand. From what Lulu has told me, things stay warm but aren't hot hot when she gets to them at lunch time (about 4 hours after I put them fresh out of the microwave into the pre-heated thermos). So it definitely doesn't seem to be perfect technology.

                                                              How is he with hummus and either vegetables or pita to dip into it? Protein laden and healthy.

                                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                                Hummus and pita are apparently a frequent snack, so I don't want to also send hummus for lunch. But, good to know about the thermos not keeping things too hot!

                                                                How hot is the food when you put it in the thermos? Basically at the temp you'd warm it to if you were serving it right then?

                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                  I usually try to heat it up hotter than I would serve it (say, maybe 2 minutes in the microwave, which doesn't seem long but for a small amount of food really is), and, when I wake up that morning I fill the thermos with very hot water and keep it closed until I'm ready (about an hour or so later) to put the food into it, empty the water and dry it. This is supposed to help keep hot food hot.

                                                                  If I'm serving her pasta I drizzle it with a little olive oil so that it doesn't seem dry from the nuking and then sitting around.

                                                                  I'm not a hard boiled egg fan, but I hear that a lot of kids bring those and like them. Lulu and I experimented with deviled eggs and she wasn't totally thrilled, but I think they'd be a good source of tasty protein and a bit different, if you think he'd eat them. Bean salad is a *huge* hit for Lulu, also protein laden.

                                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                                    Oh! We're going to try HB eggs because I bought these molds: http://www.amazon.com/Kotobuki-Plasti...

                                                                    I wonder what else I can use them for?

                                                                    ~TDQ

                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                      Really cute! I would think they would be good to use for making rice crispy treats (ok-so not healthy but..)

                                                                      Another thought is steamed/boiled rice? Maybe brown rice since that tends to be stickier. those could be cite and use could peas to make fish eyes or put in the center of the wheels?

                                                                      1. re: foodieX2

                                                                        Yes, people in the Amazon review mentioned RKTs! Rice is a good idea, too. He hates rice, so maybe this would be a way of tempting him?

                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                        1. re: foodieX2

                                                                          if you used japanese short-grain rice, you could use these molds to make onigiri - lightly salted rice, with or without a filling inside or a flavoring blend mixed into the rice, with or without a salty, crunchy piece of nori to wrap around it. onigiri are HUGELY popular in japanese schoolchildren's bentos, and can be filled with pretty much anything (my favorites are salty grilled or broiled salmon, and japanese tuna salad - but really you can put anything you like in them, as long as it isn't too "wet". really wet/saucy foods will cause the rice to get wet and fall apart. other common fillings include bulgogi beef cut up into pieces, umeboshi pickled plums, salted cod roe, minced chicken, tempura-fried items cut down to size, cheese, ikura salmon roe, and more.) if you decide to include nori, i usually wrap it in plastic wrap and send along on the side so the nori doesn't get soggy by lunchtime.

                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                            Those are awesome. Does anyone know if they actually work?
                                                                            I would use them for jello jigglers.

                                                                            1. re: cheesymama

                                                                              I haven't tried them yet, but will report back. They are well-reviewed on Amazon, though, and if you look at the thumbnail sketches along the left, you can see some eggs that have been successful molded. I think you need to have eggs of the right size, have the egg at the right temp, and keep them in the mold long enough. Sadly (for me), the accompanying directions are in Japanese, so I will have to look at the customer reviews on Amazon to figure out how to use them.

                                                                              Jello jigglers would be fun!

                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                P.S. I'm also wondering if I can slice the eggs open, devil the yolks, then reassemble and still expect the shape to be intact at lunch time.

                                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                  I don't have those exact ones, but I have other egg molds. You have to boil the egg and peel it while its hot, then put it in the mold right away and lock it. Then put it in the fridge. Once it's cool, you can take it out and unfold it. I use large eggs in mine as mediums are to small and xl are too big.

                                                                                  I usually make the eggs the night before and put the molds in the fridge, then in theamitake them out,slice the eggs in half and sprinkle them with salt/pepper and out them in their bento box.

                                                                                  1. re: boogiebaby

                                                                                    Thanks for this! Do they hold their shape if you take out the yolk and devil it, then put it back?

                                                                                    ~TDQ

                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                      Yes, as long as they are thoroughly chilled before removing the yolk. My 7yo doesn't like yolks so I give her the whites only.

