Posted in bento by tchemgrrl on September 27, 2012

Funny, right after I put that post together about the Toddler’s lunches, we got an article from school about lunch packing. It included some general notes about food safety, and a list of 50 food suggestions.

Looking through it, I’m kind of shocked. It’s basically a list of pre-prepared foods or foods which involve very minimal preparation (hard-boiling an egg or cutting a hot dog into nonchokeable bits). No beans except hummus (no vegan protein of any kind except hummus), no rice or any other non-bread grain (and this is a school with a very high first-generation Asian population), no pasta (!), and apparently the only vegetable that any child under 4 can eat is cucumber. Lots of canned fruits, lots of branded crackers and breads, lots of lunch meats. Bleah. It’s not that we never use those things, but they’re mostly what we use when we have no real food in the house. There are so many better, tastier, faster, more environmentally and economically sensible options!

I feel like the most useful lunch packing tip is “make more dinner and pack that.” It’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s faster than making something separate, and you already know what your child liked about it. Plus, I’m really big on kids being served what parents are being served from the get-go (with obvious concessions to chokeables etc), and I think having leftovers the next day ties into that. It’s “our food”, not “his food”. I can’t say that this method would work with an inherently picky kid, but I haven’t noticed him getting increasingly narrow with his options the way I’ve seen some toddlers do, so I think that at least it’s not making things worse.

I don’t think of us as doing anything spectacular; I get fancy with baking and canning now and then, but most of our weeknight dinners are one-pot affairs. T’s not bringing duck a l’orange or perfectly sculpted sushi to school, just beans and rice or avocado on pita. And it’s not like he never eats junk, though I try not to pack that for lunch. So it was surprising to me to see that apparently we’re far enough out of the norm that a list of typical lunchtime foods is way out of our daily experience.


Posted in bento by tchemgrrl on September 4, 2012

For some reason, people often ask us how we deal with the toddler’s daycare lunch. For a month or so now, I’ve been taking a picture of T’s lunch when I think of it, so that I have a more concrete answer than “Well, food, mostly.”

Monday Lunch
(Tofu fajita, rice, canteloupe.)

We’re lucky in that T’s not a particularly picky kid. Leafy greens and spongy foods like fresh mozzarella are the only things that consistently give him pause, though like everyone he goes through love and hate phases. (Sunday night: ate half a sweet pepper right off my cutting board. Wednesday night: saw sweet pepper on his plate, said “eew”.) We recently went out for Vietnamese food, and he dug into fried squid, stirfry, and spicy pho with gusto. I wish I could attribute his adventurousness to our lackadaisical following of baby led weaning, or to having dinner as a family or trying to be low-drama around food or any of the other things that we’ve made a family priority of, but it’s probably just that he’s him, and we didn’t get in the way too much.

Theo Lunch
(Pasta with cheese, tomato, and sweet pepper, and a slice of Daddy’s leftover birthday cake. He only ate the cake.)

I got interested in bento boxes a few years before T came along, so these containers were already in my collection. It is very unusual for me to invest more than a few minutes into putting these together, though, so these aren’t the more decorative-style bento that shows up in the mainstream media now and then. Just some little lunches. (These are pretty representative of the lunches he gets. I’m less likely to take a picture on a busy night, and on a busy night the fruit is more likely to be a cup of applesauce or a little box of raisins, but that’s the main difference.)

Theo Lunch
(Grapes, Tofurkey sausage, corn, couscous. Corn looks frozen because it is; he likes it right out of the bag, the wierdo.)

I have a few general rules when I’m putting these together:

-At least one guaranteed winner, at least one thing he’s iffy on, or didn’t eat for dinner.
-One serving of fruit, veg, protein, and starch.
-Everything cut up/arranged for a minimum of fuss on the part of the teachers.
-School rules: no chokeable bits, no nuts.

I don’t always hit all of these, but they’re useful organizing principles when I’ve put all the leftovers in and still have a gap.

(Ravioli, cucumbers, and tomatoes, with watermelon and blueberries. )

Theo’s response? Pretty good. He usually eats most of his lunch.