Daycare Lunch Ideas

Happy Friday! Sorry for the delayed post today but I’ve been fighting one of Amalia’s super fun summer viruses for a few days now and have gotten so behind on everything. A lot of you have requested a post on daycare lunch ideas, and I’m sharing all of Amalia’s favorites today.

To be honest, I sometimes feel like I have no idea what I’m doing and being creative with her meals has been one of the toughest parts of motherhood in the last two or three months. Breakfast we have covered, but lunch and dinner are a little harder for some reason.

I always give her a “main course” and fruit for dessert, and I am trying now to add in a third element like raw cucumber or some sort of side veggie so she gets more variation.

The gear: I bought this cute little lunch box at Bed Bath and Beyond because Amalia kept pointing at it one day when I was buying diapers. That damn store gets us every time! I got her Amalia sticker at Name Bubbles. They’re great because they stay on even if you run them through the dishwasher.

Leftovers: Three out of the five days of the week I give her leftovers of whatever we had for dinner the night before. She doesn’t like everything that we eat but summer makes it easier because she’s into grilled foods, mostly fish like salmon (with pesto) or a milder fish like cod. I sometimes make baked fish on the nights we don’t grill so will bread fish with breadcrumbs for her (and almond meal for us) and top that with some sort of sauce. She’s a big fish fan!

Quesadillas: I use either regular whole wheat tortillas or the Siete almond flour ones and make a quesadilla with cheddar cheese, a little cumin, and mashed avocado.

Spinach Littles and veggie burgers: Amalia loves Dr. Praeger’s Spinach Littles and their California Veggie Burgers so I often heat those up and throw them in when we’re in a hurry.

Ravioli with red sauce: My little Italian girl loves her pasta. I try to give her meat ravioli for some extra protein and top it with Rao’s marinara sauce, homemade red sauce, or basil pesto. Sometimes I mix the red sauce and pesto for her true favorite flavor combo.

Bolognese: Speaking of Italian food, she loves my bolognese. Sometimes I put it over pasta but often just make it with bigger chunks so she can eat it on it’s own. She only likes it with turkey, not beef however. I’m not really a big beef eater and it looks like she might be taking after me on that.

Egg Cups: She loves eggs and mini frittatas are easy for her to eat on her own. She doesn’t usually like anything green in them so I stick to onion, a little cheese, and shaved zucchini.

Hummus Toast: This girl loves hummus so I’ll toast up some bread, cover it in hummus (and sometimes thinly sliced cucumbers or tomatoes) and cut it up. I’d love to also give her PB&J but her school is nut free and she hates sunbutter so that’s a no go.

Fruit: I always put cut up fruit and/or berries in the small container and tell her teachers to give her that for “dessert”. I mix it up with whatever is in season! Right now it’s a lot of watermelon, blueberries, and nectarines.

Back up: I keep veggie and meat pouches in her cubby at school in case she refuses lunch which happens every two or three weeks for whatever reason. Her teachers know to give her a pouch in worst case scenarios.

I’d love to know what you give your kids for daycare lunches. I’m always looking for new recipes and resources!

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  1. Sara said:

    When my kids were that age my go-tos for school lunches were finger foods or regular foods cut up in small pieces, like grilled cheese sandwiches, cut up pieces of grilled chicken, any kind of pasta, cut up hamburger or turkey burger, black beans or lentils, and I used the frozen veggie mix of carrots/peas/corn because I could put it in the container frozen and by lunch time it was thawed. Or small frozen broccoli florets. Both my kids love broccoli! My kids also loved yogurt at that age and the teachers could help with that. I actually tried not to pack salmon because when they got messy with it, it would get smelly but one of my kids liked fish fingers. For veggies they loved cucumbers, snap peas, steamed carrots, avocados (but stains are impossible to get out!). On really lazy days I pack the morningstar farms soy chicken nuggets because they can go in frozen and by lunch they are thawed and room temp and both kids love those, even now. Now they’re 4 and 7 so they’re really into sandwiches and we do turkey, cheese, and pb&j (luckily no nut allergies at either school!) and still a ton of fruits and veggies.

    8.3.18 · Reply
  2. Gaby said:

    These are such great lunch ideas! My daughter is starting two days of preschool in the next couple weeks, so I will definitely be trying some of them 🙂

    Can you share which size L.L. Bean tote is pictured? Thinking of ordering the same one for all her gear. Thank you!

    8.3.18 · Reply
  3. Elizabeth said:

    Everything we send has to be finger foods – my daughter doesn’t want her teachers feeding her anymore (she’s 14 mo). The other week I was shamed for being the only mama not packing a sandwich! So now she gets either a hummus sammie or sun butter and jelly at least once a week, which are easy go-to’s (nuts are not allowed at her daycare either). Otherwise it’s leftovers (current favorite is shredded chicken tossed with a tiny bit of bbq sauce), beans of any kind, pasta/meatballs, and cut up cheese. I also send a veggie every day but I am less confident that gets eaten. Her school serves snacks every afternoon and it’s usually fruit so I usually skip the fruit at lunch, but every once in a while I’ll throw in some berries or cut up grapes as a treat! Lunches are SO HARD! And we have another like 17 years to go, ahh!!!

    8.3.18 · Reply
  4. Kara said:

    So appreciate these posts! My daughter is 1 today and figuring out food has been the toughest struggle for me!

    8.3.18 · Reply
  5. Laura said:

    We’re really fortunate that where we live most nurseries make all the food for the kiddos, this includes breakfast, snacks and lunches so it’s a HUGE weight off our shoulders and one less thing to do on a big long list! One thing I know they do a lot off to get lots of veggies in is soup, so if you want some ideas for winter. Plus super easy to swap out for different seasons.

    8.3.18 · Reply
  6. Cate said:

    Hi! Just wondering about the Siete tortillas and pesto. Are they okay at a nut free school? I’m trying not to be too strict, but also trying to be sensitive to any parents that have kids with allergies.

    1.15.19 · Reply