In today’s age, families in most cities have gone nuclear, with both sets of parents working. Here is where daycares come into the picture. For parents whose children go to the daycare, proper nutrition is a constant worry. The nourishment you provide your child at home is the same nourishment you would ideally expect your child to get in a daycare setup. But how do you ensure that?

This article gives you lovely ideas on the kind of foods you should pack in your little one’s lunch box for good nutrition, and also offers suggestions on how to keep the food fresh for longer periods even while keeping mess at bay.

Foods to include in a packed lunch

You should try and include foods from all major food groups in your child’s day care lunch box. This means, he should get a good dose of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, vitamins, minerals and some amount of healthy fats as well. Here are some ideas:

  • Boiled or scrambled eggs are a good option for protein, if your child is a non-vegetarian. If he is a vegetarian, small cubes of paneer stir-fried with bell peppers and tomatoes, is a good idea. A small piece of cheese, sooji halwa made with crushed nuts, or even rotis made with lentils like moong dal can act as rich protein sources.
  • Pack whole-wheat sandwiches or whole-wheat pasta or whole-wheat noodles, so that your child gets enough complex carbohydrates. These will give him energy without spiking the blood sugar level quickly. Add lots of chopped veggies to enhance the nutrient quotient.
  • Your toddler’s packed lunch can also include bite-size pieces of apples, pears, and bananas. These will supply essential vitamins and minerals. Mangoes or cantaloupe melons are great ideas too.
  • Poha, dosa, idli and paratha are some traditional Indian lunch options you can pack for your child. Make sure to add veggies or lentils while making the batter or stuffing, so that the dishes become more nutrient-dense and filling.
  • For hydration, fill a thermos flask with plain and lukewarm water, thin and unsweetened lassi, or coconut water. Fresh fruit juices are usually high in natural sugar and are best avoided.

Foods to avoid in a packed lunch

Your child’s packed lunch should not include junk foods or items that can cause choking. Foods that tend to release water should also be avoided, or it can get messy. Remember the following tips:

  • Foods high in fat, sugar, or salt content like chips, biscuits, or crackers need to be avoided. Pastries, cookies, and candies are also a big no. While excess salt can lead to high blood pressure in future and exert pressure on your child’s kidneys, excess sugar can cause obesity and juvenile diabetes.
  • Whole grapes, nuts, popcorn, seeds, berries, small chunks of meat etc. pose the risk of choking and should be avoided too. You can cut grapes before packing them in the lunch box though.
  • Avoid foods that have the potential to undergo microbial contamination, especially in the hot Indian summer, such as milk and milk-based foods like porridge, milkshakes, egg-based mayonnaise, and coconut-based gravies.
  • If you are packing salads, avoid dressing it, as the water will start leaching out, and by the time your child eats it, it will be all limp and watery. Rather, try and introduce a variety of fruits and veggies, so that your child can enjoy the original tastes.

Keep your child’s day care food safe and non-messy

  • First, plan how many meals you need to pack for the day care. This will usually depend on the amount of time he spends at the day care, his age, his meal schedule at home etc. If he is going to spend a few hours at the day care after school, then perhaps a nutritious snack may suffice. However, if he is spending more than half a day at the day care, then you might need to provide multiple snack boxes that cover a main meal like lunch in addition to a snack.
  • Preferably, give the child finger foods or foods that can be eaten without causing a mess.
  • Make sure that the food you provide is such that it can be stored and will not spoil very quickly. For example, avoid giving plain chopped apples as these will go brown. Instead, squeeze some lemon juice on the pieces to prevent the browning. The food should be appealing to the eyes and taste good enough for your child to eat.
  • The packed food shouldn’t change in terms of taste and texture by the time the child gets to eat it. Also, consider the climate while packing foods. For example, coconut-based chutneys can spoil in the summer heat or foods that are cooked in ghee might solidify during winter and may result in an unpleasant mouth-feel.
  • Cucumbers sprinkled with salt or watermelon pieces tend to release water after a while. So, it’s better to avoid these. Also, use leak-proof containers for packing the meals.
  • Pack in some tissues so that your little one can wipe his face and hands in case of spills.
  • Avoid packing leftovers for your child’s day care snack or lunch, as it might spoil by the time he eats it.

To wrap up, just because your child spends some time at the day care every day, doesn’t mean his nutrition or food safety has to be compromised. With the help of the above tips and by discussing your concerns with the day care authorities, you can easily ensure a happy experience for your toddler.

To learn more about nutrition dense meal options to include in your child’s diet visit