This blog is a continuation of my series on making the most of the nutrient content of baby and children’s meals. Last week I wrote about “Getting Extra Nutrients into my Child’s Diet: Breakfast Edition” and I’m so pleased that so many of you have been finding it helpful. I think it’s really important that we share ideas and help support other parents – parenting is HARD and if there are any “easy wins” we all should know about it!
This week I’m writing about how to boost the nutritional content of your little one’s lunches – I was going to combine lunches and snacks, but ended up writing too much for each and it turned into a mammoth post, so I’m separating out lunches, snacks and dinners, which will come in the following weeks.
Lunchtime can be super easy and I tend to focus on finger foods and picnic style lunches (not in this weather!!) for the meal in the middle of the day. This is unless we are eating out or Raffy is at nursery, and then I’ll usually shift the ‘picky’ lunch to the evening meal instead. It’s always nice to have one meal which is really minimal effort to make!
However, it doesn’t have to be hard when it comes to balancing the meals they have at lunch. I’m going to cover a few typical “lunch” options here and will cover bigger meals next week when I write about getting extra nutrients into dinners.
So first up…
Sandwiches don’t have to be cheese OR ham (although you wouldn’t believe it if you saw any child’s menu at some cafes!). I always try to think about different food groups when I’m putting together sandwiches for Raffy, so that it’s not just bread and one other food group. There are so many ways you can spice up their sandwiches and these are some of the options that I LOVE to include:
- Cream cheese, cucumber and thinly chopped lettuce – includes dairy and veggies
- Marmite and cheese – adds B vitamins and dairy
- Hummus and red pepper – adds protein/iron and a 5-a-day portion
- Peanut butter and banana – protein/iron and one of their 5-a-day
- Tuna, plain yogurt and sweetcorn/tomato – fish (protein, iron), dairy and 5-a-day
- Salmon and cucumber (with yogurt too?) – fish (protein, omega-3 and iron), dairy and 5-a-day
- Ham, lettuce and tomato – protein and 5-a-day
Wraps, rolls, bagels, English muffins, pitta breads, crackers, rye bread etc etc etc are also all great options for kids “sandwiches” and this helps to add variety into their diet as well as a whole host of other nutrients/fibre. Choosing seeded, wholegrain and white options is great too, as long as you vary the type that a little one is having, it’s going to ensure they aren’t getting too much (e.g. fibre) and that they aren’t missing out on anything either.
Other lunch ideas –
- Hummus on toast is another quick and easy option at home (you can see my butter bean hummus recipe here if you’re after a homemade version) and I’d usually combine this with some finger food veggies too
- Pitta pizzas or English muffin pizzas are also great for lunch and you can top them with as many food groups as you need – dairy with cheeses, veggies and protein with strips of chicken, fish or blended lentils in the sauce.
- Omelette is also a great one and I’ve been seeing loads of fab recipes recently for mini omelette muffins – these can include cheese, protein and veggies too – making a nice, balanced lunch
When it comes to lunch, it’s also easy to balance out lunch by adding a dose of protein, veggies or dairy on the side e.g. a small handful of chopped blueberries, a few slices of banana, some mashed avocado or carrot fingers, a boiled egg, a dollop of hummus, a piece of cheese or a small yogurt.
Adding foods with vitamin C (mainly fruit and veggies) is also great for helping with iron absorption from foods such as hummus, fish and egg too.
Don’t forget you can add small amounts of herbs and spices to lunches too – think dill in fish and yogurt sandwiches, cress with egg, basil or oregano on pizzas or chives with cream cheese. As always, they won’t add masses amount of extra nutrients, but they will help to add new and delicious flavours to your children’s meals, along with a few extra nutrients too.
What are your favourite foods to serve little ones at lunch and are there any easy ways you could make them more balanced/nutrient-rich? Do send me any ideas as I’m happy to add to this list too.
Next week I’ll be posting about: “Getting Extra Nutrients into my Child’s Diet: Snacks!”.
I hope you found this helpful.