Some veggies are tasty; others are the enemy!

Lunch Ideas for Toddlers at Daycare

by Jasey Kelly

Getting toddlers to eat healthful lunches isn't just difficult, it can be a downright struggle. It's your job to find what works best for your tot's lunchbox, even if it comes down to little white lies. Since his daycare provider probably has her hands full with several toddlers, always pack items you know he'll eat in addition to new things.

1. Some Useful Guidelines

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Child and Adult Care Food Program guidelines can help you make fun, interesting, well-balanced meals. The lunch guidelines for 2-year-olds call for two different veggies and/or fruit totaling 1/4 cup; one-half slice of bread or 1/4 cup of cooked grains or pasta; 1 ounce of cheese or meat, 1/4 cup of beans or peas, 2 tablespoons of nut or seed butter, 1/2 ounce of nuts or seeds, or 4 ounces of yogurt; and 1/2 cup milk.

2. Trying New Things

Guidelines as to what to serve are all fine and dandy, but to picky toddlers, it takes a little bit more to actually get them to eat it. Variety is the spice of life, but to a toddler it can be unfamiliar, scary and downright avoidable. She may even turn her nose up at first sight of the dastardly veggie! Pairing familiar favorites with something new -- or cooking a favorite food in a new way -- can help little ones try new things while still getting the comfort and security of yummy foods. One example is veggies: If she loves steamed carrots at home, try tiny, manageable strips of carrots in her lunch box for daycare -- always ensure her lunch is as choking hazard-free as possible. Another example is packing some new, unexplored foods with a favorite. If a certain cereal is her favorite thing to eat, try mixing in a different kind of cereal or some safe, dried fruits to make a trail mix.

3. All Is Fair in Love and Nutrition

As a mom, almost nothing is off limits as far as getting your kids to eat. Things you normally would never think of doing in society somehow manage to become part of your everyday struggles in nutrition. "Half-truths" -- they're half-truths because the word "lie" just seems wrong -- seem to make the cut. You don't have to tell your toddler what's in the food you pack to daycare, even if he asks in his tiny voice and half-constructed sentences.

4. Hidden Treasures

Hidden treasures kind of follow along the lines of the half-truths in foods. Hiding nutrition in favorite snacks or meals is something a lot of moms do on a daily basis. Adding additional veggies on top of pizza, for example, or tiny, cutup bananas in a peanut butter sandwich are both ways to hide additional vitamins and nutrients in her favorite foods.

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