                                                                                  2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                    I've been using these for years, and they are great! We have the bunny/bear combo as well. Boogiebaby is exactly right in her directions. Sometimes, if pressed for time, I will also submerge the egg molds in a bowl of ice water. This will make them set quickly as well.

                                                                                    I've also been known to dunk the eggs in water with food coloring for special occasions - red and blue seem to come out best. Have fun!

                                                                                    1. re: oliviasaru

                                                                                      Thanks for the tips, everyone.

                                                                                      I realized this morning when I was popping the eggs out of the molds that the large eggs were not enough for the car and fish molds. So, next time I'll try extra large eggs.

                                                                                      I sliced the eggs in half while they were still in the molds, which was super neat and easy to do, then popped the yolks out so I could devil them. Unfortunately, the white of the car tore (probably because there wasn't enough white, hopefully to be solved by using larger eggs), then I somehow (somehow=distracted by screeching toddler) managed to drop it. I rinsed it off, but then it became a giant, slippery mess.

                                                                                      He was very excited by the car, kept saying, "That's my egg" over and over, so I hope he's not turned off by the fact that it's a little messy when lunch time rolls around.

                                                                                      Mine normally doesn't like yolks, either, so the deviled yolk is kind of an experiment. I guess I'll see what comes back in the lunchbox tonight.

                                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                            2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                              have you tried baking garbanzo beans? I love these! I sometimes fry them but baking works great too...

                                                                              you can use canned ones

                                                                              make sure they are dry as you can get them.
                                                                              toss them in oil
                                                                              I like to flavor mine with herbs deprovence
                                                                              but have made them with pamesane cheese, taco season, cajun, any kind of seasoning
                                                                              bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes

                                                                              yummmmmmy cold in my lunch box...

                                                                                1. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                  I love baked/roasted garbanzos too, usually sprinkled with paprika and salt. Even my garbanzo-hating husband likes them.

                                                                    2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                      Keep in mind that many schools and child care centers do not allow peanut products to be packed in lunches due to food allergies. I'd confirm that PB sandwiches and peanut noodles will be allowed.

                                                                      1. re: boogiebaby

                                                                        Yes, thanks to a previous discussion on chowhound, I was concerned about this and asked. Thankfully, tree nut allergies are not a problem.

                                                                        We've been asked not to bring junk and have been given a list of foods that are a choking hazard you're not allowed to bring. We've also been told that there has to be a grain, a protein, and two different items of fresh produce. If all four of those things aren't present, they will supplement and you will be charged.

                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                            HA! Of course they are. And, somewhere, George Washington Carver and my fourth grade teacher are sharing a beer and crying in it together.

                                                                            ~TDQ

                                                                          2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                            I understand the list of what not to bring, but if they're requiring certain things...that's kinda tough.

                                                                            1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                              On the surface, one protein, one grain, and two fruits or veg isn't that onerous, right?

                                                                              Except, for instance, how are they going to count one pot dishes? I think a spaghetti with ground meat, onions, (and often even carrots) and tomatoes should qualify as a balanced meal, but how are they going to count it? How would you prove that there's one serving of two different vegetables (or one serving of one veg and half serving of two others...) without writing a note?

                                                                              I would probably include a piece of fruit with a meal like that, anyway, because I would want him to have something sweet, but the feeling of being second guessed is kind of icky.

                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                That's how I was thinking of it.
                                                                                Do the veggies have to be separate or part of the main.
                                                                                At least you're a good cook!

                                                                                1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                                  They didn't specify and I didn't ask. But, I assume they can be part of the main, the same way I assume a sandwich would count as both the "grain" and the "protein." I hope so, anyway! Actually, for now, he likes his food separated anyway, so it's not too much of an issue.

                                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                    Mine likes her food separate also.
                                                                                    I wonder if school "inspects"... Or if they just call out parents who send something so blatantly wrong

                                                                                    1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                                      I have the feeling it's the latter... Wishful thinking perhaps. They don't want you to send junk or crazy unbalanced meals.

                                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                        Probably. I've seen kids lunches that consist of a hot dog in a bun and a chicken nugget

                                                                                    2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                      This whole things strikes me as kind of not their business. So last night I served pasta with broccoli rabe and turkey sausage. I'd happily send that as her lunch and figure I was done with the main course of it; would they consider that I'd done my job on the grain, protein and one of the vegetables? I should hope so. And if I sent in hummus and carrot sticks, how many carrot sticks would it need to be to cover 2 servings of a veg? The mind boggles.

