Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Cheese. It's What's For EVERY SINGLE MEAL.

I need some meal planning help. Not for evening dinners, which are actually going pretty well so far this year, but for lunches. I get so bored and weary trying to pull together lunches that my kids will both eat. The main problem is how to sneak in some protein. I try not to use packaged chicken nuggets or fish sticks much, though they both will eat them. I don't mind getting fast food now and then, but I don't really want processed, nitrate filled meat particles becoming a staple in our kitchen.

This leaves me with... Cheese. Seriously. They won't eat hamburgers, Addy won't eat deli meat (Eli will but rarely,) and suddenly doesn't want PIZZA, for goodness' sake. Even before, it had to be PLAIN CHEESE pizza, none of this pepperoni crap. Which I guess is also a processed, nitrate filled meat. Sigh. They both hate hot dogs, they hate chicken noodle soup- they won't eat RAVIOLI, or any pasta with meat sauce. Addy won't even touch it if it has marinara sauce on it. Parmesan ONLY, please.

They will eat regular old chicken, shredded up, sans any seasoning or sauce whatsoever. Eli will occasionally eat shredded up pork or beef. But in general they are VERY picky about meat stuff, and so the only protein they get on a daily basis is whatever they get from dairy items, eggs, and peanut butter, and then whatever I make for dinner. Which, I should note, they usually reject after a bite because I refuse to cook plain noodles, plain chicken, and plain green beans every single night just so we can all eat the same thing. So then they eat pb and j again.

Here's the stuff that I can count on to get eaten at lunch, at least usually: cheese and crackers and fruit; grilled cheese, apples, and a veggie; macaroni and cheese (homemade only, no boxed stuff for my little gourmands!) and a fruit and veggie. And... that's about it. Oh, or scrambled eggs, WITH CHEESE. They both are usually up for that. We do breakfast lunches (and dinners) a lot, actually. I'm just a little concerned about the lack of variety and the predominance of cheese in their diet... It doesn't seem that that much cheese could be good for anyone's... digestive processes, if you see what I'm getting at.

Any suggestions for possible protein sources I'm forgetting? Or ideas for something besides CHEESE for lunch?


Banana said...

Beans and legumes have protein. Would they eat red beans and rice, or refried beans with whole wheat tortillas? Even hummus or a white bean dip with raw veggies might sneak in some protein. I have heard that most picky eaters do eventually grow out of it... some day :) Good luck!

Marie Green said...

No suggestions here, really, as my kids are the same way. My youngest is a vegetarian, minus the three nibbles off of a chicken nugget she had at grandma's house 9 months ago. My other two need as much food per day as a sparrow.

We do basically what you do: lots of cheese, crackers, fruits, veggies, etc. Yogurt. My youngest used to eat hummus by the gallon, and has recently come back around to it somewhat... so that's nice.

Also, sometimes I give them milk with their meals. You know, for nutrients. Other times I think that if they have water instead, they'd eat more FOOD calories. GAH.

At least their parents eat a wide variety of fresh, nutritious meals, so they are getting it modeled, right?

Anonymous said...

I have no idea if your kids would even eat this, but what about lentil brugers? Lentils are a good source of protein and pretty tasty if you make them into a burger of sorts. I also sometimes add corn to the mix, but not always. I love to have them on toast with a slice of cheese. For the kids' lunches you could either make them a 'veggie burger' for lunch (add lettuce, tomato, cheese etc) which would give you veggies + protein; or they might eat the lentil burger on its own. I know that lentils aren't for everyone though so this might not be an option.

Scottish Twins said...

I think if you are doing well with your dinners, your best bet is just to make more and then have them as leftovers for lunch the next day. That's usually what I try to do with the boys. Heck, sometimes they have the leftovers for breakfast - children have no idea what is appropriate breakfast, lunch or dinner food - those are just preferences we develop as adults. Kids are just hungry and want to eat anything that tastes good. So, if that means ground beef for breakfast or oatmeal for lunch, so be it :)

Scottish Twins said...

Also, I dug out my nutrition sheet from the dietician we saw for Gabe last year. Here is what Eli needs in one day at his age: 12-18 oz dairy (that includes all milk products and drinks), 2 oz. meat/protein (that's not very much, he's probably getting it at dinner - if he won't eat meat, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter or 2/3 cup beans is the equivalent), 5 servings fruit and veggies (1 serving veggie is 3 T. and fruit is 1/3-1/2 cup), 6 servings of grains (serving = 1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup cereal or rice, etc.).

Addy should be having - 18 oz milk group, 4 oz. protein, 5 servings fruits and veggies (4 T servings for her), and 6 servings grains.

The dietician said you should shoot to have them eat that way at least 5 days a week.

When you look at the servings that way, it really isn't a whole lot of food that they need. 2 ounces of meat is the equivalent of probably 2 chicken nuggets.

Jana said...

I second the lentil burgers - my kids LOVE them. We call them "healthy hamburgers". And they love quesadillas, which I know is more cheese, but I usually sneak in shredded chicken or black beans and they gobble them up. They also love black bean nachos, which admittedly has more cheese and not-so-healthy chips, but I figure the protein and fiber of the beans kinda cancels out the bad stuff, right?

