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Day Care Lunch: Really Need Some Help

I have a 16 month old that attends daycare. We need some new lunch ideas. She is generally a very good eater and will try most thing but I think she has gotten bored. I do not have a way to heat things up. Lunch goes in an insulated lunch box and I have a thermos. If it is a hot item, I generally heat it up in the microwave that morning and put in a baggie and then put in the lunch box. Lunch is eaten at around 11:30 so things are not in the box/thermos for too long.

Anyone have any ideas that they can share. I am really getting desperate. The only thing she cannot bring is anything with nuts. Thank you thank thank you in advance.

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  1. Can you give some ideas of her favorite foods, or stuff that she will eat easily, so that we can build from there?

    1. Whta does she like? A cold pasta casserole or even mac and cheese can go over big. Of course there is PB&J and all sorts of other sandwiches. There are a lot of dye cutters out there for cute shapes, so even if the food is the same old stuff, the shapes may excite her. If she likes rice, then a little rice with a protein can be a good thing, some chicken or steak stripes with grilled green peppers over the rice... that sort of stuff. If you are in to stews, those go great over rice as left overs.

      I like the squishable containers they have for apple sauce and apple sauce with other fruits. Easy to eat and relatively healthy. Small quantities of chips, cookies... are always welcome. make them a sometimes thing so when she gets the carrots or grapes instead, she also sees those as treats.

      1 Reply
      1. For the thermos, chicken noodle soup, vegetable soup, pureed bean soup, squash soup...
        For the box, small crackers and cheese cubes. Meat cubes or sticks if she likes them.
        Again thermos, cottage cheese, egg salad (super-easy mayo - can use a bit of yogurt) yogurt with fresh fruit in the box, Melon cubes, veg sticks (blanched, if they're too crunchy), You could even do hot cereal and milk with the thermos, or mac and cheese. Spaghetti, cut small, in the thermos and a muffin in the box.
        Enjoy. this time passes so quickly.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mamachef

          great ideas, as always :)

          - egg muffins with cheese (aka frittata bites) would be fun, and they're great at room temp. make them in mini muffin tins so they're a toddler-friendly size.
          - you can find out if sunflower butter is an exception to the no-nuts rule - that would give you more sandwich options (banana slices are terrific with it, as are most fruit jams/preserves).
          - string cheese is always a good snack
          - if she likes hummus, you can use it as a sandwich filling (spread on a wrap or stuff into pita pockets with veggies) or as a dip
          - zucchini bread with a container of her favorite yogurt

        2. Bento is a possible solution. It can be as fancy as you want.


          1. Absolutely no criticism meant, but I had to chuckle at the idea of a 16 month old being "bored." Jaded palate at less than one and a half, it's going to get tougher from here on out.

            1. Considering what your average toddler will put into his or her mouth if given a chance I don't think "boredom" is an issue here. Is she suddenly refusing to eat anything? Are there certain foods she turns down? I'll admit not being familiar with daycare protocol but I imagine stuff like that does get reported back to you. If you know what she likes, give it to her even if--horrors!--it might be the same thing every day for a while.

              2 Replies
              1. re: MandalayVA

                Haaaaaaha! I panicked when my #2 son was a toddler and suddenly refused to eat anything but tofu dogs, red jello, and plain cheerios with milk for an entire year. We went marching off to the Pediatrician and he said that as long as Dan was learning and gaining, he was fine and to give him a multivitamin dailly, that this too would pass. Smaaart man, he was. From his reassurance, we avoided food battles and he grew out of it, but god sometimes kids can scare the hellfire out of you. It's hard not to freak when your heart is walking around outside your body.

                1. re: mamachef

                  "It's hard not to freak when your heart is walking around outside your body."

                  Nicely said!

                  My kids are in grade school now, but here are some ideas that mostly get eaten by mine.

                  milk in a thermos, baggie of cereal on the side, they can dump the cereal into the milk
                  cheese and crackers or mini croissants with some fruit on the side
                  there is a sandwich spread called Wow butter, it tastes like peanut butter but is made from soy and is "school safe"
                  meatballs in tomato sauce in the thermos
                  sometimes to change it up I put their regular sandwich toppings in a wrap or hotdog bun

              2. Thank you everyone for your thoughts. She really does like most things. Soups and stews are a good idea and I will try those next. Today see went with some left over corned beef hash (which she had for dinner and loved) and a half of a sunflower butter/jam sandwich. We will see how that goes. Bored was a bit of an odd word choice but I think the problem is I have a small rotation of items and I think she has decided that she is going to be difficult to get a new variety. Trust me this 16 month old is way more strong willed than most. And adorable. Thanks again.

