Easy and Healthy "You Choose" Lunch Platter

Here's the thing about kids: just when you think you've got them figured out, they surprise you.

Do you think your kids would totally turn their noses up at real, healthy foods for lunch or snacks? Are you convinced that they would refuse to eat unless you give them a plate full of processed food?  Give them a little more credit, you might be surprised. 

My kids are no different than most other kids - if I put out a big bowl of goldfish crackers they will devour them in no time and then ask for more.  But you know what happens when I put out a big plate of healthier stuff instead?  They devour it in no time and ask for more. And most of the time it never even occurs to them to ask for some crackers to go with it. 

A big platter of bite sized real foods is one of my favorite things to give my kids for lunch or snacks at home.  We do this a lot in the summer and on weekends.  My kids love this kind of meal, and I do too.  Kids love feeling like they have control.  So if you give them a variety of choices, they get to feel like they have some control over what they choose for their meal.  And it's great for me because it's easy - you just cut a bunch of stuff up and put it out there.  Everybody gets to have their own custom lunch, but I'm not having to make a custom lunch for each of them.  A lot of times on the weekends I will put out a tray like this around lunch time and just occasionally refill it throughout the afternoon.  I'm totally fine with my kids grazing and snacking all afternoon, as long as what they're snacking on is real, healthy food.  Sometimes I give them some boundaries (you have to choose at least 1 protein and at least 1 vegetable), and sometimes I just let them choose whatever they want from the plate, knowing that everything I put out was healthy so I'll be happy with whatever they choose.  Not everybody will eat everything, but I know there are at least a couple things that each of them like and they all end up getting a good quality meal.  And over time, they might even venture out and try something new too.

It's a total win win!

The possibilities are endless with what you can include.  It's a great way to use up little bits of stuff from the fridge, if you don't have enough of any one thing to make a whole meal out of.  I try to always include some protein, some fruit, and some veggies, but beyond that it's a little different every time just depending on what I have. 

Here are a few examples of what we've had recently: 

Carrots, hummus, oranges, ham, apples, almonds, cucumber, and tomatoes. 

Carrots, hummus, oranges, ham, apples, almonds, cucumber, and tomatoes. 

Carrots, sugar snap peas, prunes, cashews, cheese. 

Carrots, sugar snap peas, prunes, cashews, cheese. 

Cubes of ham and cheese, carrots, grapes, eggs, raisins, almonds, banana chips. 

Cubes of ham and cheese, carrots, grapes, eggs, raisins, almonds, banana chips. 

Apples, bananas, carrots, cheeses, salami, boiled egg, blueberries and a few crackers (that was all the crackers I gave for four kids to share).

Apples, bananas, carrots, cheeses, salami, boiled egg, blueberries and a few crackers (that was all the crackers I gave for four kids to share).

Apples, blueberries, carrots, three kinds of cheese, guacamole, boiled eggs, salami.

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Lisa Marsh

Mom to two sets of twins.

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