                                                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                        Yeah, it is kind of not their business. They are very opinionated about a lot of stuff, eg., laundry detergent. They are in the process of trying to get accreditation so I don't know if it's related to that or what. Or they just believe that teaching children what a balanced diet looks like is part of their education.

                                                                                        I assume they are just trying to establish the ground rules for people who just may have no clue.

                                                                                        I would consider your pasta dish to satisfy the meat, grain, and one vegetable requirement. I guess you'd have to throw a piece of fruit in the lunch, too, to account for the second fresh produce item. Carrots and hummus would certainly count, in my opinion.

                                                                                        Funny, they didn't opine on how much of each item counted as a serving, just that certain elements needed to be present.

                                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                          Laundry detergent?! That's seriously over-intrustive. Having two kids (8th and 3rd grades) however, I do like when schools encourage good nutrition...a lot of schools over-rely on sweets and screens as rewards. But I've also seen parents take it too far, particularly in my very groovy area of L.A. Last year in my son's class we could sign up for post-testing treats (once a year standardized tests) and the teacher requested no gooey or flat-out junky, but otherwise anything was good. Parents signed up for the most ridiculously healthy stuff ever (don't tell a kid s/he's getting a treat and then giving them organic, unsulfured dried apples!). I quietly brought his teacher several bags of cookies to supplement as needed and she was so grateful! It's all about balance, right?

                                                                                          So, more on topic, I do agree with others who said that variety isn't as important as you think. In fact, with a new environment and new people, your little guy might really appreciate the predictability of his meals as an anchor in a lot of new stimuli. My other suggestion is not to pack as much variety as you think you should when you're feeling anxious...in my experience, the more variety you pack, the more waste, regardless of whether it's actually more volume/weight.

                                                                                          Love the story of him with the lunchbox and the raisins. Hope the dairy prince has a great first day!

                                                                                          1. re: mebby

                                                                                            Thank you!

                                                                                            Yes, I'm staring at the clock on my computer wondering when I should leave to go pick him up. I know they'll be playing in the yard when I get there and I am sure he will love that, so I don't want to get him too soon... But, I'm also sure he'll be exhausted.

                                                                                            You make a good point about giving him something predictable in his lunch. Maybe I'll have him help me put together his lunch tonight so he knows exactly what to expect tomorrow. Also, I get your point about variety. His bento has five compartments plus the dipping well. That's a lot of compartments. Yesterday when I did his "trial" lunch, I filled two compartments with the same thing--otherwise, it seems like way too much stuff.

                                                                                            And, yes, I agree is all about balance. Also, I really believe in de-mystifying foods. My husband has the healthiest attitude about sweets of anyone I know. He grew up in a house where there was always a fresh batch of brownies out on the counter or cookies in the jar. Sweets were ever-present and, therefore, no big deal. Obviously the kids couldn't just help themselves to sweets whenever they felt like it, there were boundaries, but they were pretty much always available. Now, he never craves sweets. He likes them, but they are no big deal for him.

                                                                                            I would love for my child to have that same healthy attitude towards sweets.

                                                                                            ~TDQ

                                                                          3. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                            My daughter likes small meatballs cold or room temp.
                                                                            If he's not so good with a fork, try making meatball lollipops. Use a coffee stirrer as a "stick"
                                                                            mine likes her meatballs with "dip"- pesto or hummus

                                                                            1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                              Love the coffee stirrer idea. I've heard a lot of people mention using pretzels, but I figure they would be soggy by lunch time.

                                                                              Mine seems to have moved beyond the dip phase... I used to be able to bribe him with dips. Now he seems indifferent most of the time.

                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                If the school doesn't allow coffee stirrers-- Popsicle sticks.
                                                                                (Can be decorated with marker by toddler)

                                                                            2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                              Speaking of cold meatloaf for lunch, it just occurred to me that one of Lulu's favorites is the Dahlia's chicken fingers from one of the Melissa Clark books. They're basically like meatloaf, but made with ground chicken (or turkey) and some slight middle eastern spices and formed into fingers. I always make a double batch when I make them so that L will have leftovers for lunch.

