Looking for ideas and tips on packing lunches for child care? Checking your daycare's food guidelines is a great place to start. Licensed child care facilities are required to promote healthy eating and make sure children have healthy food and drink. Typically they will ask you to pack lunch and snack choices from the four food groups in Canada's Food Guide. Daycare guidelines will also tell you if there are any foods that are not allowed and if there are children who have severe food allergies.
It can be challenging to pack healthy lunches that your child will enjoy. Here are some tips to help make it easier and to add variety:
- Invest in the right 'gear' such as reusable containers, an insulated lunch bag, small freezer packs, and leak proof drink containers.
- Instead of offering only one item for the main lunch meal (half a sandwich) try a mix of choices such as a quarter of a sandwich with hummus and veggies.
- Mix things up. Try tortilla wraps, pasta salads, bean dips, quesadilla, grilled cheese, tuna melts, drumsticks, scrambled egg, mini quiches. The options are endless!
- Plan for leftovers. Make extra stew, chilli, soups and casseroles that can be frozen into individual portions and then easily thawed.
Snacks help fuel busy brains and bodies. The number of snacks to include in a packed lunch will depend on how long your child will be at daycare. For full days, you will typically need to pack two snacks - one for mid-morning and one for mid-afternoon.
Smart snacks have at least two food groups: 1) a veggie or fruit choice most of the time, OR a grain choice, and 2) a little protein or healthy fat for longer lasting energy (such as avocado, beans, egg, seed/nut butters, cheese, and yogurt). Here are some quick examples:
- Tender broccoli pieces and hummus dip
- Banana bread thinly spread with nut or seed butter
- Fruit pieces mixed in plain yogurt
Read labels of packaged snacks carefully. Many products that look healthy in photos can be high in added sugars, salt or processed fats. Examples of healthier packaged items include unsweetened applesauce/fruit cups, cheese strings, yogurt cups/tubes, graham wafers and fig bars.
For more information:
Also check out these great videos on packing lunches. Note that some of the examples listed in these resources will need to be adapted to prevent choking in young children. For more information see the HealthLink file Prevent Choking in Young Children.