Homemade and healthy child care lunches? Yes, it’s possible and even though we hear awful things in the news about school lunches and child care practices, there are many providers making wonderful meals out for their kids out there. When looking for a quality child care center/provider, consider what is served to children. As a provider, I believe it’s one of the most important parts of my job. It takes planning ahead and a little practice.
Homemade & Healthy Child Care Lunches
Things You Should Know
- I participate in the food program.
- I buy frozen or fresh vegetables most often.
- Supplementing fresh fruit in the winter is often necessary here in WI. I serve mostly fresh though.
- I usually buy whole wheat bread.
- Milk is 1% for children over 2 years.
- Water is also offered during lunch.
- I do not serve family style as it doesn’t work very well with my space and mixed age group.
- Often I over serve – working putting less on plates and then offering more but YES, my kids (mostly 2-4 years olds) will eat this much.
Here are some of the meals I’ve served:
Chili (either with ground turkey or ground sirloin) with beans & often tomatoes frozen from our garden & topped with cheese, peas, peaches, bread, milk
Mini meatloaf, peas & carrots, buttered red potatoes, roll, milk
Roast Beef, homemade applesauce, mashed potatoes with gravy, squash, (milk & bread not pictured)
Grilled chicken tenderloins (great on the George Foreman grill), Creamy Chicken Rice, cooked carrots, homemade applesauce, milk
Grilled fish tacos on a whole wheat tortilla (lettuce, cheese, shredded carrot), kiwi, mixed vegetables, milk
Turkey breast & gravy, broccoli, mandarin oranges, cranberry sauce, bread, milk
Creamy cheddar broccoli soup, pineapple, ham, bread, milk
Turkey Chili, pears, Saltines, bread, milk (both crackers & bread isn’t required here, but I probably decided to add crackers since the kids will likely ask for them with soup).
Chicken Kabobs (chicken breast, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cheese cubes), strawberry yogurt, avocado, mandarin oranges, brown rice, milk
Chicken breast, Creamy Chicken Rice, peaches, California blend vegs, milk
Chicken Noodle Soup, Cutie orange, cheese cubes and crackers, milk
Taco on flour tortilla, fruit kabob, strawberry yogurt, mixed raw vegetables with Ranch dip, milk
Tips for Making Child Care Lunches
- Make a menu. I have a monthly menu. It’s posted in the day care, on my fridge, on the child care website and Facebook page. I print it for those who don’t access it online. One copy is in my purse or I look at it online when I grocery shop.
- Plan ahead. Some meals are leftovers from our family meals (like when I make a roast) but usually I make meals specifically for child care. This might mean taking meat out of the freezer the night before, starting soup at breakfast time, making dishes ahead of time and freezing them.
- Use the slow cooker. It’s great for lots of meats like pork chops, chicken, pork.
- I microwave most of my frozen vegetables quickly before lunch. You can have them opened and poured into a microwavable dish and in the refrigerator until it’s time to pop it in and warm it up.
- Frozen bread rolls make great buns or mini pizza crusts. I always have buns/rolls on hand this way and kids like these much better than a dry packaged bun. They are smaller in size and work well for child sized portions. I start them early in the morning so they are ready at lunch time. For pizza crusts, drizzle olive oil on the pan and coat both sides of the dough to make a yummy crust.
- I serve Ranch with a variety of raw vegetables. They are more likely to get eaten.
- Open canned fruits early & put them into other containers to make serving quicker.
- Keep yogurt on hand (I serve Stonyfield Organic Low Fat Strawberry most of the time) to supplement when you need to serve more protein.
- I’ve found milk and bread and canned fruit are least expensive at Aldi.
- In a week I like to offer: 1 chicken dish, 1 sandwich, 1 beef, 1 fish, and a soup, etc for variety.
I’ll be back with more ideas for child care meals & snacks!