Around here, we love a good snack plate! I’m almost positive that my kids would be perfectly content to eat only snacks and no meals for the rest of their lives. What is it about calling something a “snack” that makes it more appealing to eat?! Over the years, I’ve worked on perfecting the art of The Snack Plate, otherwise called “char-KID-erie,” to be utilized for lunches. (Get it? Charkiderie instead of charcuterie? Yeahhh…My sense of humor got significantly more punny and cheesy once I had kids.)
Punny jokes aside, this has been really fun for me to do for my kids. Once I had a select few items on hand to assist me in jazzing up my kids’ snacks and lunches, it simplified the process and made it more enjoyable. Full transparency: I do it because it’s fun for both my kids and me, and I genuinely enjoy it. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t force myself to do it. If it’s not your thing, that is perfectly okay! You can make your lunch box or snack plate as simple or as extra as you feel like. Sometimes, I prepare an entire themed bento box with fun additives, and other times, I just use a fun-shaped cookie cutter on their PB&J and call it done.
Crafting the Plate
My kids’ favorite lunch is just a simple snack ~charkiderie~ plate. Since they started “school” (MDO), they’ve been obsessed with using their little bento boxes for meals, even when we’re just eating at home. I got them just the bento trays instead of the full lunch box, and they’re only $10 instead of $30! They’ve worked out so well. They’re incredibly durable too, but don’t ask how I know this. (Answer: my husband left a bento box tray on the roof of the car and drove off. The only damage was a small hairline crack on the edge that we can hardly see! I highly recommend these trays.) We also love using the GoBe Snack Spinner, especially for busy days on the go or for traveling.
When I get stumped on lunch ideas, I just try to follow a simple structure. They’ll have one “focus food,” a protein, some “healthy” fats, a grain/nourishing carbs, and, as my four-year-old says, “something crunchy.” Focus food, protein, fats, carbs, crunchy. BAM.
I’ll give you some ideas for each section based on what we oscillate between to help you get your wheels turning!
This is the main event. For this, we rotate between chicken nuggets, PB&J, ham and cheese sandwiches, etc. To make this a bit easier, sometimes I’ll make a big batch of PB&J sandwiches and freeze them in little cutout shapes! When I pack them for lunch in the morning, they’re thawed perfectly by lunchtime.
A meat stick, something Greek yogurt-based, pepperoni, apple slices with peanut butter, “ants on a log” (celery with peanut butter and raisins), or a kid’s bar that is higher in protein.
Cheese cubes are our go-to favorite! Avocados and cashews/almonds are also popular around here. My children do not have any friends with nut allergies in their class so we can get away with nuts, but make sure to check on this for your particular situation! If there are any nut products they can’t have at school, you can just provide them for their at-home lunches or snack plates.
Fruit (both fresh fruit and dried fruit), a granola bar or granola bites (we love the MadeGood ones), sweet potato sticks/fries, and many more kid-friendly foods fit this category.
Crackers, veggie straws, and pretzels are my kids’ favorite crunchy snacks!
Quirks, Tips, and Tricks
Sometimes, I hit all these areas in one meal, and other times, like if I’m short on time or my kids are not very hungry, I only hit a couple. Every day is a little different. I usually add a little treat in there too, because I’m a fun mom! (If I tell myself that enough times, maybe it’ll become true?) Their favorite treats are a small cookie (like an Oreo or a couple of vanilla wafers) or some mini marshmallows. I’m not trying to wind them up, especially at school; I just want to give them a little sweet pick-me-up! We are a dye-conscious family, and the Aldi brand marshmallows are free of food dyes, so this has been a recent win for us.
I’ve found that, over time, offering the treat with the meal, instead of approaching it as an after-meal-exclusive, makes it less of a hot commodity. I am always making a concerted effort to avoid attributing morality to food; we keep food morally neutral in our house in order to promote a healthier relationship with food (more on that here.) It’s also interesting to observe that, nine times out of 10, they eat some of their other food before reaching for the treat.
Organization and Tools
I keep all of my fun charkiderie supplies in a little organizer basket in my cupboard. It’s full of silicone baking cups, bento picks, cookie cutters, reusable ice cubes, icing decorations, themed napkins, and more! I highly recommend keeping it all in one spot. That helps when you feel the desire to jazz up their lunch, yet you’re short on time or creativity.
I promise this doesn’t have to be complicated! Even little tweaks here and there will add so much extra excitement for your child. Remember to work smarter, not harder. It’s important to make it your own; that’s what makes it more meaningful and fun anyways. Now, let’s go make this school year The Year of Char-kid-erie!
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