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When It Comes to Toddlers, Don't Mess with a Lunch That Works

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Something inside me tells me I should change up lunch. Oh well. 

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With food and toddlers, I have learned not to get too excited one way or another: One night everyone’s gobbling up the broccoli without protest, the next they’re eyeing it with disgust. One day they’re devouring dim sum in Chinatown, the next they’re refusing anything but plain buttered pasta. 

Highs and lows last for five minutes. With these fickle little humans, nothing is a guarantee—with the exception, for the most part, of lunch. 

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I have assembled the lunch pictured here approximately 1000 times, and while something inside me tells me I should change it up, I’m sticking with it: almond butter (MaraNatha no-stir maple almond is a new favorite) and jelly sandwiches, carrots, hummus, and granola bars, which I make twice a week because we all love them. In the summer, they often get berries; in the fall, apples. Sharp cheddar cheese with crackers is another staple. 

If my children (I have four: Ella, 5; Graham, 4; Wren, 2; and Tig, 6 months) had their way, they would eat like this at every meal, and more and more, I bring this lunch menu to the dinner table. Experts advise not to make special meals for children, but sometimes the dinner hour rolls around and a meal, special or otherwise, is nowhere in sight. When this happens, out come all of their favorite nibbles: nuts, berries, grapes, raisins, apples, peanut butter—whatever I can scrounge. 

When I’m feeling patient, I’ll let the kids make a mess peeling carrots at the table, which affords me time to slice up some peppers or pop a big pot of popcorn. Never are we all so happy, and never is the meal so much a success.

Photos by Alexandra Stafford

Tags: kids' lunch, brown-bag lunch, brown bag lunch, packed lunch