Summa, summa, summa, tiiiiimmmmmeeee. It’s here y’all. Summer is here in all her sticky hot glory. The kids are out of school and unless they are in summer camps, daycare, or otherwise occupied, they have to be fed. Like three times a day and more. I know, I know; who allowed this to happen, and can we renegotiate the terms of the contract? Who decided that tiny humans who still think fart jokes, lunchables, and copious amounts of Capri Suns are awesome needed to be fed so much. Heaven forbid we try to feed them healthy meals and nourish their growing minds and bodies. Nope. Just shut down that thinking right now. They have O-P-I-N-I-O-N-S. One day they’re mad they can’t eat cereal with a fork and the next they hate cereal with a passion. It’s enough to drive a person…hi, I’m that person…crazy. I dread summertime lunches. Dread. I make food for a living, but I make good food; creative and interesting and flavorful food. My kids would be happy with boxed mac and cheese and processed meat. I can’t win.
Also, my precious womb goblins are grazers. Graze (verb) meaning to eat small quantities of food at frequent but irregular times according to good ole Webster. This makes lunchtime a challenge because while I could make an actual meal, they won’t eat the entire plate and they’ll still ask for a snack ten minutes later. After slowly losing my mind the first two weeks of summer break, I put on my big girl underoos and came up with some solutions to get them fed semi nutritious and semi regular meals. Hopefully these will work for you or spark some creative inspiration for your own ideas.
1. Charcuterie boards are not only super trendy but super smart and helpful.
My kids love seeing all kinds of tasty options in front of them to pick and choose what they feel like eating. I buy groceries and then the same day I make time (carve it out with a hatchet because it’s important) to prep a bunch of containers with board options. I store them in the fridge and once it’s lunch time, the kids get to pick a few options to make their board. I find this method makes it easier for healthy options to make it onto their plate too. It only takes a few minutes and I appreciate the ease factor.
Here are some of the items I rotate in the fridge for kid friendly boards:
- Cheese: string cheese, block cheese but into cubes/chunks, laughing cow wedges, baybel circles, and cream cheese (both plain and flavored varieties), cottage cheese
- Meats & Sandwich Spreads: turkey pepperoni, deli ham, tuna pouches, cooked shrimp, salmon pouches (Moms gotta eat too!), chicken salad, egg salad, hummus
- Crunchy and Carbs: crispy chickpeas, dried seaweed, bagel chips, pretzel thins, crispy snap peas, dehydrated veggies like carrot chips/kale chips, etc, goldfish/cheeze-its, mini bagels, mini Naan dippers, small bags of chips, Hawaiian rolls
- Add-ons: pickles, carrot sticks, mini bell peppers, sliced veggies of choice, fruit, mixed nuts, peanut or almond butter, Nutella, salsa, olives, granola bars, yogurt, dressing for dipping like ranch or honey mustard, plain cooked pasta, marshmallows, small amount of candy like m&ms or a single mini size candy bar
- Salad fixings: may the odds be ever in your favor that one of your children love salads. If not, then you gotta eat too, so keep things on hand and whip up some creative and delicious salads! My current favorite is a bed of mixed greens, a big scoop of chicken salad, and some dried cranberries and slivered almonds on top
This is the exact set of glass containers I have from Target. I bought these and three other sizes. They are functional and inexpensive and get the job done.
2. I ration their daily snack intake.
You do what works for your house, but if I let my kids snack all day, they would never ever ever eat anything remotely nutritious or filling. I have a basket with a set amount of snacks PER KID for the entire week. They know they can have X amount of snacks each day outside of meal times, but once they’re gone, they’re gone and no amount of whining, begging, or fit throwing will change that. I keep a YES basket on the countertop they are welcome to grab from that doesn’t count as part of their snack total. It has random things like apples, pears, mini bell peppers, and carrot sticks. Once I limited their snack habits (which had gotten out of hand), I found they are more likely to eat a full meal since they are hungry and realize there aren’t unlimited snacks afterward.
3. I keep them hydrated.
I bought cups from Amazon that hang on our fridge right under our water dispenser. They are amazing and my kids are no longer asking for a cup, forgetting where the cup is, dirtying up another cup…repeat to infinity. It also prompts them and gives them freedom to get some water anytime. This leaves drinks like milk, juices, lemonades, etc. for meals only. The more hydrated they are, the less they snack at random times. (It’s bizarre to me as a person who struggles with weight that sometimes what we think of as hunger is actually thirst. If I only knew that during my youth…)
In all attempts at transparency, I’m not necessarily going for lunch mom of the year with any of these solutions. Today’s board consisted of an uncrustable, a slice of Kraft cheese (yep, the uber orange plastic wrapped stuff), a piece of dried seaweed, and a half eaten single carrot stick. They followed that up with a frozen popsicle (the ’80s and ’90s plastic push up kind), and a Capri Sun. So, now you know. I hope you also know that they made it themselves out of the bins in the fridge and I got to have a piping hot delicious lunch and everyone was fed and relatively happy, and I didn’t yell or clench my teeth in frustration once. That is worth every processed calorie and penny, and will let us sail through this summer with a sense of contentment after the absolute anxiety filled train wreck of a year.