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When it came time for my oldest daughter to start kindergarten, I got extremely overwhelmed thinking about what she was going to eat every day. I knew I didn't want her eating lunch at school and I also knew I didn't want her eating the same thing every day. To be honest, we got into a lazy groove over the summer between parks, play dates and pools and ended up eating the same three things for lunch.
How could I make it easier for myself to think about school lunch? If you're anything like me, you're a list maker. It takes my mental load off and keeps me from having to remember everything.
Problem Solving - Break it Down
So, I decided to put my problem solving skills to work.
Problem 1: I didn't want to come up with 100,000 different lunch ideas.
Solution 1: I'm going to come up with 10 different meals and rotate through them every other week.
Problem 2: I wanted my daughter to start trying different foods.
Solution 2: I'm going to make a list of preferred and non-preferred foods.
Problem 3. With our new Bentgo lunch box, I had five compartments to fill.
Solution 3: I'm going to break down the list of foods into different categories.
Food Categories for a Balanced Diet
Then I asked myself - What are the food groups that a five year old needs for a balanced diet? They are: vegetables, fruit, grains, dairy and protein. This is what I would use as a guide to create my categories.
Create the Categories
My next step was to take a piece of paper and start my categories. I made an entrées category with 10 bullet points underneath and wrote the rest around the paper.
Meal Planning with Your Little One
Here was the fun part. I sat down with my daughter at the dining room table and talked to her about different foods she likes to eat. I also talked to her about the importance of trying new foods to create a more balanced diet. From there, we came up with 10 entrées, and many different foods for each category that we would mix and match to create lunch every day. It was on paper and mental load taken off.
It may seem crazy to go through all of this, especially when school lunch is free right now. My daughters' nutrition is always at the top of my priority list, which is one of the reasons why I started Café Baby. It is so crucial that we as parents prioritize our kids' meals in an effort to create a lifetime of healthy eating habits.
Free Downloadable to Get You Started
In an effort to make this easier for you, we have created a downloadable pdf to start your lunch planning journey. Print it off, laminate it and keep it in the kitchen with a dry erase marker.
Check out these meal ideas