Daycare can be a great environment for children to learn, grow and play every day. But once your baby moves beyond expressed breast milk, formula and baby food, it’s not always the best place for them to eat. Many programs serve the usual processed macaroni-and-cheese and chicken nuggets. Combined with crackers and juice as snacks, and your little one might not be getting the nutrition he or she needs to thrive. Here are 10 easy ideas for packable, healthy lunches even picky toddlers will enjoy.
- Hummus, baby carrots (for those with all of their teeth) and crackers. Dipping is fun! This meal will go over well with the “Me do it all by myself!” crowd.
- Make a smoothie out of fresh or frozen berries, ice, vanilla almond milk, half a banana and half a scoop of vanilla Garden of Life organic protein powder.
- Granola and yogurt. Try a variety that includes super foods like KIND Healthy Grains, which mixes millet, amaranth, quinoa and oats to formulate a delicious and nutritious granola.
- What kid doesn’t love PB&J? Your can enjoy a healthy, peanut-free spin on this old favorite by going for peanut-free nut butter and organic jam on gluten-free bread. Or, if you’re not worried about peanut exposure and you’re in a “jam” for time, try a Plum Organics Jammy Sammy for quick, portable, peanut butter power!
- Organic alphabet soup is a great way for your child to learn his letters while enjoying a healthy, organic-tomato-based meal. Send in a kid-friendly bowl with a lid so all the daycare provider has to do is heat and serve! Don’t forget crackers.
- Spread cream cheese, fresh avocado, chopped hardboiled egg or honey on organic brown rice cakes. Kids will love the crunch!
- Send in a small container of kid-friendly tuna fish salad: Mix a can of tuna with organic mayo and throw in dried cranberries and chopped apples.
- If your child is more of a nibbler than a sink-your-teeth-into-it lunch-muncher, you can try packing a bag full of nutritious mini-meals she can graze on all day, like trail mix, chopped fresh veggies with a tablespoon of ranch dressing, and kid-portioned nutrition bars like Clif ZBars.
- Taco time! Fill non-GMO taco shells (yes, they do exist) with mild, refried beans and top with shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes (salsa is probably too spicy and salty for little tastebuds) and shredded cheddar. Throw in shredded chicken if your child prefers birds to beans.
- Cinnamon crunch bagel chips and peanut butter or cream cheese—is there any lunch in the world more kid-friendly than that?
Jorie Mark is Vitacost.com’s Director of Marketing Communications and mom to three kids, ages 3 to 10.