Sometimes thinking of new fruits and vegetables ideas for the daycare menu can get in a rut. Here is a list of a ton of ideas to choose from.

CACFP Meal Pattern-Fruits and Vegetables

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Sometimes thinking of new fruits and vegetables ideas for the daycare menu can get in a rut. Here is a list of a ton of ideas to choose from. If you’re wondering about the child and adult care food program for daycare providers, check this out.

Fruits and vegetables and a child eating a healthy lunch

Check out this daycare food menu meal planning guide for more ideas on how to plan out your menus well. These resources are going to be a great help to you! And if you want to buy menus already planned out, check out Daycare Time Solutions for monthly menu plans, click on shop all and menu plans for menus that meet food program requirements. Or if you want a sheet with a sample week and shopping list to get you started, check out this planning pack.

CACFP Meal Pattern

The serving sizes for breakfast are:

  • Fruit and/or vegetable or juice Ages 1-2 1/4 cup, Ages 3-5 1/2 cup, Ages 6-12 1/2 cup

Serving sizes for lunch are:

  • Fruit and/or vegetable or two vegetables must TOTAL Ages 1-2 1/4 cup, Ages 3-5 1/2 cup, and Ages 6-12 3/4 cup

Serving sizes for snack are:

  • Fruit and/or vegetable or juice Ages 1-2 1/2 cup, Ages 3-5 1/2 cup, Ages 6-12 3/4 cup
  1. Fruit or vegetable juice must be full-strength, 100% juice. All fruit juices must be pasteurized. Juice and milk may not be served at snack as the two components, only one or the other.
  2. Two forms of the same fruit or vegetable served at the same meal cannot count toward the requirement of two or more different fruits and/or vegetables. For example, if apple juice and applesauce are served, an additional and different fruit and/or vegetable must be served. This requirement is intended to provide the variety of fruits and vegetables needed for healthful growth.
  3. Cooked, dry beans or peas may be counted either as a vegetable or as a meat alternate but not as both in the same meal.
  4. Cooked, dry beans or peas may be counted either as a vegetable or as a meat alternate but not as both in the same meal.
fruits and vegetables in a pile

For more food program menu inspiration, check out CACFP Meal Pattern articles about meeting the whole grain requirement and meats and meat alternates. Also, don’t forget to read about how to plan a daycare menu as well as breakfast, lunch, and snack ideas highlighted above.

Fruit ideas

According to CACFP: Home-Canned Foods. Foods that are canned in the home or by institutions that are not under federal inspection. For safety reasons, home-canned foods are not allowed in meals reimbursed under the CACFP. Clostridium botulinum is dangerous and can produce a deadly toxin in canned food. This poison can be present even when there is no evidence of spoilage.

Obviously, we can still serve canned fruits and vegetables from the store. That really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense because food is recalled all the time, but hey, that’s the rule, so we’ll do it.

  • Pineapple
  • Berries
  • Peaches
  • Fruit Cocktail
  • Pears
  • Mandarin Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • Applesauce
  • Mango
  • Mixed Tropical Fruit
  • Cherries
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Prunes
  • Apples
  • Plums
  • Rhubarb
  • 100% Juice (limited)
kids eating healthy vegetable soup

Frozen, dehydrated, and fresh fruits and vegetables often retain more nutrients than canned, so I like to stick to mostly these options. Canned fruits and vegetables do store for a long time and are easy to store without using power, so there are benefits to all kinds of fruit and vegetable options.

  • Berries
  • Mixed Fruit
  • Strawberries and Bananas
  • Fruit Salad Blend
  • Mangos
  • Pineapple
  • Peaches
  • Papaya
  • 100% juice (limited)

Snack chips such as banana, fruit, vegetable, and potato chips may not be credited as a fruit or vegetable. However, 100% dried fruits or vegetables are creditable based on the volume served.

Dried fruits are a great option because they keep for a long time, but don’t lose as many nutrients as canned fruits in the process of preserving them. They taste great, like little pieces of candy, and most kids love things like raisins and dried cherries. (We call them big raisins).

  • Raisins
  • Apricots
  • Prunes
  • Cranberries
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Currants
  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Berries
  • Papaya
  • Peach
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Pear
  • Persimmons
  • Pineapple

Fresh fruit to serve to kids

(this list is not all of the options, but a good variety to spark your thinking)

Kids love fresh fruit and serving fresh fruits and vegetables is always a good option. It means less cooking for you and less clean up. Fresh fruits and vegetables also produce more digestive enzymes when people eat them so they help you digest the rest of your food better. I always think fresh is best.

