Mellow Mummy: Lunchbox Fillers for Hungry Toddlers - Any Tips? : Taking life as it comes...

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Lunchbox Fillers for Hungry Toddlers - Any Tips?

I send Lara to the childminder with a lunchbox, partly because I wouldn't want to burden the childminder with the need to provide separate, baby-safe foods for just Lara; and partly because it means I am still in control of what types of food (and importantly, how much junk) Lara eats. I admit, I have strong views on feeding my toddler so the following may sound a bit preachy in places but remember - I'm mellow - I don't live stricly by my 'healthy eating' rules but I try my best - bringing Lara up with a love of healthy food is IMPORTANT to me.

I'm always on the lookout for ideas for healthy, easy-to-prepare, filling snacks to put into Lara's lunchboxes. I've found a number of life-savers over the past few months that I wanted to share with you but perhaps you can help me out with some more suggestions – comments welcome!

Home-Made Snacks
As-per my working-mum resolutions, I try as hard as I can to provide Lara with home-cooked food every day in her lunchbox. But, I'm not superwoman so I very rarely manage a home-made main meal AND home-made snacks. I'd love to have time to cook flapjacks (sweet and savoury), low-sugar cakes, and other goodies; but the reality is, I don't. I simply don't have time. And so, I struggle to find healthy, ready-to-eat alternatives in my local supermarkets.

Images courtesy of Bondy Consulting

Crisps & Biscuits
There are a million and one different snacks and biscuits specifically targeted at children. Most of them sweet. Next time you're in the market for kids snacks, just take a moment to look up the sugar and salt content of them - you would be very surprised (Heinz Biscotti are a case in point).

I have always been happy with the ingredients in the Organix and Plum Baby snacks but when I try them myself, I personally prefer the flavours of the Plum Baby products. I'm particularly happy that Plum Baby have just launched a range of savoury snack foods – it makes such a pleasant change from the sweet biscuits I had been offering Lara. The Plum Baby snacks are very 'grown-up' styles and flavours. I particularly enjoy munching on their Parmesan Bakes, and their new Spelt Breadsticks! As happy as I am to have them in Lara's lunchbox, I do have a couple of reservations; the pack sizes are much too big for one sitting and I'm disappointed with their use of Palm Oil as an ingredient.

FruitFruit is easy as a snack food; especially now that Lara has an ever-growing set of teeth. A piece of fresh fruit is a regular sight in Lara's lunchbox but on the days when I run out, I have emergency rations of Organix fruit purees and squeezies on hand. Lara also loves Humzingers – these fruit chews are nowhere near as good as the real thing but they make great lunchbox fillers.

Image courtesy of Humdinger Foods

Yoghurts & CheeseFruit yoghurts have sugar in them – fact. When I'm buying yoghurt for Lara, I look for ones with no added sugar but it is hard to find one with less than 12% sugar. The Plum Baby fromage frais have the lowest natural sugar content, but they are near-impossible for me to find. Our current favourites are the Little Yeo's which are VERY tangy. In terms of cheese, I normally steer clear of processed cheese products for Lara. The most junkie I'm prepared to go is Mini BabyBel (I lost one in the living room recently and still haven't found it). The cheapest, and most no-nonsense option is for me to buy a piece of 'normal' cheese and wrap a small piece for Lara each morning.

Images courtesy of Tropicana (Freud)

Until very recently I had only ever offered Lara water and milk (apart from one failed attempt at fruit tea which Lara spat out and which permanently stained a brand new outfit!). I want to be able to offer Lara something a little more exciting just once in a while.

I refuse to offer Lara the fruit squashes that myself and Mr. B drink regularly (too much scary stuff inside them – she can drink it once she can read me the ingredients and tell me what they all are). That really leaves me with few options; hot drinks don't seem to appeal to her and should only be given in small quantities anyway; watered-down fruit-juice seems like the best bet (her teeth are too young for the neat stuff) but it means that I need to decant a small amount of juice into a cup or bottle for her to take each morning in addition to of her water cup and milk cup.

I've had a look at the pre-diluted juice bottles that are targeted at children and I'm appalled. The current options look like they're healthy but they just aren't. They are either packed full of added sugar or sweetner, or packed full of preservatives (natural or not, it just seems so unnecessary). I recently tried the Tropicana K1ds juice drinks for children which will be available in August this year; If I can get over the environmental guilt of regularly using these small plastic bottles then I'm happy to give these to Lara because they are just juice and water. Nothing else. I still plan to save them for treats, and I need to make sure that she brushes her teeth afterwards, but at least I've found a lunchbox drink of which both Lara and I approve!

If you'd like to find out more about providing your toddler with a healthy, balanced diet; check out Little People's Plates, a website produced by the Infant & Toddler forum - a group of independent nutrition and development experts.
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