Four Tricks for Preschool Lunches

Easy Toddler Lunch Ideas

Before I had children, I figured getting them to eat healthy food was as easy as never giving them anything unhealthy. But as real life has happened, I’ve learned it’s not quite so easy. Not only can it be tricky to motivate your kiddos to eat, but finding time to prepare food and to look over their shoulders while they pick at their food for two hours, prodding, nagging, and pleading them to eat? Forget about it! This is not as easy as I thought.

I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way that make lunchtime with my kiddos much easier than it used to be, and I’ve teamed up with Horizon Organics to share my ideas with you! I hope you can find some inspiration and make lunchtime an enriching experience with your kiddos.

 This might seem like a no-brainer, but I used to think creating visually stimulating food meant I needed to spend a lot of time cutting out shapes or creating little characters by combining lots of random food elements. But in reality, pretty food is as easy as making a pattern with carrots and cheese sticks, cutting fruits and veggies into simple shapes (even rectangles will do), or sure— you can do something as artistic as cutting up and combining food creatively to create animals or characters. That will certainly grab the interest of a toddler who might rather be playing with her toys.

I don’t want to lead Lucy and Juniper to expect fun and exciting shapes in their lunches every day, but when I have a couple of extra minutes, the little effort it takes to make a creative lunch usually equals a more relaxing lunchtime for me— no nagging, prodding, or bargaining needed to get them to eat their food! And my favorite new item from Horizon Organics is their shaped cheddar cheese slices (see the white cheddar on the toast above). They already come in fun shapes, so I don’t have to take the time or create any waste with leftover cheese after cutting it into shapes. Victory!

Easy Preschool Lunch Ideas

This was a recent discovery of mine. If you give something a fun name, kids are pretty likely to want to give it a try. Peanut butter covered celery sticks topped with raisins? Boring. Ants on a log? Exciting! Ham and cheese toast? Meh. Sunrise sammies? Fun! See what I mean?

Easy Toddler Lunch Ideas

What is it about little things that capture our imaginations? My kids and I love dollhouses and miniatures, so it would only stand to reason that they’d enjoy tiny versions of food as well. Mini sandwiches made with small cookie cutters, mini crackers, small packs of fruit snacks, milk from a mini carton rather than poured from a big jug— these seemingly insignificant details are sometimes enough to excite my children about their lunches. And sometimes all it takes is putting normal-sized food (like grapes or grated cheese) into a tiny cup on a big plate and the kids think it’s pretty special.

The tiny trick is great when you’re short on time. I don’t usually give the children crackers for lunch, but if we’re on the go or if I’m having a hectic day, I certainly don’t feel bad about dumping some cheese sandwich crackers and munchable veggies onto a plate and calling it done.

Easy Preschool Lunch Ideas

I discovered this trick when we were at a grocery store where they were sampling lots of food that my children wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole at home. But at the store? In those tiny cups? With those tiny weapons (toothpicks) piercing the food? Oh yeah. They were all about it. Juniper had three different kinds of salmon that day, and even asked for more. It’s the toothpicks and the tiny cups, I tell ya!

The catch with this one is the skewers. Lucy couldn’t handle this all the time. She began to just play with the toothpicks and become too distracted to actually eat the food, and I found it stressful to make sure she wasn’t poking her eye out. Also, if you’re relying on the toothpick to hold the food together (like ham and cheese roll-ups sliced into sections), your kiddo might pull out all the toothpicks and refuse to eat the pile of unrolled food that’s left on the plate. (Been there. So frustrating.) But when you know your kid can probably handle it, this toothpick trick is a real winner!

Easy Toddler Lunch Ideas

I used to try to let Lucy sit in front of the television while eating a simple and not-too-messy lunch so I could grab some time to get work done. But when we were both distracted, she would sometimes drop food on the floor, or just not eat at all, and it really drew out what should’ve taken 30 minutes into a process that easily took over an hour to finish. This is exactly what I’m trying to avoid— two hour mealtimes! Yikes.