                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                  TDQ, I forget how old (roughly) your child is. If he is a toddler, won't there be caregivers available to help him open his boxes? My oldest didn't go to a fancy place, i.e. the caregiver to child ratio wasn't unusually high, but he got the help he needed when appropriate. There may be an accident occasionally, but both caregiver and child will catch on to give/ask for help as needed. My son used to get yogurt or cottage cheese as part of lunch every day and he liked to consume as much of it as possible. He couldn't scrape his little box very well at that age and so he used to get help from the caregiver.

                                                                                  1. re: sweetTooth

                                                                                    Oh there are definitely people to help him. I just don't know if anyone is paying attention enough to know whether or not he's able to open his lunchbox right side up or even that it has to be opened right side up. But, he appears to have survived yesterday, so I assume he'll survive today and thereafter too. Everything in his lunch was gone, except for a little bit of hardboiled egg. I can't tell if he ate everything or if they had the kids dump out everything they didn't eat so it wouldn't spoil. Hopefully the former.

                                                                                    Today's lunch is identical to yesterday's lunch. :)

                                                                                    ~TDQ

                                                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                                                          Mine doesn't like sandwiches either.
                                                                          She'll eat the filling, then the bread, but it must be eaten separately

                                                                          Go figure...

                                                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                                                              Very strange.
                                                                              But today lunch at school was grilled cheese & tomato with a side of cucumbers. She ate the whole thing. And then asked me why I don't make that at home!

                                                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                  I'm going to serve sandwiches at home now and not feel bad...!!!!

                                                                                  1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                                    That is so funny! I guess is why you have to keep trying stuff because you never know when, after 99 refusals, they'll suddenly change their minds on the 100th attempt.

                                                                                    ~TDQ

                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                      I refused to eat cilantro for the first 30 years of my life; now I LOVE the stuff. Gotta keep trying!

                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                        Mini ww pitas with mozzarella and tomato fr lunch today.
                                                                                        She took out the cheese, ate it. Repeat performance with the tomato. Nibbled at the bread.

                                                                                        Tomorrow is grilled cheese/ tomato day at school. Lets see if she eats it...

                                                                    3. I assume there are some cheeses she will eat, one option would be the tomato/cuc salad (try adding white beans or edamame or another bean to it), and pcs of the cheese she likes with crackers or rolled into a wrap with chicken.
                                                                      Try making a mix of quinoa with the mac and cheese, or add a white bean puree to it. I would try keeping the flavors she likes and making one small change so she doesnt reject the whole meal because it looks so different.
                                                                      When i go grocery shopping with my nephew i let him pick something new to him and he gets excited to try it and more often than not likes it (more than he ever does when i try to give him a new food), maybe she will be interested in more variety if she feels responsible for choosing what it is.

                                                                      1. My kids get 3 components with their lunches. My daughter eat anything so it's easy. My son, not so much but he occasionally surprises me.

                                                                        For my daughter, I pack things like hummus and pita chips (as mentioned already) or baby carrots or a sandwich. Sometimes I will pack a sushi cucumber roll or a yogurt. Then I will always pack a variety of fruit and a snack like popcorn or pretzels, etc.

                                                                        My son would love it if I packed steak or he'd even eat a hamburger at room temp. He will eat leftover pasta, chinese food, rolled up salami slices and/or cheese slices (he doesn't love sandwiches). He occasionally will eat a bagel but he doesn't like the way the cream cheese ends up on one side if I he tries to eat it open faced (he's 6). He does not eat many vegetables but I always pack fruit and he also gets a snack (popcorn, pretzels, goldfish, etc).

                                                                        He recently tried inari sushi and liked it so I might have to pack that in his lunch this year.

                                                                        Regarding keeping things cold/warm, if she likes warm food, I would suggest getting a thermos. The food stays warm enough until lunch time. And I never pack an ice pack and nobody has ever gotten sick. It's not like the lunches are sitting out in the heat until lunch...they are in their cubbies at school.

                                                                        1. Thanks for lots of ideas..looks like hummus and pita combo is very popular. I will see if she likes the cold roasted chicken....she is so particular about the little things...yikes.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Monica

                                                                            IME, picky kids sometimes enjoy packing their own lunches. Is this a possibility? One of my nieces had a really cute little bento lunch box that she loved to pack up. In addition, since she was in control, she willingly packed an increasing wide range of things.

                                                                            There are many bento sites out there you (or she) can check out for ideas. Here is a cute box:

                                                                            http://www.nurturecenter.com/index.ph...

