Toddler Dinners: Daycare Options

Landon Eating Lunch

Nom. Quesadilla.

As the majority of you know, I am a working mama.  Landon goes to daycare 5 days a week 8-4:30ish. We love our daycare and couldn’t be happier.  He is well cared for and we feel like they really are a part of our family. They have taught him so many things since he was 10 weeks old including table manners and signs when he didn’t know his words (he still uses signs at 2.5 yrs). I know they have helped shape him into the eater he is today.  All the way back to when I brought in my homemade baby food for him to have.

Because they have been an integral part of his eating habits, I thought I would post a week of toddler lunches via daycare:


Chicken Parmesean


Tropical Fruit Medley


Salsbury Steak

Mashed Potatoes

Mandarin Oranges


Black bean quesadilla

Spanish rice



Lentil Soup


Fruit Cocktail


Chicken nuggets



As you can see, there is plenty of variety. Hell more than even I give him.  sometimes he doesn’t eat it but another advantage there…that is all there is.  There isn’t a stock pile of hot dogs in the fridge or extra pasta to whip up.  He doesn’t eat? He doesn’t eat. Plain and simple.  I feel like this helps us at home with not having more “no!”s to our choices.  I mean it happens, but tough shit kid.  This is the deal.

Some other facts of our daycare:

  • They never have sippy cups for meals.  Landon has been drinking out of tiny cups since he was about 9 months old. He is a pro.  He can eat with one hand and drink with the other.
  • They have an AM snack and PM snack. From my calculations, this is where they usually get most of their carbs. If the lunch is void of carbs, the snack is usually crackers, cereal, etc.
  • They have been learning to use utensils since infants. Yeah it was super messy to watch but it is amazing to see how well he can chase a pea around a plate.
  • They have to buss their own table.  They throw away the remaining food and have a tub to put their dirty dishes and silverware. They also help out by setting the table and cleaning up after.
  • Those teachers need some kind of award for taking on feeding 10 2 year olds at a time.

So what are your daycare lunches like? Do you have to pack your own? What do you find to be go to items? I know I have some readers interested in that concept but I am of no help. I never pack lunches…ever. Please discuss in comments. If there is enough interest, I can do a follow up post with tips from you guys!

Here is a couple choice dinners from our week:



  1. Our daughter attends daycare full-time too, and we love where she is. They also provide breakfast, lunch, and a PM snack, so we never have to send food/milk. I’m just checking out their menu now, and it looks very similar to Landon’s – this week’s lunches are meatloaf, chicken nuggets, cheeseburger pasta, turkey sandwich, and pizza puffs. Then sides of fruit, veggies, crackers/cookies for snacks, and bread and milk with all meals. We obviously pay for not having to provide anything from home, but I have LOVED not having to send any food items to school with her since breastmilk. And the signing and using utensils that they learn there has also been wonderful.

  2. Ry is only in school 2 days a week, but we never pack her a lunch and I have the same mentality you do…if she doesn’t like it, she doesn’t eat. Over the last 3 years the school has got to know her pretty well and they know what she does and doesn’t like and sometimes they’ll make her something separate, if it’s easy, but not very often. She eats fruits & veggies like a champ though so if she doesn’t like the spaghetti they’re serving, she’ll just stock up on peaches & green beans.

    Now when she’s at her grandparents’ houses? It’s a whole different story. At my mom’s house it sounds like she grazes all day long…much like my mom, so no surprise there. And at my in-law’s house she eats a lot of cheese…again, much like them, so no surprise. All in all she eats healthy, so I don’t worry too much about it.

  3. We use BH too as you know. This week’s lunch is Meatloaf, Ham and Cheese Sandwich, Italian Meat Baked Pasta, Chicken Tacos and Fish Fillet. I struggle some with the menus only because there are days where B will not eat all day because of the menu which makes him crabby and hungry when I pick him up. I don’t blame. I don’t know many 2.5 year olds that will eat fish fillets, black bean salsa and chips or pomegrantes and orange juice… I am surprised by the power of peer pressure. Things that B won’t eat at home he will eat at school because everyone else is. In the summer, our dc uses an organic delivery service which is AMAZING!

  4. Our daycare provides breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack, but our daughter (2-yrs-old) has shown some sensitivity to gluten. We tried sending substitutes for food items on the menu that included gluten, but for some reason it was a bit too confusing for them to have us send parts of meals and snacks. To make it easier for them and to ensure our daughter didn’t eat what we didn’t want we just send all of her food with her now. They will give us the menu in advance, so we’ve been trying our best to match her food to the other kids’. If they have meatloaf, then we’ll also send her meatloaf. The big plus of that is that it has taken a lot of time out of planning dinner. We typically just make the lunch item or a meal that contains the components of that lunch item the night before. She will then take leftovers for lunch and/or snack.

