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Healthy Lunch Ideas for Kids in Child Care

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Parents returning to work often face the challenge of balancing a new child care routine with adult needs and responsibilities. And when you’re stretched every which way, even mundane tasks can feel stressful, from getting children up and dressed to making their lunches. 

Here, we’ll navigate the best way to conquer lunchtime quickly and nutritiously — and to rave reviews. 

How to Pack Healthy Lunches for Kids

We recently ran a parent webinar on Nutrition & Healthy Eating with Willow Jarosh, Nutritionist and Registered Dietician (and former Vivvi Mom!).  She provided lots of advice on how to ensure your children are getting proper nutrition from infancy to kindergarten age, and how to de-stress the mealtime process. 

We’ve summarized her tips below, but be sure to also watch the entire webinar for a comprehensive overview of child nutrition and managing lunch time:

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As your toddler enters daycare and makes new friends, the lunch you provide gives them fuel to learn and grow as they explore their surroundings. 

The older your child is, the more likely they will be open to trying new and exciting foods. Here’s a basic timeline of how and when to increase your toddler’s diet:

  • 6-7 Months: Exposure to the idea of eating and experience of feeling food
  • 7-8 Months: Increase variety
  • 9-12 Months: Increase exposure to variety while maintaining safety
  • 12-24 Months: Enjoy food and meal/snack times
  • 24-36 Months: Continue to explore and build healthy relationships w/food

When packing your child’s lunch, Jarosh suggests all toddler meals be composed of the following ratio: 

½ veggies + ¼ protein + ½ starch (fats used in each to flavor)

This will ensure they have the right amount of carbs, protein, sugar and fiber to go about their day.

Toddler Lunch Ideas

Looking for some ideas or inspiration? Here are a few of Jarosh’s favorite lunches that follow her healthy lunchtime guidelines:

  1. Pasta with pesto and white beans, strawberries, halved grape tomatoes
  2. Roasted chicken, cheddar cheese & tomato wrap, cucumber slices, clementine
  3. Plain yogurt with berries and maple syrup, waffles for dipping, roasted sweet potatoes
  4. Roasted salmon, tater tots, mozzarella sticks, zucchini spears
  5. Crackers, cheese, chicken sausage half moons, pear slices, roasted zucchini
  6. Gnocchi with marinara for dipping, roasted broccoli, peaches, yogurt with chia
  7. Lentils, pita, cinnamon roasted apples, sugar snap peas

What if my Toddler is Being Picky?

All toddlers are picky from time to time! The important thing is to try to incorporate variety into their food routine so you’ll have lots of options when they’re getting bored. Here are some different sources of the major food groups to try with your child:

  • Eggs: Boiled, scrambles, cheesy, egg salad, deviled eggs, egg muffin, frittata, omlet
  • Greens: Salad, sauteed with garlic, chopped in scrambled eggs, chopped into burgers or meatballs, added into sauces, in smoothies
  • Breads: Refried, hummus or dip, soup, in quesadillas, burgers/falafel, mixed into sauce
  • Meat: Steak finger, ground, chopped, in sauce, burgers, meatballs, meat muffin cup, kebabs, chili, stew
  • Fruit: Sliced, fruit kebabs, mixed into plain yogurt, baked with cinnamon, mixed in oats, smoothies, mixed into chia pudding
  • Adding: spices, sauces and dips!

Allergy Considerations

Food-related allergies are common among young kids, and it’s important to consider others — not just your own child — when packing your child’s lunch. 

  • Consider all possible allergies: Nuts, soy, and dairy are the most common.
  • Pack whole foods: fruit, vegetables, cereal, meats.
  • Buy allergy-friendly packaged goods: If you buy any packaged snacks, look for packaging that indicates the food is allergy-safe.

Vegan snacks can be a great choice because they’re free of animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs. If you’re attuned to allergies in the classroom, choose vegan snacks that are nut-free and gluten-free as well.

Veggies, fruits, and plant-based yogurts are all good choices, as are packaged vegan sweets that are nut-free, gluten-free, and packed with nutrients. 

Time-Saving Tips For Packing Your Child’s Lunch

Packing healthy lunches for kids quickly can be a challenge, especially if you feel like you’re always rushing out the door. Here are a few tips that can shave precious minutes off your morning routine:

Meal prep, whether it’s for a toddler or yourself, is key to staying on track and reducing stress. Get the kids involved by chopping veggies and sorting snacks together. If you’re super-organized and have some spare time on the weekend, try making and packing several days’ lunches ahead of time.

Toddler lunches live and die by the right containers: They should be watertight, dishwasher safe and snap closed. Avoid plastic bags or cling wrap, which are wasteful and can be a choking hazard. 

Another hack: divided  containers with multiple sections, which save on dishwasher space and indulge the oh-so-toddler inclination to keep foods separate. 

And always remember that kids’ lunches should be bite-sized and easy-to-eat. Cut snacks into small pieces to avoid choking hazards. Finger foods, rather than foods that require utensils, are always a big hit with the under-4 set, too. 

Vivvi Child Care and Learning Centers – Lunch FAQs

Our Vivvi Child Care and Learning Centers are located in the heart of New York City. We currently have three locations — Tribeca, World Trade Center, and Hudson Yards — and plan to expand in the future. Not ready for onsite care yet? Our in-home program brings the Vivvi Learning Model right to you. 

Do I Need to Pack a Lunch for Vivvi?

Yes; healthy, seasonal snacks are provided at Vivvi, but lunches are not.

Because we are open from 7 AM to 7 PM, if you have an early drop-off or late pick up, consider packing breakfast or dinner as well.

For more information, please visit our FAQ page.

Suggested Guidelines For Vivvi Meals

Your child’s lunches should contain enough calories to keep them going throughout the day . This will differ from child-to-child, of course, but families are encouraged to include a variety of foods. We also ask that you use allergy-friendly ingredients in order to keep your child’s classmates safe, as well. 

If you’d like to learn more about our programs or have specific questions about meal times at Vivvi, please contact us.

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