I've always found packing lunchboxes for toddlers and pre-schoolers quite a daunting and time consuming task...and this is mainly because I try to stay away from pre packaged foods. I'm by no means one of those Mums who will only pack 'fresh, organic, home baked just that morning' foods each time I open the lunchbox, but I do strive to offer mainly healthy choices with just a few treats thrown in.
What I have tended to be zealous about though is not using prepackaged foods for younger children. I learnt when my teen was younger that many numbers, preservatives and additives in foods had an adverse effect on her behaviour and concentration. After reading up on this and being quite alarmed and what I discovered was in many of the 'healthy' options marketed to toddlers I pretty much stayed away from those favourite 'lunchbox foods'!
Now that I have the toddler twosome and we are at the stage of needing packed lunches again I have been pleasantly surprised by some of the newer options available. It seems the message that parents like to be informed about what is in their children's food and will choose accordingly has gotten through to manufacturers!
I still like to pack the twins lunchboxes with lots of little tempters and foods put together by me but now that I have discovered Little Bellies I am happy to include a few little treats such as a chewy bar or a few little biscuits without feeling guilty!
I was recently offered some Little Bellies products to review and the only reason I said yes is because I had already discovered them on a recent shopping trip and was pleased to find their ingredient listing and mission to provide healthier snack food options for babies and toddlers.
Run by two brothers with seven young children between them their aim is to develop children's foods that are not overly sweet, with no refined sugars and reduced sodium content.
· They use nutritionally superior ingredients such as organic whole grains and real fruit, with as little processing as possible...just what I and I'm sure many other parents and carers are looking for. We tried the new Hoops and Loops and Crispy Choo Chews
The Hoops and Loops are a yummy melt in the mouth baby puff. These were banana flavoured which did give me a pause as the girls aren't that fond of banana really but this flavour was so subtle it didn't bother them one bit and they loved them as a little snack in their lunchbox containers.
For babies I would probably just sprinkle a few on the highchair tray and let them practise picking up and feeding themselves. They are made from certified organic ingredients and are suitable for babies 9+ months. I like that they also provide a source of iron to assist babies with normal growth and development, and they are low in sugar and salt too!
I have to say the next product we tried has become an absolute favourite here! The Crispy Choo Chews or 'Choo Choo Bars' as they have become known in our kitchen are a lovely little size for a snack and perfect for a toddler lunchbox or while out and about.
The crispy little rice bars contain the goodness from puffed, wholegrain brown rice and they are a gluten, wheat and dairy free product. I was really pleased that the toddler twosome loved the bars as they provide a quick organic option for the lunchbox...without the added nasties that worry me!.
In fact, after reading the box closely I saw that they are low in salt, contain no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives and are GMO free. Of course I had to have a little taste myself (it's only right if I am reviewing them for you ;) )The vanilla flavour was tasty without being overpowering...a huge factor to consider for us with Ruby's sensory and oral aversions. The individual wrapping was also a bonus as she was happy to hold her bar in the plastic rather than get concerned about a new texture and stickiness as she ate.
My girls are always on the go as regular readers will know, so the bars proved to be a great option for getting in some morning or afternoon tea without interrupting active play!
We weren't reviewing the Mini Gingerbread Men but we had some in the cupboard and I wanted to show you as these have also been a winner in the lunchbox (which is saying something with my fussy eaters!) I think the small size and crunchy texture are just right for both of them...don't try them yourself though because they are a little too easy to keep munching! Just a few in the girls lunchbox make a nice little snack though.
Here's a few more tips and ideas for packing toddler lunchboxes that they might actually eat!
Things to consider when packing toddler lunchboxes....
- Make it colourful and appealing....use budget friendly silicone muffin and cake liners, little forks, lots of different coloured foods in tiny amounts!
- Think small for little hands to grab fast...cut sandwiches into small shapes, use small containers with lids rather than lots of plastic they need to unwrap, grate fruit and vegies, break up large biscuits and try to bake mini muffins rather than large sizes.
- Include a little of everything...some you know they like, some you hope they will try....it's amazing what toddler's will try when other children are eating beside them!
- Include a favourite fork or spoon with their yoghurt or custard.
- Let them help choose a few 'special' items (for my girls it's the Little Bellies products at moment) to include in their lunchbox so they feel involved in the process and therefore more likely to eat!
- Use a lunchbox with an opening that is easy for little independant hands to master.
- Put food on paddlepop sticks! Fruit, meat, cheese...it's all apparently more appealing when it looks like a little skewer!!
Easy lunchbox ideas for toddlers......
Here are some of my favourites and usually accepted by the toddler twosome...on their good days of course!
- Large rice cakes broken into segments for easy eating
- Cheese cubes and sultanas...sometimes diced dried apricots
- Little fruit or grain bars like the Choo Chew Bars
- Mini savoury muffins - Ham, cheese and vegetable are a favourite and easy to make and freeze.
- Two fruits (just buy the large tin and spoon into a small container...don't spend money on fancy little tubs!)
- Mini toasts (seen in pic below)
- Mini cheese crackers
- Diced leftover cold meat
- Boiled egg cut into quarters
- Frozen fruit pieces...especially mango
- Dry cereals such as cheerios, nutrigrain or Little Bellies Hoops and Loops.
- A little pot of yoghurt with some stewed fruit stirred through
- Cold pasta spirals or spaghetti
- Apricot Fruit Balls
- Choc broccoli mini muffins (sweet but with a cup and a half of green vegies included!)
- Carrot, pumpkin and sweet potato muffins
- Little pieces picked from the garden such as cherry tomatoes, strawberries, crunchy capsicum and snow peas
- Plain breadsticks (broken up into smaller pieces) or baby carrots with hummus dip
- Crunchy plain noodles
- Leftover mini meatballs
- Pizza or cheesymite mini scrolls
If you want to try some of the Little Bellies products to also throw in your next lunchbox or to tempt your older baby with a nutritious self feed snack you can find them in the baby aisle at Woolworths and Big W.
The wonderful people at Little Bellies are offering readers of Mummy Musings and Mayhem the chance to win a Snack Pack of their products valued at $50.
It's so Easy to Enter....
1. Leave a comment below and tell me...
What does your toddler love to snack on?
2. Although not a condition of entry it would be lovely if you wanted to stop by and 'like' Mummy Musings & Mayhem on Facebook and Little Bellies if you have a page!
3. You need to be an Australian resident... this giveaway is open to Australian residents only.
I will choose the answer that I feel is the most creative and helpful to other parents looking for ideas!
The competition ends and comments close at 6pm (AEST) on the 5th October 2013. The winner will be notified by email so please make sure to leave your address when commenting!
I will update this post with the winning comment after the competition has closed and also share on Facebook.
This contest has now closed...thanks to all for your lovely entries! I chose Rachel Brown as the winner with her muffin tin suggestions so a little bellies pack will soon be heading your way Rachel.
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