Some childcare centres will provide your toddler with all their food for the day, while others may only provide snacks. Alternatively, it may even be you and your family who will supply all their meals and snacks for the day.
If you are providing your child’s food, here are some healthy snack and lunch options which include a variety of ideas from each of the 5 key food groups:
- Fresh, canned and occasionally dried fruit
- Cheese stick or grated cheese*
- Tub of yoghurt*
- Rice cakes
- Hummus with crackers or vegetable sticks
- One or two small pikelets made with grated fruit/vegetables
*Reduced fat dairy products are not suitable for infants under 2 years
For a guide on serving sizes see Toddler Food Groups.
Food such as chocolate, lollies, potato chips, muesli bars, fruit straps and cakes should not feature regularly in your toddler’s lunchbox. These foods offer little nutritional value and are high in sugar, salt and/or fat.
- Leftovers from dinner such as a slice of cold frittata
- Homemade pita pizza
- Homemade muffins made with fruit/vegetables such as, zucchini, banana, pumpkin, apple, corn kernels, carrot or sultana
- Wholemeal/wholegrain or rye sandwich/ roll/pita with suitable fillings:
- Mashed hardboiled egg and lettuce
- Turkey breast and lettuce
- Avocado, tomato and lettuce
- Lean ham, cheese and tomato
- Tuna and lettuce
- Chicken with cheese and lettuce
- Cream cheese and grated carrot with lettuce
- Baked beans and cheese
- Tzatziki and hummus are great spread ideas.
Choose lean cuts of meat and try to avoid fatty meats such as salami and devon, if you don’t have any meat, fish or chicken to pack for lunch, try including eggs, tofu or baked beans as an alternative protein source. It’s also a good idea to try and avoid spreads that are high in sugar such as jam, honey and chocolate spreads.
To learn more about the different food groups click here.
The best fluid for you toddler is water and they should be encouraged to drink as much as possible throughout the day over other fluids. To help, give your little one a bottle of water to take each day to child care. Another good source of fluid is milk which is a good source of calcium and protein.
Limit sugary drinks such as sports drinks, soft drinks, vitamin waters, fruit drinks and cordials as too many high sugar drinks can lead to poor appetite, diarrhoea, weight gain and tooth decay.
Food Safety for Lunchboxes
- Additionally, perishable foods should not be packed if they have just been cooked, allow them to cool in the refrigerator before packing
- Pack perishable foods e.g. eggs, dairy products or meat in an insulated lunch bag with a frozen water bottle, or an ice pack inside to keep them cool and prevent them from spoling.