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Posted on Oct 8, 2007 | 21 comments

Preschooler lunch round-up

Preschooler lunch round-up

Today I’ve got a couple of my son’s lunches from last week to clear before we get into this week’s lunches. I’m finding that even if Bug doesn’t eat the entire bento at preschool itself, he finishes everything up in the car after I pick him up (15 minutes after his lunch ends). I haven’t yet deciphered the pattern between amount of food packed vs. how much he leaves; sometimes he’ll eat all of a 350ml lunch, other days he’ll leave a third. I previously wrote guidelines on choosing the right size bento box, with a table with the appropriate size box by age group and gender. This is pretty much on target for Bug so far.

Hummus lunch for preschooler

Contents of Thursday preschooler lunch: Hummus, pita bread triangles, chicken salad from Costco, kiwi, strawberry and an orange slice.

Morning prep time: 5 minutes, having pre-packed the hummus, pita and chicken salad the night before. In the morning I just cut up the fruit.

Packing: The viscous hummus went into a plastic food cup to keep it away from the dry pita bread, and I used a little plastic food divider between the chicken salad and fruit. I cut between the orange skin and the flesh of the orange almost all the way down the segment, making it easy for Bug to eat. I also partially sliced the strawberry so Bug wouldn’t take a huge bite and choke (you laugh, but it happens sometimes!). I used a paring knife for the strawberry, but egg slicers are also handy for that, as I wrote in this egg slicer post. The lunch is packed in a new 360ml Cars bento box, and the kiwi got a tiny pick for little hands.

Verdict: Mixed. Bug left the pita and hummus, eating only the chicken salad and fruit during preschool. In the car afterwards, though, he happily ate all the pita and hummus after I picked the parsley garnish off. Note to self: don’t bother with parsley garnish in the future! But so much brown or beige in a lunch??? Ugh.

Gyoza lunch for preschooler

Contents of Friday preschooler lunch: Pork and leek Shandong dumplings, corn on the cob, plum tomatoes, an orange slice, and lauki bhaji (north Indian dish of zucchini braised in tomato cumin sauce). I got the speedy zucchini recipe from Julie Sahni’s cookbook Moghul Microwave that I wrote about in my post on weekday Indian lunches. The dumplings are my new favorite brand: Wei Chuan. They’ve got a variety of distinct flavors, and the pork in these frozen dumplings was raw so it cooked up juicy and tender upon boiling. Not as fast as some of the precooked varieties (Wei Chuan makes those too), but exceptional flavor.

Morning prep time: 10 minutes, mostly boiling the dumplings.

Packing: I put the zucchini in a reusable silicone baking cup to keep it away from the corn, and put some dipping sauce into a tiny blue sauce container that Bug is able to open by himself. Packed in a 350ml Power Rangers bento box, and the fruit got a tiny pick for little hands.

Verdict: 3-year-old Bug ate everything in the main box at preschool, then ate the fruit in the little container in the car. Dumplings and corn are always a hit with my son, but I was especially pleased that he ate all of the Indian zucchini as he’d been requesting some without cumin at dinner (uh, sorry kid).

(Disclaimer: I have no commercial affiliation with Wei Chuan, I just like their dumplings.)

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  1. I have to say that I am quite envious of Bug’s lunches. I wish I had something half that nice growing up. ^_^

    Thank you for having so much info on you site. I got to visit Daiso and H mart today and it was a fun trip! I wouldn’t have even known about them if not for you.

  2. Parsley for decoration… right, that’s kind of spoiled energy for most kids. Looks nice though ;)

  3. @1 from Kaits: Thanks for the kind words, Kaits! I’m happy you were able to turn info from the website into cheap, fun shopping for yourself — the Internet in action!!

  4. @2 from Jessica: Maybe next time I’ll use one of those “surprise animal caps” as decoration instead of parsley if I’m faced with a lunch that’s got just too much beige or brown. Monochrome = bad. :-(

  5. I don’t laugh. Choking DOES happen and more often than it should. I am a self described paranoid about choking hazards for my going to be three year old daughter. I still cut everything.EVER.Y.THING. up into small pieces and most definitely fruit into thin slices at least, I’ll even cut a banana length wise into quarters.

  6. I am a newcomer to bento and big fan of your website. It is incredibly informative and helpful—many thanks! I have been making bento lunches for my daughter who recently started kindergarten and I have a question about your approach to food safety. My daughter doesn’t have access to a refrigerator or microwave and I have been leaving a lot of her lunch at room temp (or warm in an insulated bag or in a thermos if I am trying to keep it warm). I love the idea of the traditional Japanese approach, my understanding of which is everything at room temp, but I am a little concerned (wouldn’t want those cute little Hello Kitty meals to make her sick!). So I was wondering what your approach is when you have things like meatballs or dumplings in your child’s bento—do you leave them at room temp or do you use freezer packs to keep things cold, and if so aren’t the dumplings, etc., a little unappetizing if cold?
    Also, for those who live in NY (where it is surprisingly difficult to find reasonably priced bento gear): I scored a bunch of cool containers and rice molds at Banzai 99 cent store in Woodside, Queens (53-10 Roosevelt Ave).