                                                                            Food ideas: http://justbento.com/ and http://www.bentolunch.net/

                                                                            1. re: Monica

                                                                              maybe she doesn't like the starchy stuff and prefers protein? or the processed food flavors? for some they are too "much".

                                                                              left-over chicken or steak would be a great lunch!

                                                                              will she eat cold shrimp?

                                                                              home-made meatballs can be nuked and then brought in a thermos, no pasta needed.

                                                                              grilled fish can also be successfully sent off with an ice-pack. lunch is what? 4-5 hours after she leaves home?

                                                                              does she like edamame? good pickles?

                                                                              roll-ups of turkey or roast beef with some cheese or avocado inside.

                                                                              hard-boiled eggs, already peeled? deviled eggs?

                                                                              add some nuts or seeds to her salad for a little protein/fat boost.

                                                                              have you offered her zucchini? doesn't look all that different from a cuke and can be served warm or cold, cooked or raw.

                                                                              lots of kids like dipping, so hummus or any kind of pureed beans, guacamole, even a chunky meat sauce (hot, in a thermos) might work.

                                                                            2. She is starting K at local public school this Sept. Don't schools have meal plans?

                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                1. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                  Most school food is on par with prison food, if not worse.

                                                                                  (Except at our school, which is great, but this is rare.)

                                                                                  1. re: JudiAU

                                                                                    I was on a commitee last year to help improve ours. This year is a little bit better. However, it has a long way to go.

                                                                                2. re: Monica

                                                                                  Most do. My kids, both in public school, prefer to bring from home b/c lunch period is short and they don't want to spend time in line. Plus, if they happen to be one of the last groups to get to the cafeteria, the "best" things are gone.

                                                                                3. Instead of ice or cold packs, freeze a juice box, or if you want better control of waste and nutrition, freeze your own juice, or flavored water, in a small plastic bottle. It'll be thawed by lunch. Matter of fact, you may need to move it from freezer to fridge the night before to jump-start the thaw.

                                                                                  As for the food, a stuffed tomato? I prefer a few crackers along with it. Another good lunch is a chunk of cheddar, crackers, and an apple.

                                                                                  1. Sent some flat bread with hummus for lunch today. Hopefully she will like it.

                                                                                    I was speaking to one of the moms over the weekend about the lunch program in the school..apparently it's not so bad. They even have a smoothy section made with vege and fruits. 2 more weeks and I will be FREE!! can't wait. lol

                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Monica

                                                                                      Wow that lunch-program sounds much better than the programs back when I was a kid. I would just make sure she (your child) is actually going to eat the food otherwise it could be a big waste of money.

                                                                                      I refused to eat sandwiches as child. Instead I had crackers and cheese, mini-pizzas on English muffins, turkey-rolled around a pickle, and also breakfast options that my mom knew I would eat--like a whole wheat waffle with nut butter (you'd probably have to switch to soynut butter, if your school is anti-nut).--Good luck, but I would consider throwing in some of the breakfast options that she eats.

                                                                                      1. re: GraceW

                                                                                        She loves waffles but wouldnt' it get all soggy by the lunch time?

                                                                                        mini pizza sounds good too.

                                                                                        1. re: Monica

                                                                                          I think if you don't pack it right after it is warmed then it is fine. --Another option (although maybe not the best nutrition-wise) would be graham crackers with nut/soy-butter. I am sure they have 'healthier' graham crackers now, but that was always my Friday treat: graham crackers with nut-butter and apple slices with nut-butter (I think celery was tried.. but failed with me as a kid). I would not eat 'quesadillas' (cheese on tortilla) either besides sandwiches or anything "normal."

                                                                                      2. re: Monica

                                                                                        I would carefully look over the lunch options to be sure they are up to your standards, there may be some questionable "foods" that you do not want your daughter to eat often

                                                                                      3. You could put sliced steak in a smaller insulated baggie. The same with chicken pieces. I happened across some 'picnic' style cutlery that isn't too bad. I send them with our kids.