I also began to consider the patterns that eating in front of the TV was setting in her life— distracted eating, not paying attention to hunger cues, needing snacks while watching television or relaxing…. I just didn’t feel good about it. So we quit that mess and lunchtime is much more peaceful, and actually a great time for us to connect and talk about things that are fun or important.

Easy Preschool Lunch Ideas

Lunchtime doesn’t need to be fun or exciting, but I’ve found that thinking about ways to enrich this time with my kiddos has not only helped them eat their food, but it’s brought us closer together and made me grow as a mom!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Horizon Organic. The opinions and text are all mine.

Crock Pot // Stuffed Peppers with Turkey + Quinoa

Sharing delicious food with your family is easy, but finding healthy recipes that are easy to make and enjoyed by all is a bit more challenging! I have learned a few tricks lately that make cooking healthy meals easier for me, with minimal prep work and cook time on my end. This turkey, kale, and quinoa stuffed peppers recipe has proved to be one of the easiest to throw together. What’s the trick?

I like to buy ground turkey in bulk when it’s on sale, brown it the same day, then store one pound increments in storage bags in my freezer. That’s step one to making all of my ground turkey recipes easier. Step two? When I mix up the stuffing for these peppers, I will mix at least a double batch, and sometimes a triple batch. While it’s fresh, I’ll use enough for one batch (about 5 peppers), then freeze the rest, making the next time I prepare stuffed peppers as easy as thawing the stuffing and cutting the peppers. Add in the crock pot factor and this recipe is a breeze— cooking away on my counter while I go about my day, not worrying about needing to start dinner. And these are the days I feel like I’m winning at life.

Turkey Quinoa Stuffed Peppers - slow cooker or oven

This stuffed pepper recipe also has me feeling like a boss because it just tastes really, really good. My kids eat it, my husband delights in it, and I am positively gleeful about the nutritional content. It’s definitely a recipe in frequent rotation at our house! I hope you like it as much as we do.

Turkey turkey kale and quinoa stuffed peppersQuinoa Stuffed Peppers - crock pot or oven

Turkey, Quinoa, and Kale Stuffed Peppers
Yields 5
These hearty, flavorful, and nutritious peppers are sure to become a regular at your table!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
5 hr
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
5 hr
Ingredients
  1. 5 peppers (color is up to you
  2. 1 pound ground turkey
  3. 1 small onion, diced
  4. 5 garlic cloves, minced28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  5. 1/2 cup rinsed quinoa (I used a mix of colors)
  6. 3 cups of chopped kale
  7. 1 tablespoon of Italian season or 1 tablespoon of taco seasoning, depending on your mood!
Instructions
  1. Prepare the peppers by slicing off the tops and removing the seeds and rib of the insides. Set them aside, keeping the lids with their corresponding pepper.
  2. Brown the ground turkey and diced onion in a large non-stick skillet, draining the fat off the meat once it has been cooked through. Add the garlic and brown for about a minute before adding the remaining ingredients. Once ingredients are combined, gradually add the chopped kale, stirring to incorporate the leaves as they wilt with the heat.Once they kale has wilted just a bit, spoon the stuffing into the hollow peppers, top with their lids, and place into your crock pot or baking pan.
  3. Cook on low for 4 hours in a crock pot, or bake at 350 degrees in a covered baking pan for 1-2 hours, depending on how tender you prefer your peppers.
Making Nice in the Midwest http://makingniceinthemidwest.com/
turkey kale and quinoa stuffed peppers

Turkey Quinoa Stuffed Peppers - slow cooker or oven
My family doesn’t typically use quinoa as a substitute for rice, as it’s too fine to hold onto a fork or chopsticks like rice does, and it just doesn’t have the same bite and texture. But I believe this is the perfect recipe for using quinoa as a rice substitute, because it clings nicely to the tomato and meat texture, enhancing the hearty and meaty qualities you would crave in stuffed peppers. Why quinoa instead of rice? For me it’s about the added protein. I’m all about that muscle mass, yo!