  7. I’ll have to check out that variety of Wei Chuan dumplings. I wasn’t thrilled with what I now know (thanks to your link) are their “high end” ones! I thought the meat in those was tasteless and overwhelmed by the greens/vegis.

  8. @ 4, Biggie, I agree with monochrome food not being cool. A surprise cap seems more plausible in use though. I scraped all unnecessary greens to the side until I was 12, and now I’m a foodie. Go figure ;).

  9. Yanno, I don’t know how supervised the kids are at lunch, but thinking way, way back to my elementary school days, it might not just be the food making a difference on how much your little one eats. If social interaction is more interesting, food may get set aside. Especially since he knows he can eat it in the car later.

  10. I’m another who really enjoys your website. I’ve been doing bento-style lunches for a bit now and it’s always nice to see new ideas. :)

    It will probably take Bug a little time to get used to dealing with all the action during lunch time. There’s a lot going on! If he’s eating what’s left when you pick him up, then I suspect you’ve got the amount right and he’s just getting a bit distracted.

    I agree with you on the brown. I’m not a big fan of having a roughly monochromatic lunch either, but sometimes it’s what the kids want.

  11. Hi Biggie! I am so inspired by your preschool bentos. I’m always trying to get more veggies in DD’s diet. She would love those corn wheels!!
    I was wondering, how are Bug’s lunches packed? Can you give a more in depth look at what he takes? Does he have a bag his boxes go into or is it wrapped? Do you send him with a fork or spoon? I know you have the oshibori, does he do good with that. I’m worried she wouldn’t be able to open things, or they wouldn’t come back home. Thanks!

  12. @5 from christina: Ah, you understand, then! I tell you, it only takes watching your kid gasp for air at the dinner table to give a parent incentive to cut food small!

  13. @7 from Jeri: Good info on the high-end Wei Chuan dumplings — one of these days I may get a bag just to confirm.

  14. @9 from R.M.: Ah, good point about there being interesting social stuff going on. He is eating all of the food eventually, so perhaps that’s what’s going on there.

  15. @10 from Allison: Good point; he’s probably distracted. Thanks for the kind words, and down with all-brown lunches! ;-)

  16. @12 from Monica: After reading your comment, I made sure to go into more detail in today’s entry about what’s in his lunch bag. We practiced beforehand with the oshibori and case — he was doing okay with one, couldn’t open another (so that’s shelved), and I picked up a third that’s super-easy to open. I send along a fork/spoon if the lunch requires it; if not he just gets the little pick. Both of the lunches on this page got a fork. At the moment we’re using lunch bags or lunch boxes, not the furoshiki wrapping as he has trouble untying the knot.

  17. @11 from Yvo: When you microwave frozen rice to restore texture, be sure to cover it tightly. You’ll get best results if you froze the rice when it was still VERY fresh from the pot — it gets dried out in freezing/refrigerating if it started out in less than peak/moist condition. Also, the cooking process for the gyoza you described is the classic way of making yaki-gyoza (pan-fried dumplings) — Bug likes them that way a lot. The Shandong dumplings weren’t nice and flat on the bottom, though, and just boiling took less active attention than pan-frying would have.

  18. RM’s comment about the social interaction is definitely a possibility. It’s also perhaps worth considering how he eats the food/how long he takes to eat it.

    My parents (I’m 26 now, this was a long time ago!) were always confused about why I’d leave some of my lunches. It wasn’t always the same foods I left, nor on the same days. It turned out that I was leaving some food because I didn’t have time to eat it, not because I didn’t want to eat it. It tended to be when they packed me things that I ate in odd or time consuming ways (I’m not faddy but I leave the things I like till last; for instance, I’ll eat the pie filling, then the pastry) that I left stuff. Turned out, between being a slow eater, a “divide and conquer the food” type eater, and also being talkative, I didn’t have time to finish my food.

    Hopefully, Bug isn’t peculiar like I was! (I’ve got better over the years.)

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while (from when it was on LJ), I’ve just never commented before. It makes for very interesting reading, so thank you for keeping it.

  19. @20 from Stormsearch: Gosh, that’s an intriguing take on why it takes varying amounts of time to eat lunch, and something I hadn’t thought of. Thanks also for reading my blog, and the link to yours!