                                                                                        1. My daughter doesn't like some of the typical kid foods as well. She gets the following in her lunches in any combination, that I try to make balanced:
                                                                                          -diced boiled beets
                                                                                          -boiled broccoli
                                                                                          -whole apple
                                                                                          -defrosted frozen mango or strawberries
                                                                                          -fresh fruit like cherries or strawberries when available
                                                                                          -frozen peas and corn that have been allowed to defrost
                                                                                          -beans with some ketchup on it, or leftover beans I cooked for something else
                                                                                          -piece of cheddar or blue cheese
                                                                                          -dried fruit
                                                                                          -whole seedless cucumber (they are smaller) or peeled whole carrot
                                                                                          -leftover fried fish (light batter) with a piece of lemon on the side, can also do this with chicken cutlet
                                                                                          -she loves homemade tacos- refrigerated corn tortillas which I will fry briefly at home but which she will eat straight from the package.
                                                                                          -tuna with little mayo on the side of bread, not made into a sandwich.

                                                                                          To me it sounds like your daughter doesn't like junk food and likes high quality protein. I am going to guess that she will eat fruit? You may try experimenting with the prep of other vegetables, like leaving them raw or cooking them for longer. My daughter also doesn't like eating pasta cold at lunch although she devours it at home. She doesn't like bread at all? Sometimes it's the way a sandwich is made or soggy that can be offputting. I would suggest packing the components -like cheese or tuna-separately with the bread. Again, fruit for a 5year old...

                                                                                          1. Buy a good quality insulated bag and an ice pack as well as a thermos and pack here whatever healthy food she eats at home. My kids like a thermos of soup with whole wheat pasta, whole wheat pasta with marinara and spinach, quinoa + scraps from the night before, fried brown rice, very small mortadella or salami sandwich on brioche,

                                                                                            1. Perhaps steak soft tacos, with a greek twist - that tomato cucumber salad in place of the salsa, and some feta crumbles. Or can you cook up ground chicken and sneak some veggies in, along with butter lettuce leaves for lettuce wraps? Will she eat tuna fish packed in oil? A simple pasta salad with tuna, mayo (or vegan mayo, which I prefer), sliced black olives and fresh dill, fresh black pepper and some lemon zest.

                                                                                              1. Monica, have you had a peek at the Amanda kids lunch column in food52? She does a lot of sandwiches, but a lot of other things, too. As I scan her posts, my impression is that you'd probably have to strike two of every three for being too sandwichy, but it seems like there are still some others that might work for you? Maybe just scrolling the posts could give you some inspiratIon?

                                                                                                http://food52.com/blog/category/169-a...

                                                                                                I am comforted by some of the posters comments that perhaps children don't need as much variety as you or I might. So, when you say you are running out of ideas, it sounds like you have at least 3 things in rotation already (mac & cheese, stuffed pasta, meatballs with pasta) maybe you don't need that many more ideas? Just one or two more and you'd have enough for something different each day of the week that you could just repeat every week? Boring for you, perhaps, but probably enough variety for her?

                                                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                                                1. Epicurious has lots of back to school recipes featured on their site right now. Some seem interesting, though I fear your daughter might think of most of them as the kinds of "kids" dishes she eschews.

                                                                                                  http://www.epicurious.com/recipesmenu...

                                                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                    I bought Eat like A Dinaosur for a young friend of the familys Mom when she was diagonosed with grain allegeys... but it is a great book for any kid who is just lunchbox fatigued and is looking for healthy easy to pack yummy food.

                                                                                                  2. I made my daughter a roll sandwich with hummus, avocado, tomatoes, boiled egg on a flat bread...she didn't like it at all...but she loves all of them at home indivisually...go figure.

                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Monica

                                                                                                      Just a little bit maddening, right? What if you tried a bento box where you could put all of those elements into their own separate compartments? We love our yumbox, but they are currently on backorder. But I know there are lots of others out there!

                                                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                        I love my laptop lunch system. Use it several times a week depending on what I am taking. As an adult Inget once dish meal a lot but if I have several components it is a great system.

                                                                                                      2. re: Monica

                                                                                                        Wondering if there are other issues at play....

                                                                                                        Is she very social? Sometimes my kids would "forget" to eat because they were too busy yakking with friends.

                                                                                                        Does she need more control over the situation? Can you present her with a written menu, checkboxes to indicate whether she wants X, Y or Z? Or let her fill the bento sections with items of her choosing, given a few parameters of course.

                                                                                                        1. re: tcamp

                                                                                                          The yacking - oh the yacking. A definite problem.

                                                                                                          Totally agree that letting her "make" (or choose) her lunch will make it more likely that she'll eat it.