Whether it’s lunch for children in your daycare, preschool, or for a field trip, make sure toddlers get proper nutrition by making a well-balanced lunch. In addition, packing a lunch for your own child is economical and ensures that your child is eating nutritious foods in age-appropriate portions.
Making lunch for preschool-aged children is snap when following these simple guidelines. Lunch should include:
1 item from the milk group:
- Low-fat or fat free milk
- Part-skim mozzarella string cheese or other part-skim cheeses
- Low-fat or 2% cheeses and Low-fat or fat-free yogurt.
Tip: Select yogurt that is lower in sugar, yet does not rely on artificial sweeteners. When looking at labels, remember that 12 grams of sugar = 1 TBSP.
1 or 2 items from the fruit group
- Fresh fruit salad
- Melon wedges
- Grapes (cut in halves to minimize choking hazard)
- Unsweetened applesauce
- Berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc.)
- Pears, peaches, nectarines, apricots or plums
1 or 2 vegetables:
- Celery sticks, baby carrots or carrot sticks (cut lengthwise down the middle to minimize choking hazard)
- Cherry or grape tomatoes (cut in halves)
- Cucumber, zucchini or squash sticks
- Grilled or baked eggplant slices
- Coleslaw with low-fat mayo or vinaigrette
- Cooked beans (chickpeas, soybeans, black beans, pinto, low-fat refried, etc.)
- Cooked butternut or other winter squash
- Bell pepper slices
- Avocado slices
- Broccoli or cauliflower
- Lightly blanched green beans or asparagus
- Sugar snap peas
- Spinach or tossed salad
Tip: Fruit roll ups and fruit snacks are not considered a fruit. Use fruits and vegetable to add color to your child’s lunch. Include foods with two or more colors from the rainbow along with the neutral colors from grains, meats and dairy products
Choose whole grains and breads made from whole grains. Look for a whole grain to be the first ingredient on the food label. Avoid grains containing high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils.
- Whole grain bread, whole grain pita bread, whole grain roll
- Whole wheat English muffin or bagel
- Whole grain tortilla
- Potato (sweet or white- baked, mashed or boiled)
- Whole grain pasta
- Brown rice
- Whole grain crackers
- Whole wheat couscous
- Homemade corn muffin
- Read-to-eat whole grain cereal
1 Meat or Meat Alternative
- Chopped egg
- Pumpkin, sunflower or sesame seeds
- Sunflower Butter
- Cottage Cheese
- Meats (chicken, roast beef, turkey, etc.)
- Skinless chicken breast slices
- Cooked beans or low-fat refried beans
- Tofu or tempeh
- Tuna or egg salad
Although nuts are considered a meat alternative, many preschools are a nut free environment due to allergies. Please do not send nuts or nut butters in the lunch if the child’s preschool makes this request.
You may be wondering, “where is the dessert?” Please do not include sweets (candy, cookies, chips, cakes, etc.) in the toddler’s child’s lunch. At home, small amounts of unhealthy fats and sweets can be a part of a healthy diet. Sweets should only be included occasionally in a child’s diet, and always in small amounts.
By following these simple guidelines, you can ensure your child (or a child in your care) is getting a wholesome lunch even when you aren’t in their presence.
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