Jen @ Rolling Through Looneyville said...

My kids run the gamut in pickiness... here's our fall backs.

Beans... we like rinsed black beans. Plain. Even my pickiest will eat those.

Hummus... It took a little bit to wean away from ranch overload, but the kids like it to dip veggies into. Plain hummus is fairly mild too.

Almond milk... vanilla almond milk is freakin' delicious. Silk is now making a version and it's being sold in most grocery stores. Bonus if your kids will drink the unflavored kind. (Still sweet, but less like a milkshake).

Yogurt... I can't stand the mess, so I tend to buy the yogurt drinks because even the almost 2 year old can handle those. (The 4 year old can do regular yogurt, but the younger kid is a disaster trying to eat it).

Tofu... don't sneer :) It's not bad... kind of bland with a jello-ish consistency. Marinate it in some flavor you know your kids will eat and serve it on the side... (because it kind of sounds like your kids are not huge fans of mixed stuff... keep components separate... mine are like that too).

Also, a weird overall tip that has worked really well for us: make the food fun. doesn't have to be complicated, but when you plate the food? Stick sandwich triangles for eyes, a banana for a mouth and grapes for a nose. My kids like faces. And they seem to eat them.

(We eat a ton of cheese here too).

Now, if you have hints on how to get a 6 month old to eat food, let me know. He's adamantly opposed.

Anonymous said...

Table 2: Protein Content of Selected Vegan Foods

Tempeh 1 cup 41 9.3
Seitan 3 ounces 31 22.1
Soybeans, cooked 1 cup 29 9.6
Lentils, cooked 1 cup 18 7.8
Black beans, cooked 1 cup 15 6.7
Kidney beans, cooked 1 cup 13 6.4
Veggie burger 1 patty 13 13.0
Chickpeas, cooked 1 cup 12 4.2
Veggie baked beans 1 cup 12 5.0
Pinto beans, cooked 1 cup 12 5.7
Black-eyed peas, cooked 1 cup 11 6.2
Tofu, firm 4 ounces 11 11.7
Lima beans, cooked 1 cup 10 5.7
Quinoa, cooked 1 cup 9 3.5
Tofu, regular 4 ounces 9 10.6
Bagel 1 med.
(3 oz) 9 3.9
Peas, cooked 1 cup 9 6.4
Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), cooked 1/2 cup 8 8.4
Peanut butter 2 Tbsp 8 4.3
Veggie dog 1 link 8 13.3
Spaghetti, cooked 1 cup 8 3.7
Almonds 1/4 cup 8 3.7
Soy milk, commercial, plain 1 cup 7 7.0
Soy yogurt, plain 6 ounces 6 4.0
Bulgur, cooked 1 cup 6 3.7
Sunflower seeds 1/4 cup 6 3.3
Whole wheat bread 2 slices 5 3.9
Cashews 1/4 cup 5 2.7
Almond butter 2 Tbsp 5 2.4
Brown rice, cooked 1 cup 5 2.1
Spinach, cooked 1 cup 5 13.0
Broccoli, cooked 1 cup 4 6.8
Potato 1 med.
(6 oz) 4 2.7

Tess said...

Ava is on a grilled cheese/quesadilla kick too, and about the best I can do is add ham to the grilled cheese or chicken/beans to the quesadillas.

I think if your kids eat scrambled eggs that's AWESOME. Ava loves making hard-boiled eggs too (I let her pick off the shell and rinse/dry them), and I keep them on the bottom shelf of the fridge as a snack she knows she can get herself without asking.

Otherwise...OMG I'm so glad they feed the kids lunch at school. Dinner planning is ENOUGH.

Swistle said...

Will they eat nuts? Some of my kids will eat peanuts or mixed nuts.

Devan said...

Yeah, my kids love cheese too. Some things they eat regularly:

Eggs with cheese (omelet style ONLY)
mac n cheese
pb & j
carrots with ranch dip
hot dogs
pirate's booty
graham crackers with pb
graham crackers
dry cereal of almost any kind

That's all I got. Lunch is usually mac n cheese around here. They LOVE the Annie's kind.

Daycare Girl said...

I'd just stick with the mac and cheese if they like it, and hide as many things as possible in it, especially since you're already making it from scratch. My daycare kids don't like my homemade mac because it's supposed to be ORANGE like the box, so I throw in a jar of baby food carrots and they suck it down. More nutrition and sneaky besides. :) That Sneaky Chef book does a white bean puree that you can add to a lot of things for protein and doesn't show much.

Mommy Daisy said...

I think that sounds like a good variety. You can just add a few things here and there. One of Zachariah's favorites is PB & honey roll ups. I just use wheat tortillas and put on peanut butter with a little honey, roll it up, slice it up, and serve. I'm pretty relaxed about lunch. Mostly I just make sure there are fruits and veggies, and Zac isn't too picky of an eater so it works out fine.