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5 400-calorie lunches your picky eaters will love

Finding healthy lunches for kids that they’ll actually eat can be a daily struggle, but these five options will satisfy even picky eaters. The USDA recommends the following daily calorie intakes for kids:

  • Ages 2-4: 1,000-1,600 calories
  • Ages 5-8: 1,200-2,000 calories
  • Ages 9-13: 1,400-2,600 calories

Four hundred calories for lunch works out well for these guidelines since three 400-calorie and two 100-calorie snacks per day adds up to 1,400. This fits into the daily recommendations for kids ages 2 to 13. The caloric total is just to give you a sense of portions and servings and definitely doesn’t need to be exact. The balance of different nutrients is even more important… you don’t want 1,400 calories of just cake!

Making healthy lunches for picky eaters can be a challenge, but if you use fun presentation and hidden veggies like these five ideas do, you’ll help them grow up strong.

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Healthy lunches for picky eaters

Frittata muffin

You can make a muffin tray’s worth of egg cups in advance and freeze them to take out one at a time. Put some cheese and veggies in with an egg using one of these recipes for an easy nutritional favorite. Serve with a side of strawberries or red pepper sticks. These are quick bites that can be finger food, hopefully making it a bit more fun for kids to pop into their mouths without complaint. Eggs are packed with protein, healthy fats, Vitamin A, folate, B vitamins and other important nutrients. The cheese will make it yummier and add even more protein, and you can hide some finely chopped veggies inside. With a sweet fruit on the side, you can’t go wrong with this meal.

Toaster oven quesadillas

Mmmm, who doesn’t love a cheesy crunchy quesadilla? You can easily customize the veggies you put inside to leave out any that your picky eater hates. But this recipe keeps tiny chopped veggies hidden between the quesadillas and surrounded by melted cheese, so this might be the best place to try to sneak them in. By toasting the quesadilla, you’re not using any oil to fry it, so it keeps the meal healthier. This recipe is 330 calories, but you can add some more cheese or avocado to bring it up to 400 or simply serve more.

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Tuna sandwich

Fish is high in protein and low in saturated fat and is also packed with important vitamins and other nutrients. When choosing a fish to feed young children, refer to our fish for toddlers guide. Canned “light” tuna is best (pink tuna, not white or yellow tuna) and is a convenient choice. Many kids love tuna mixed with mayo, and one-half cup of tuna salad is about 192 calories according to the USDA. Use a whole grain bread to be health-conscious, and toast the bread for crunch. Cut the sandwich out in a fun shape with a cookie cutter to entice picky eaters. While they might not go for lettuce leaf layered in the sandwich, you could hide chopped lettuce in the tuna salad. This sandwich pairs well with apple slices on the side.

Turkey and cheese plate

A charcuterie board is great for picky eaters because they can pick and choose exactly what they want. Serve a tray with turkey slices, a Babybel cheese or a cheese stick, crackers and some grapes. You could also add avocado, blueberries, carrot sticks or just about anything else. This is one of the easiest ideas out there because you just put whatever you have around on a plate and serve. It also helps introduce new foods to your child’s plate without them necessarily having to eat them since there is plenty more to eat. Even just seeing it there will help make them more open to trying it next time.

Turkey sloppy joes

This recipe takes 30 minutes to make six servings of 300 calories each. You can freeze extra per the recipe’s instructions or halve the recipe. A big heaping hamburger bun is fun for kids, and while it may be sloppy, getting the kids to eat a healthy meal because they think the messiness is fun is the most important. This may not be a good option for packing for school, but this is fun for meals at home.

Which of these healthy lunches do you think will be your picky eater’s favorite?

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Sarah Prager
Sarah is a writer and mom who lives in Massachusetts. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, National…
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