Packing Lunch for a Three Year Old

For the past three years I haven’t had to think too much about Paige’s lunch, since her sitter always made something for her and I really didn’t have to do anything.  Now she’s three and officially a preschooler (three days a week).  All of a sudden this dietitian has total control over what her daughter is eating, and while you’d think that would make me happy, it’s actually more stressful than I thought it would be. Just about every day her lunch box comes back only half eaten.  Paige has always been a light eater, but at times I feel like she eats nothing (but the girl has never had problems in the bathroom, if you know what I mean, so it’s like she eats and then gets rid of it all!).  Recently I had Paige’s teacher conferences and I asked about her eating habits.  They didn’t seem concerned, but they did say“Paige is more interested in watching the other kids, at times, than she is in eating her lunch. She typically goes very slow”.  True.  She eats slow like her dad (whereas I tend to eat too fast, I’ll admit it).  Overall I’m not overly concerned, I mean she’s growing and staying on the growth chart, but still, I’m over-analyzing all the nutrients she’s potentially missing out on;

  • Calcium and Vitamin D:The girl hates milk now. Literally, she will only drink it if I add chocolate to it and even then sometimes she won’t drink it.  Yogurt? She’ll eat it at school but not at home (what the heck?!).  I’ve recently been giving her the Stonyfield Organic Whole Milk Yogurt pouches, which so far she enjoys (score!). We also give her a vitamin D gummy every day (especially in the winter months when she doesn’t get much, if any sun)Packing Lunch
  • Iron and Protein: Paige is a vegetarian, aside from her occasional chicken nugget and fish stick (and this is not because anyone in our family is vegetarian).  She also will dabble in bolognese sauce or lean beef tacos, but that’s rare.  What about beans? Beans used to be a favorite of hers, but anymore it’s like pulling teeth to get her to eat beans.  And dark greens?  Loves them (phew!) but she’d have to eat a bunch in order to get the iron she needs. Enter, the Flintstone vitamin. I’m not sure if it’s just a coincidence but since she’s been taking this vitamin, and getting extra immunity boosting iron, she hasn’t gotten sick.  Seriously. Not once.  It’s been almost a year.
  • Fiber:Ok, this one may be an issue for some preschoolers but it’s the one thing that Paige has covered. The one food she will eat without fail? Brussel Sprouts. Who is this child?!  She also eats whole grain everything.  I don’t think she has ever eaten anything enriched (not that I’m against it, we just don’t keep enriched/white breads, bagels, etc. in our house). She’s always ever eaten the whole grain version of just about every grain food.  I’m proud to say that!

So I’ve done a little giving in when it comes to packing her lunch, since over all she’s still pretty picky at this point.  I want her to eat, I want her to like what she eats, I want her to grow and not be any shorter than she’s already going to be (Nick is 5’7″, I’m barely 5’3″).  So, here are some things I’ve been packing on a regular basis and she…well…usually eats;Packing Lunch 1

Protein: Dietz and Watson Deli Meat (she likes it just as is, no bread)Packing Lunch 2

Grain: She loves these pumpkin flavored Crunchmaster crackersPacking Lunch 3

Fruit: The Pressed KIND bars are great for school because they are delicious and nut free!Packing Lunch 4

Dairy: Paige has given up on milk, so I’ve resorted to chocolate milk. She has a love/hate relationship with it.Packing Lunch 5

Dairy: You can’t go wrong with whole milk yogurt! I also do the pouches, as listed above.

Something I rarely buy, if ever, for Paige is the squeeze pouch veggie things. I think they are nasty and I don’t understand them.  Why are we asking our child to squeeze pureed veggies into their mouths?  Didn’t they give up on purees when they started eating solids as infants?  I’m confused.  Sure, they are a “convenience” but so are things like Cheerios and fruits, which make more sense to me, personally.  What are your thoughts?

Other lunch staples;

  • PB&J (without the “skins” as she likes to call the crusts)
  • Any veggie you can imagine, especially broccoli, brussel sprouts, pumpkin or squash
  • Any fruit you can imagine, but especially oranges and kiwi
  • Pizza (leftover pizza, she loves it)
  • Hot dogs and ketchup (she eats the veggie dogs. Have you ever tried them?!)
  • Spaghetti and meatballs or bolognese sauce (leftover, she loves it)

About author


Hi, my name is Rebecca Houston and I am a writer. I write about health, healthy food and daily meal plan for various websites.
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