While all children need nutritious, healthy foods to eat throughout the week, it can be difficult to know how much to pack for daycare lunches. If you’re wondering what is considered a “normal” amount of food for your child to eat at school, Ducklings has you covered. Below, we explore each age group’s recommended nutrition intake (from infancy to six years old) and sample snacks and meals you can pack at home.
What are Healthy Foods for Kids?
Developed by the USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, MyPlate offers guides, activities, and other resources for parents pertaining to healthy foods for children age two and older. “The MyPlate icon is a guideline to help you and your child eat a healthy diet. MyPlate can help you and your child eat a variety of foods while encouraging the right amount of calories and fat.”
MyPlate divides food groups into the following five categories:
Grains: Whole grains such as whole-wheat, brown rice, and oatmeal. Different grains include wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or other cereal grains.
Vegetables: Eat a variety of colorful and/or starchy vegetables and legumes. Examples include spinach, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, kale, peppers, peas, and beans.
Fruits: Kids should eat a variety of fresh, canned, frozen, or dried fruit.
Dairy: Milk products should be fat-free or low-fat.
Protein: Focus on lean protein like chicken, fish, or turkey. Vegetarian options include nuts, seeds, peas, and beans.
Tips for Kids to Eat Healthy
- Try to load up half of their plates with fruits and vegetables.
- Stay hydrated with water throughout the day.
- Cook and eat at home over going out to eat.
- Limit treats such as sweets, snacks, and sodas.
- Focus on whole, fresh foods over processed foods, although canned fruits and veggies are still healthier than skipping them altogether.
- Drinks should include primarily water, fat-free or low-fat milk, or dairy-free milk. Juice should be limited to: “At most, 4 ounces daily for toddlers age 1-3. For children age[s] 4-6, fruit juice should be restricted to 4 to 6 ounces daily; and for children ages 7-18, juice intake should be limited to 8 ounces or 1 cup of the recommended 2 to 2 ½ cups of fruit servings per day.”
- Choose foods that have these nutrients: calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber.
- Encourage eating together at the dinner table as a family, limiting screen time, and exercising for at least 60 minutes per day to encourage healthy habits.
- Support healthy eating habits like eating at designated meal times, chewing slowly, drinking water with meals, and refraining from eating when they’re full or not hungry. These practices will help instill mindfulness and listening to internal hunger cues.
How Many Calories Do Babies and Toddlers Need?
While every child has different nutritional needs due to overall health, height, weight, age, dietary restrictions, and otherwise, health experts state babies and toddlers need roughly 1,000-1,400 calories. With that being said, their appetites may differ day to day.
Healthy Daycare Routine Lunches for Toddlers: Sample Menu
- Oatmeal (1/2 cup mixed with 1 tsp. brown sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon)
- 1/2 banana sliced
- Bean-and-cheese quesadilla (1 6″ whole-wheat tortilla with 1 tbsp. fat-free refried beans and sprinkled with 2 tbsp. shredded cheese)
- 1/4 cup chunky salsa for dipping
- 1 oz. grilled chicken
- 1/2 cup roasted sweet potatoes
- 1/2 cup steamed broccoli (toss with 1/4 tsp. olive oil and 2 tsp. Parmesan cheese)
- 1/2 cup low-fat flavored yogurt with 1 whole-grain waffle cut into strips
- 1/2 apple, sliced, with a piece of string cheese
- 1/2 banana
- 1/2 cup applesauce
How Many Calories Do Preschool- and Kindergarten-Aged Children Need?
Preschool and kindergarten-aged children need approximately 1,200 to 1,800 calories per day.
Healthy Daycare Routine Lunches for Preschool- and Kindergarten-Aged Children: Sample Menu
- 1 small whole-wheat bagel spread with 1 tbsp. nut or seed butter
- 1/2 cup fruit salad
- 1/2 turkey-and-cheese sandwich on whole-wheat bread
- Yellow pepper strips with 2 tbsp. low-fat ranch dressing
- 1/2 cup sliced strawberries
- 2 oz. fish (such as cod or tilapia)
- 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
- 4 asparagus spears roasted in olive oil
- 1/4 cup hummus and 10 baby carrots
- 1 small box raisins
- 1 clementine
- 1/2 cup dried fruit
Enroll in the Top Childcare Center in Pennsylvania
If you’re searching for a high-quality daycare near Philadelphia, turn to Ducklings Early Learning Center. Children can look forward to fun, themed enrichment activities, plentiful outdoor playtime, and socialization with their peers. Our college-trained teachers encourage children to explore the world around them with a focus on mind, body, heart, and family. Families can feel confident that students are engaged in an age-appropriate daycare curriculum in a safe, compassionate environment.
For more information on specific childcare center locations, visit our Locations page or get in touch with our office.