  5. When my son was attending daycare I LOVED that I never had to worry about packing food and that he was trying all sorts of foods I wouldn’t think of doing at home. But since having baby 2 we now have a private sitter who doesn’t watch other kids.

    So now I pack his lunch every day. I would love to hear what other moms are packing. Please speak up! Packed breakfast is usually cereal with milk to add. For the rest of the day I pack a fruit, a veggie, a dry snack (crackers, sesame sticks, popcorn etc), a dairy (cheese stick or yogurt), and sandwich or “main” item. Here is where I need the most help. I do peanut butter or turkey sammies (cut it shapes w/cookie cutter), “sushi” roll-ups in tortillas, soy corndog cut up or veggie burger. And then my creativity falls off a cliff.

    Also, am I nuts? The sitter says she would happily provide his meals. And as much as I lament spending 30 minutes every evening cleaning tupperware and packing lunches (on top of cleaning and prepping bottles for the baby), I can’t let go. I like to know what he’s eating, how much and that it meets my “standards.”

    • When we was in infants I brought in a lot. They didn’t do some purees or there would just be something he couldn’t have at that age that i would supplement. I wanted to bring everything handmade and junk but then I just got tired. Plus I like that they give him stuff I don’t. Like curry! And they can make large pot meals better than I. I recognize that. But really…im just lazy…and I am already paying for it.

  6. Umm…my kid doesn’t even go to daycare and I love this post.
    Couscous I never even considered. I really wonder if my girls would like it. Only one way to find out!

    • I do ours in chicken broth FWIW with garlic and usually basil. You can season it however but I find the chicken broth makes it better than just water. Also have added parm cheese too.

  7. That is SO funny. E has the same set-up. No bottles or sippy’s, sitting at the table and chairs, using their own utensils and they also bus their tables. We were there for pancakes last Friday and when she ran off with my plate I tried to stop her, and then she dumped it in the bin!

    I LOVE it. We get a healthy mix of foods too, but it’s pretty funny to see the differences because she gets very little meat. Lots of soups and legumes and pasta and beans. And the AM & PM snacks are awesome.


    • O yeah I meant to mention there is a vegetarian menu too. Most of the stuff is the same except the meat obviously. They also sub out for food allergies like eggs and stuff. So there is a little difference when there needs to be. I remember early on they had eggs and no kids wanted them and the girl with food allergies got cereal and they all wanted it too 🙂

  8. The 2 daycares I’ve used have nice lunch menus too. I actually steal ideas from them. I love the fact that you post the dinner plates because a visual is always a good thing.

  9. The fact that you’re all talking about toddler meals is so impressive. I must admit that my husband and I fell into the trap of feeding my 7 year old only the things he liked. Pizza, mac and cheese, pizza, mac and cheese… You all are my hero! Now we’ve finally got him eating what we do with out much grief but it took a while. Be strong!!! Your kids will thank you for it when they are all gourmets!

  10. Our daycare provides breakfast and snacks but we have to send lunch and honestly it is a struggle. I sometimes send leftovers but those are hit and miss. I often send the standard issue, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, etc. because I have no clue what else to send that he will actually eat. I feel so guilty that I don’t send a variety but sometimes I just am at a loss for what to pack.

  11. Honestly, I have no idea what Daniel eats at his grandmother’s. She has some old-fashioned ideas, but she loves him and tries. As you know, we’re touring various daycares and I loved BH’s menu! Honestly, I’m not sure how receptive D would be, but I think it would be a good change and a positive one for my picky eater.

  12. So, I just made the switch from provided meals to packing meals. I feared it so much. The time factor mainly. But I’ve really enjoyed it. Old school provided breakfast, lunch & 2 afternoon snacks. New school provides an AM & PM snack + milk for lunch. Now we try to have breakfast at home when we have time, which is great. Or in the car, which is random, but still okay. The big trick has been finding non-messy things for car days (trail mix variations for the most part) OR feeding her bkft before dressing her.
    Lunch – time hasn’t been a huge issue. I usually throw something together while cooking or putting away leftovers. If dinner was a hit, I’ll pack her leftovers. If not so much, I do a sandwich. I have used a cookie cutter for cute shapes, but I’m not going overboard with the “bento box” notion. I like to throw a cheese stick or hummus/veggie in as a back up. I always give her a fruit. They’ll heat things up, so that’s a nice option.
    One thing I’m not loving about the new place is they don’t tell me what the snacks are. I know they’re either fruit or something crackery/cerealy. But I like knowing. I probably just need to tell them.
    Fun post. I love eating. I love watching her figure out what she likes, etc. I love talking to people about their kids! 🙂

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