If you're a mom to a toddler or preschooler, you've probably experienced serving a plate of food to your child and getting frustrated that he or she wouldn't eat those last few bites of pasta or peas. "One more bite?" you beg with little success. Maybe the answer is that they just don't need it. My son Jake has finally inched away from his picky eating habits but he still has his moments. I often have to remind myself that his calorie needs are about half what I need, so his plate of food should look much smaller. The U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests that the average 2 to 5-year-old eat about 1000-1400 calories daily, depending on how active he or she is. That's only about 300-400 calories per meal with one or two small snacks. If you're aiming high and want to get all the important nutrients in, you'll try to include some whole grains, vegetables or fruit, dairy and protein in each meal. So, the portion sizes of each food actually end up being quite small!
Like many kids, Jake can get overwhelmed by adult sized portions. I've discovered that Bento boxes are a great way to pack a nutritious meal, with the individual compartments encouraging small portions and variety. You can google Bento boxes to find a wide range of sizes and prices. I actually found a decent one for less than $10 at a Borders bookstore, although a drawback was that the compartments were not microwaveable. Most Bento box compartments are microwave-safe. Bento box lunches can be a true art form but for my first try I kept it simple, just trying to make sure there was a nice array of healthful pickings. I included turkey slices on whole wheat bread spread with tzatziki (Greek yogurt dip with cucumbers, garlic and olive oil), carrot and cucumber sticks, and fresh fruit nibbles. Jake loved it at first sight and finished everything. He'd never tasted tzatziki before and even asked for more to dip his carrots into. If you have a young eater in the house, I highly recommend giving these a try! Here are some more helpful links on the subject: