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How to Make Lunchtime Easy & Fun
Don’t make lunchtime a battle with your toddler. Use these 6 tips to help develop a pattern for the lunchtime hour.

Put a smile on your toddler's face with these delicious tips.

Toddlers are selective, predictable and stubborn, but making lunchtime doesn’t have to be difficult for either of you. Here are some tips to make the 12 o’clock hour fun for your toddler!

1. Setting a schedule: A key to toddler lunchtime good behavior is sticking to the same schedule every day. Sit down at the same time each day for lunch with your toddler and build a routine.

2. Keep portion sizes small: In most cases, a serving of any type of food is about one tablespoon for every year of your child's age.

3. Be patient trying new foods (or even new versions of old time favorites): Raw broccoli, chopped broccoli and broccoli soup—I know it’s all broccoli, but expect your toddler to be suspicious. It can take a child more than ten times to try a new food so be patient and continue introducing vegetables in different ways.

4. Offer many choices: Offering one large food item (i.e. a sandwich) for lunch will not go over as well as offering three to four small food choices. Provide a balanced, healthy lunch every day that includes: protein, fruits and/or vegetables, grains and calcium. Food choices can be simple such as these:

* Cheese: cubes, slices or sticks
* Toast or mini bagels with cream cheese and fruit spread
* Mac n' cheese with peas and ham (recipe below)
* Lunch meat slices rolled up or cut into squares
* Fruit (toddler bite size): cooked apples, bananas, berries, pears, peaches, etc.
* Mini-muffins
* Steamed vegetables (toddler bite size): broccoli, carrots, green beans, peas, etc.
* Yogurt
* Whole-grain crackers
* Graham crackers
* Dry cereal (low sugar, whole-grain)
* Pretzels

5. Food Temperature: Toddlers are sensitive to temperature so serve them food that is slightly warm, room temperature or slightly cool. Always check the temperature of foods before serving them.

6. Choking: Many foods are choking hazards until your toddler is more than three years old. Avoid small, hard pieces of food. The most common choking hazards for toddlers are nuts (other than ground), peanut butter, whole grapes, raw, hard fruits and veggies, chunks of meat, pieces of bacon, hot dogs, popcorn, potato chips and raisins.

There are, of course, several variations you can try with the suggestions above or recipes you may have of your own. Here is a simple, yet effective, dish you can use and one that I’ve had great success with.

Mac n' Cheese with Peas and Ham
Here's a terrific recipe for a cheesy, warm lunch. The recipe below makes a large batch that can be frozen into small, single serving containers. Just warm up for a quick and tasty meal.

Classic Cheese Sauce (see below)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup chopped ham
3 cups dry elbow macaroni

Directions: Make classic cheese sauce (recipe below). Prepare the peas and the macaroni according to the package directions. Drain the macaroni and peas in a colander and rinse with water. Return the macaroni and peas to the pan. Over low heat, add the ham and cheese sauce. Toss gently to completely coat the macaroni with sauce. Serve warm.

Classic Cheese Sauce
2 tbsp of butter or margarine
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and sauté for 2 minutes. Continue to stir and slowly pour in the milk. Add the cheese. Continue to stir until melted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the "So Easy Baby Food Basics: Homemade Baby Food in Less Than 30 Minutes Per Week" and "So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years." Visit Cheryl online at www.FreshBaby.com for more delicious tips.

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