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Just How Healthy Does a Toddler's Lunch Need to Be?

For awhile, Jake and I split lunch-packing duties for June to take to preschool. But over the last few months, the job has fallen in my lap.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s because my loving husband tries to send our two year old off to preschool with a fun pack of jerky, processed breakfast pastries and a pack of cheese-y sandwich crackers.  Except the cheese-y sandwich crackers don’t actually contain any cheese but orange powder mixed with water sandwiched between two heavily salted disks of cardboard. (You know the ones I’m talking about?  Wait, you don’t shop at the saddest corner deli covered in cat hair in the saddest part of town?  Oh, never mind.) We would get into arguments over her packed lunch, with me on the one side blaming him for encouraging a taste for bad, nutritionally vacant food-like substances and him on the other telling me to pull the processed jerky stick out of my hiney, and that the occasional s’mores breakfast pastry never killed anyone (to his knowledge).

Instead of belaboring the point, I threw up my hands and took over the daily lunch making duties, assuming the role of nutritional overlord in our household. It’s not a fun role, but someone has to watch out that our daughter isn’t injecting crushed Skittles into her veins by the time she’s seven.

As any parent saddled with this task will tell you, packing lunch everyday for a child is one of the more soul-sucking aspects of parenthood, particularly when it’s lunch for the under three crowd. All those grapes and strawberries? They gotta be sliced. And those hard boiled eggs? Peeled. Apples? Cored and sliced. Oranges? Divided into segments with as much white pith removed, thank you. Sandwiches? Shredded into a fine julienne.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI really do try to send my daughter off to preschool with as natural and wholesome lunch selection as I can: organic yogurt, hard boiled eggs (we eat a lot of eggs around here), cut fruit, sliced carrots and a dollop of homemade hummus for dipping. Sandwiches are usually made with all natural peanut butter — the kind that seals the roof of your mouth and your tongue together —  and strawberry jam I preserved myself!

It wasn’t long before her lunches were beginning to resemble medieval druid food, like the kind you see on Game of Thrones. Thankfully, another parent gave me a tip. “You know, you don’t have to make every single lunch from scratch.  June won’t die if she sucks the occasional apple sauce from a nozzle.  Or maybe try giving her leftovers from last night’s dinner.”

As her first year of Montessori draws to a close, I’ve come to terms that making June’s entire packed lunch from scratch is not realistic for someone like me, that is, old, bitter and lazy. Making a kid’s lunch from scratch requires too much planning, forethought, time and dedication to a Holly Hobbie lifestyle I don’t  have time for.

So string cheese has worked its way into June’s new stackable Bentgo box (which she loves stacking and unstacking! That in itself keeps her occupied for at least 20 minutes). And those ubiquitous Goldfish. And last night’s leftover pasta, and even the occasional pack of those fake cheese-y sandwich crackers I’m not wild about.  Whatever it takes to get her fed.

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The all-in-one stackable bento lunch box container was provided by Bentgo. Right now, the company is offering Babble readers 25 percent off the price of purchase. Use the promotional code BABBLE25 at the time of purchase. Thank you, Bentgo!

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