                1 Reply
                1. re: emmyru

                  There's also a soy-based "no nut butter" that my kid's daycare uses in place of PB. My kids loved hummus and other dips at that age - guacomole, something made from Greek yogurt for protein? Grape tomatoes can be halved for dipping along with cucumber... these are softer than carrot sticks/celery. I don't think hard boiled eggs have been mentionned. Small pieces of whatever hard cheese you have in the fridge. Crackers. Blueberries! Dried fruits.

                  Honestly, at that age, my kids were quite happy to graze on a selection of small pieces of such staples from my pantry rather than a serving of cooked stew or whatever. I also used to keep even very small quantities of leftover dinner veg such as steamed brocoli and add that to the mix.

                2. Leftover pasta heated in the morning and put into the thermos. Sandwiches with cheese and mustard or cheese and tapenade. Crackers and cheese. Any cut vegetables will do in a baggie - cauliflower, green/red peppers, celery with cream cheese, all of that will keep. If you have a TJs in your area they have a lot of appetizer type frozen things that work well for lunch - the samosas and the mini tacos are good, and if you heat in the morning and then wrap tightly in aluminum foil they keep at least somewhat warm.

                  1. i'm assuming they help them eat... and i'm going to try not to repeat...

                    dumplings - small ones of some kind
                    baby meatballs
                    chicken or meat or veggie fried rice
                    polenta cubes
                    veggie pancakes - zucchini, spinach, carrot, potato, etc
                    mini bagel pizzas
                    stratas of any kind
                    lasagna muffins
                    cubed (and maybe skinned) eggplant parmesan
                    fusilli with butter or olive oil and parmesan

                    ...good luck... i had to smile at "bored" as well :)

                    1. Did someone already mention leftover pizza?

                      1. I used to pack leftover dinners for my kids. Pour boiling water in the thermos and let it sit first. Anything that might get soggy (taquitos, grilled cheese sandwich slivers, nuggets, etc.), I put a piece of paper towel across the top before closing the lid of the thermos. My daughter loved flat frico--just line a baking sheet w/ silpat or parchment, put parmegiano or favorite cheese and bake. Let it cool. Or, while it was warm, wrap some ham or whatever you want in the center and roll. Something I picked up on impulse is a sandwich cutter and was surprised at how much I used it. It holds the sandwich together and is fun for kids that age. The other thing that works is using a large cookie cutter. You can also use small cookie cutters for the cheese and ham bites. Skewers made w/ little toothpicks (not sure how much schools like them) w/ fruit and cheese/ham are also fun. I found it's not what you pack that bores them but changing up the presentation that can make it fun for them. If there isn't much time between your packing and her eating, ice cream works in the thermos, too--keep it in the freezer overnight and pack. Something my kids liked was frozen yogurt tubes, too.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: chowser

                          What good ideas, chowser!!
                          another thing that came to my mind was that my kids loved it when I stuffed cherry tomatoes with things like cottage cheese, tuna fish, egg salad, etc.
                          Thawed frozen bread dough (or your own biscuit dough, or whatever...canned...) rolled around ham and cheese or just cheese or really anything and baked.
                          mini muffins spread with cream cheese, sesame butter, butter...you get the idea
                          sandwiches cut into strips are less threatening to a small child.
                          any fruit sauce: apple, pear, peach; or any combo thereof.

                          1. re: mamachef

                            The dough around meat/cheese idea is a good one, too. You can buy all natural hot dogs, if you don't like regular ones but mummy dogs are fun for kids.


                            And, you can use muffins to make pizza, too. It's easy to do forms of pizza--some starch, layer w/ tomato sauce and cheese, bake. Great on puff pastry.

                          2. re: chowser

                            New product that sort of mimics chowser's great idea about cookie cutting the sandwiches: goldfish shaped bread. Comes in ww too! It has made my daughter like sandwiches a lot more than she used to.