Nutritious and Delicious Toddler Lunches for Daycare

Oh my dear, it seems like just yesterday that my little one was born and now he’s already off to daycare! I know it can be tough leaving them in someone else’s care, but I’ve heard great things about this daycare and the meals they provide. It’s such a relief to know that your little one is getting a healthy, balanced meal for only five dollars. And even if you decide not to participate in the meal program, the daycare still makes sure to provide snacks and water for all the kids. It’s all just one less thing for us to worry about as mothers.

How much does your daycare charge you for a toddler meal?

If your toddler goes to daycare five days a week, that’s 100 dollars spent on lunch a month. Is it worth it?

The alternative of making the food at home saves money, but it takes more time and needs more effort (both physically and mentally).
It is necessary for you to develop a meal plan that includes a variety of foods, prepare the food, cook it, chop it, make it enjoyable, pack it, remember to take it to the nursery, wash the containers, and begin the process all over again the following day.

It is well worth the five dollars for a mother who has to be at work at 8am in the morning. It is well worth the effort to cook a dinner at home if you are a mom who is not in a rush in the morning (like me – I don’t start work until 1:30 p.m.) A home-cooked meal takes me an average of fifteen to twenty minutes to prepare, and I can start dinner on the spot.

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Toddler Meal Lunchbox

When my little one started eating at daycare, I used to put his food in a thermos. I started using the thermos when he started eating solids, and it was great for smoothies and baby food, but also for pasta and rice. One day the kindergartner lost the lid from one of the containers or accidentally gave it to another child. I’m not sure. That was the end of it.

So I got some basic containers to send my youngest child’s food in. The problem was that his appetite was growing so much that the daycare provider had to ask me to bring more food because my toddler was stealing food from the other kids. I was grateful for his healthy appetite, but at the same time I was a little embarrassed. I started sending him to daycare with about five storage containers, always worried about losing another lid!

Bentgo Fresh – Leak-Proof, Versatile 4-Compartment Bento-Style Lunch Box with Removable Divider

Then, I received a gift that solved my problems. For real. My friend gave me this Bentgo Lunch Box. This lunch box sounds like a lifesaver! It’s perfect for packing a variety of foods for your little one’s meals, and with all its compartments it really encourages you to include a good mix of foods. Plus, it’s so easy to wash and only has two pieces, so you don’t have to worry about losing lids or mixing it up with other containers. And the best part is that it’s compact and durable, so you don’t have to bring multiple plastic containers with you to daycare. Even with your little one’s determination to damage his bamboo bowls and plates, this lunch box has managed to stay intact and in great shape. It really sounds like a fantastic solution for packing your toddler’s meals for daycare.

If you have a toddler in daycare, this is why your toddler needs one of these:

  1. It is full of compartments that encourage you to give a variety of foods per meal
  2. It is super easy to wash
  3. There are only two pieces, so it is impossible to lose or mistake for a standard lid or container
  4. It’s compact and doesn’t require you to bring 5+plastic containers to daycare
  5. It’s durable.

Healthy Toddler Meal Ideas

Before we get to the list of toddler meal ideas, here are some quick tips that helped me deal with picky eaters and their vegetable phobia.

True Story: My toddler has always eaten cooked apples. When all of his teeth were in and I knew he could handle raw apples, I offered him some slices. No good.
Entertaining idea: I wanted the apples to have the appearance of hickory sticks, so I chopped them up into little sticks. After that, I hid them in a bowl and pretended to run away from him in order to conceal something from him. It was clear that he was interested. He chased after me to investigate what I was carrying. I would sneak a bite of an apple stick, then act as though I didn’t want to share it with him until he started begging with me to give him another.

Snack pack

Since entertaining ideas don’t work all the time, you might want to try the following as well:

  • Be a role model – eat veggies in front of your kid and be happy when you do it.
  • Don’t hide the veggies – otherwise your kid won’t know he’s eating veggies and you’ll end up always having to hide them. More work!
  • Don’t make a big deal out of it – try again later or next week but don’t let your kid notice that you freak out because they don’t eat veggies.


  1. Pasta Ideas

    – butter and shredded Parmigiano (In Italian, “pasta in bianco” for the picky eaters)
    – tomato sauce
    – pesto and steamed broccoli
    – legume pasta made from chickpeas, peas and lentils with either pesto or tomato sauce
    – ragù or meat sauce (ground beef, chopped onions, carrots and tomatoes with passata)
    – cooked zucchine, carrots, onions and a bit of veggie stock.
    – beef or pork ravioli
    – spinach, sage and ricotta stuffed tortelli

  2. Fruit Ideas

    – blueberries, raspberries and strawberries
    – golden and regular kiwi
    – bananas (I keep these in the peel so that it doesn’t brown as fast)
    – mandarin slices or oranges cut into pieces
    – apples cut into thin sticks
    – squeezable fruit packets

  3. Dairy Ideas

    – yogurt (I don’t actually put these in the Bentgo box because it doesn’t fit)
    – cheese (In Italian, “formaggino”, which are the soft cheeses you don’t have to refrigerate)
    – Stringable cheese (I haven’t found these in Italy yet, but when I do, I’m buying them for myself! I mean my toddler)

  4. Veggies Ideas

    – Deep fried veggie balls
    – peas in the pod (I crack these open a tad so it’s easier for my toddler to open them)
    – steamed beans
    – steamed broccoli (trees and the trunks)
    – grilled zucchini cut into pieces
    – red and yellow bell pepper slices (my toddler doesn’t like them at the moment but maybe yours does)
    – cubed and roasted potatoes
    – cubed and roasted sweet potatoes

  5. Protein Ideas

    – legume pasta made from chickpeas, peas and lentils with either pesto or tomato sauce (worth mentioning again)
    – cold cuts (turkey or ham)
    – roll ups with ham, cheese and avocado
    – Pieces of stewed beef
    – breaded and pan fried ham roll ups stuffed with cheese (pretty yummy)

  6. Carb Ideas that aren’t Pasta

    – crackers
    – bread
    – breadsticks
    – focaccia
    – pizza
    – cheerios
    – risotto with parmigiano and saffron
    – rice (stir fries with leftovers or with chopped veggies)
    – noodles (It can get messy unless you cut them up. The Asian side of me refuses to do this for superstitious reasons)

What are some things you feed your toddler that aren’t on this list?

What does your daycare provide for meals?

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