After my peppers cook, I like to top them with a sprinkle of cheese and fresh herbs, depending on what I have on hand. This time it was grated parmesan and fresh parsley. So delicious!

Turkey Quinoa Stuffed Peppers - crock pot or oven

Meals Made Easy with Terra’s Kitchen

Terra's Kitchen Meal delivery service

I remember ten years ago when the internet had already completely changed our ways of life. People were doing more and more shopping online (especially me!), and there was talk of one day people even doing their grocery shopping online. I thought, no way. But here I am, ten years later, not only ordering groceries online, but actually receiving prepped ingredients for fresh meals with recipes that I don’t have to hunt down (and read reviews for) myself. Healthy food delivery— I could get used to this modern life!

Recently I tried a meal delivery service for the first time, ordering three dinners from Terra’s Kitchen, along with some snacks, ready-made salads, and cold pressed juice. It was fun, we felt fancy, and we really liked the experience! Let me tell you more about it.

Terra's Kitchen Meal delivery service

The kids were thrilled when the Terra’s Kitchen box arrived at our door and there was FOOD inside that they could eat! Ha! (I was thrilled too.) The insulated box had shelves with each meal kit neatly stacked alongside ice packs to keep everything refrigerated until they were transferred to our own refrigerator. After we emptied the container, we switched out the shipping label and left it on our front door, where it was picked up the next day to be reused.

One thing I really enjoyed about the meals I selected was that while I had selected meals according to my fitness goals (high protein, low-fat, low-carbs), the organic meals Terra’s Kitchen had created have much more interesting flavors and variety than I would normally choose when left to my own devices. I tend to do a lot of plain grilled chicken, plain green beans, and plain sweet potatoes for meals. But I was able to get similar nutrients with much more exciting dishes with what I selected from Terra’s Kitchen, which was:

  • Chicken Schnitzel with Sweet and Sour Apple Cabbage
  • Grilled Chicken with Broccoli Salad
  • Thai Grilled Chicken Salad

Terra's Kitchen Meal delivery service

The first meal I made was the chicken schnitzel with sweet and sour apple cabbage, and from beginning to end, the meal came together in literally eleven minutes! This was a huge deal for me, because normally after church our family is scrambling to make something healthy and quick, because we’re all starved and the kids need naps.

I just rubbed the provided mayo onto the chicken tenders, dredged them in the panko crumbs, and placed them in the oven. During that time, I cooked the apples and cabbage on the stove and finished the combo off with the provided dressing and seasonings. I plated the apple cabage just as the chicken came out of the oven, and our family was seated at the table ready to eat. Eleven minutes. I love it.

Terra's Kitchen Meal delivery service

Terra's Kitchen Meal delivery service

We enjoyed all of the meals we tried, and I really loved not having to slice and portion out all of the ingredients before making the meals. I also loved cutting out the waste that often happens when buying an entire item when only a portion is needed for the recipe. For instance, I needed pepitas for the broccoli apple salad, but didn’t need to buy a whole package from the store, because the small portion I needed was provided. The same goes for coriander (a spice I’d never use often enough to justify buying and entire container of), diced red onion, red cabbage, and other ingredients that I usually never use all of when I purchase the whole piece in the produce section.

It was also so nice to be able to pull out fresh and delicious fruit for the kids to snack on, which had already been sliced and prepared for me. I get anxious about selecting a good watermelon at the store, and then find slicing and dicing it to be such a tedious and messy task. So, having prepped slices off the rind was such a treat for us!

Terra's Kitchen Meal delivery service

Over all, my favorite aspect of doing a food subscription through Terra’s Kitchen was the time it saved me. I saved time planning meals and grocery lists, time shopping for meal ingredients, and time prepping the meals before cooking them. It was also fun to try new recipes for fresh meals I might not have chosen if left to my own devices.

This is such a new and fun way to do family meals— I highly recommend Terra’s Kitchen after our experience. What do you think? Would you give a meal delivery service a try? 

Terra's Kitchen Meal delivery service

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Terra’s Kitchen. The opinions and text are all mine.

 

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