  • Berries
  • Cranberry Sauce or Relish
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Watermelon
  • Mangoes
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Pears
  • Apricots
  • Cuties
  • Plums
  • Grapefruit
  • Rambutan
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honeydew Melon
  • Pomegranates
  • Star Fruit
  • Dragon Fruit
  • Nectarines
  • Fruit Salad
  • 100% Juice (limited)
baby holding an avocado

Vegetables list

Canned vegetables come in a huge variety, they are versatile, and are usually already somewhat seasoned. They are easy to store and store for a long time. Canned vegetables are probably the most convenient to have on hand.

  • Beans
  • Olives
  • Pickles
  • Pizza Sauce
  • Salsa
  • Soups, Canned, Condensed, or Ready-To-Serve (minestrone, tomato, tomato with other basic components such as rice and vegetable, and vegetable with basic components such as meat and poultry)
  • 1 cup of reconstituted or ready-to-serve soup will yield ¼ cup vegetable
  • Spaghetti Sauce (tomato sauce)
  • Vegetable Juice Blends
  • Green beans
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Asparagus
  • Rotel
  • Tomatoes
  • Refried Beans
  • Artichoke Hearts
  • Mixed Vegetables
  • Beets
  • Pumpkin
  • Yams
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Mixed greens
  • Spinach
  • Hominy
child dumping blueberries into blueberry drink

Many of the same vegetables that come canned are also available frozen. There are some vegetables that aren’t very good canned that freeze well such as broccoli, so you may be able to find more variety in the frozen section.

  • Potatoes, fries, tater tots, hash browns, etc.
  • Frozen Soups (minestrone, tomato, tomato with other basic components such as rice and vegetable, and vegetable with basic components such as meat and poultry) 1 cup of reconstituted or ready-to-serve soup will yield ¼ cup vegetable
  • Mixed vegetables
  • Broccoli
  • Corn
  • Green Beans
  • Peas
  • Peppers
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Spinach
  • Greens
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Beans
  • Okra
  • Squash
  • Mushrooms

Dried vegetables have all the convenience for storage of canned, but retain a bit more nutrition than canned vegetables. Of course, you would probably have to reconstitute them in some way for serving, unlike dehydrated fruits which are more likely ready to eat.

  • Potatoes
  • Soup Mixes, must have at least 1 /8 cup vegetable per serving. Determine the volume by rehydrating the soup according to manufacturer’s instructions. Heat, and then separate the vegetables from noodles, rice, etc. and measure volume. Measurements must be recorded for each brand and type of soup and maintained on file.
  • Peppers
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Greens (We make our own green powder in summer from the garden and then sprinkle it in food throughout the winter. It looks like herbs, so the kids don’t notice it and it doesn’t change the taste but adds some nutrients to the meals)
  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Mixed vegetables
picnic basket full of cut up fruits and vegetables

I don’t see people serving a whole lot of fresh vegetables raw in daycare homes, but sometimes the fresh foods available are far more economical than processed foods. Especially when you buy things that are in season you can usually save a bundle. You can serve them raw or cook them up into something wonderful for your meal pattern.

  • Coleslaw
  • Bean Sprouts, Cooked
  • Beans
  • Potatoes
  • Mustard Greens
  • Pizza Sauce
  • Potatoes and Potato Skins
  • Salsa
  • Soups (minestrone, tomato, tomato with other basic components such as rice and vegetable, and vegetable with basic components such as meat and poultry)
  • Spaghetti Sauce (tomato sauce)
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Radishes
  • Tomatoes
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Greens
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Okra
  • Parsnips
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter Squash
  • Summer Squash
  • Turnips
  • Peas
  • Peppers
  • Pumpkin
  • Beets
  • Vegetable Juice
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Artichokes
  • Celery

Sometimes we get in a rut with what we serve on our nutrition programs, but looking over a list of possibilities can spark more creativity and get us out of the routine. If you’re like me and you’ve been serving food on the food program for over 20 years, you might get tired of making, serving, and eating the same meal patterns over and over again. Maybe this can inspire you and help you out. And keep these 5 minute daycare lunches on hand for when you’re in a pinch!

For more tips to make running your home daycare easier, click here.

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