cold pasta salad with veggies on a board

Cold Meals for Daycare Lunches in Summer-Over 50 Ideas

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Who wants to turn on the hot oven or stand over a hot pan in the summer to make great meals for daycare lunches? Here are some cold meals for daycare lunches to save your sanity this summer. If you’re wondering about the child and adult care food program for daycare providers, check this out.

Sandwich and fruit and vegetables in a cold daycare lunch for summer

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.

I know in the summer time, there is nothing worse than facing getting even hotter by cooking for the kids. So I wanted to come up with some ideas to make summer lunches easier for all of us. Kids don’t respond super well to salads, and you can’t serve pbj sandwiches every day, so what’s a girl to do?

I don’t know about you, but after we play outside in the heat and it’s hard to keep the house cool inside, the last thing I want to do is add heat. Planning a summer menu for kids can be difficult. Check these daycare menu planning packs for help in working out a new menu for summer.

I know that my Ninja Foodi Air Fryer Oven has been a game-changer for not making as much heat in the kitchen as the oven.

You can also make less heat with the crockpot. So check out those articles for ideas about those appliances. But if you don’t have those, or want something different, check this out.

Cold meals for lunch

Giving kids a cold lunch with something to dip is always a winner. Such as hummus, peanut butter, or guacamole. You can give them celery, carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, cheese sticks, pretzels, squash sticks, or whatever you can think of. You can also make homemade ranch dip with this recipe that is a-mazing!

It makes great cold meals for daycare. And they love anything they can eat with their hands. You could also use whole-grain tortilla chips to meet your whole grain requirement, or regular tortilla chips if you’re not needing that.

Don’t forget the good ole boiled egg. You can boil up a dozen and put them in the fridge for lunch time so you don’t have to cook with the kids there.

And leftover meat can be cut up and served on salads, made into chicken salad, tossed in a pasta salad, or served with a slice of bread for a cold lunch that you don’t have to cook.

Veggies and dip just got a lot more fun with these pretty rainbow kabobs (great for learning colors, too)! Your kids will even love to help make them.

Healthy Greek yogurt fruit salad where fresh summer fruits are served with vanilla-flavored Greek yogurt. Add some crackers and veggies and you have a light meal. Or you could even do toasted oatmeal to top it with.

Cold sandwiches for summer

This healthy vegan smashed chickpea salad wrap is loaded with fiber, protein, veggies, and flavor. Sandwiches are the go-to cold meals for daycare, but you might get tired of the same ole thing. So check out these ideas for inspiration.

Get these instant pot chicken caesar salad wraps on the table in 25 minutes for an easy lunch.

Pita Pockets with Roasted Veggies and Hummus Recipe: Healthy and delicious lunch meal you will look forward to. These vegan rainbow pita pockets are very easy and quick to make and can be eaten warm or cold.

This easy buffalo chickpea sandwich is the perfect lunch for kids! Made in under 10 minutes.

PBJ! A kid favorite! If you have kids with peanut allergies, you can substitute sunbutter (made with sunflower seeds) for the peanut butter. Who doesn’t love a yummy PBJ? I could go for one right now. Of course, for the food program, you’ll have to add a piece of cheese or something to up the protein.

And here’s another fun way to do peanut butter. Kids love these peanut butter apple treats! Not only are they delicious, but they’re cute too!

Vegetable wraps made with minimal ingredients and effort are a perfect lunch.

Of course, you can do ham, turkey, different cheeses, and egg salad too if your kids like that. And you can also switch up the breads. Buns, brioche, bagels, English muffins, and more can make a great sandwich.

Another great sandwich that is a wrap is a tortilla, spread with peanut butter and wrapped around a banana. Yummy.

Ham and cheese pinwheels are a crowd favorite. They’re easy to make with the kids and so much fun to eat.

This easy-to-make falafel pita sandwich makes a great filling lunch! It is quick to assemble and can be eaten hot or cold.

Muffuletta roll-ups feature zesty olive salad, flavorful meat, and plenty of cheese. It’s something different the kids might love.

These super easy, 5-ingredient Avocado and Smashed Chickpea Wraps are a breeze to make. Kids love them.

These wraps come together in just moments and are completely adaptable – including suggestions for allergy-friendly options instead of peanut butter! They’re full of nutrient-rich fruits, whole grains and lots of protein. A kid favorite that’ll keep ’em powered up for their busy little days!

You can get creative with the look of your sammys too. These hippo sandwiches are so cute, your kiddos will love ’em! Choose basic peanut butter and jelly, or venture into our other creative filling ideas (even lots of nut-free options).

This quick, easy and healthy Rainbow Vegetable Tortilla Wrap is packed full of colorful veggies and hummus that kiddoes, big and small, will love

Pack all the ingredients bento-box-style – a much healthier take on Lunchables! (Psssst these veggie faces are a great way to get kids to eat more vegetables!)

Use a few easy ingredients to make Veggie Tortilla Pinwheel Roll-Ups for a quick, simple lunch.

Kids will love these star-shaped mini ham sandwiches! One of our favorite kid’s recipes because you only need a few simple ingredients and you have a delightful meal ready in minutes!

Sandwich lollipops put a special spin on the “usual” daycare lunch! This would be so cute for Dr. Seuss Day.

I think a great idea is a charcuterie board for kids. Just pile on some ham cubes, cheese cubes, grapes, pickles, different kinds of crackers, berries, cucumbers, carrot sticks, or whatever you have on hand and set it out to serve them.

They can request what they want and you can fill their plates with tongs. Or even let them do it if that’s your thing. I wish I could prep enough stuff for the whole week this way. But they eat so much, it doesn’t seem humanly possible!

Another GREAT idea is to serve cottage cheese with crackers and they can scoop it up with the crackers. My kids absolutely love this!

Easy, no-cook chickpea salad can be served with crackers.

You could also do sausages like summer sausage with crackers for a great, kid-friendly, cold meals for daycare idea.

Cold salads for summer

Salads are a good idea for cold meals for daycare this summer.

A cold make-ahead tuna salad would be a great idea for a summer meal. You could serve it in lettuce cups or sandwich bread. You could make the same recipe with all boiled eggs, canned chicken, leftover cubed chicken, or anything else you can think of.

This avocado chopped salad would make a great salad for lunch too. I made this for the blog and the kids wouldn’t stop begging for it. So I let them eat it. It has cheese and vegetables, so you could serve it with another veggie or fruit and some crackers. Boom, lunch is done!

Avocados are delicious and when you add the zing of lime to this zesty avocado chopped salad, it will make your taste buds sing! 

A fun pasta salad made with salad macaroni pasta and frozen peas. This salad is easy to make and perfect made ahead of time.

Perfect for little kids, this chicken pasta salad is great cold! It’s packed with veggies and quick and easy to put together. Or try Creamy tuna pasta salad.

This gluten-free vegan pasta salad is loaded with Mediterranean flavors and lots of colorful veggies! Complete with dairy-free yogurt tahini dressings, it’s the perfect cold lunch.

Don’t forget about pasta salad with just Italian dressing, shredded cheese, mayo, and olives. It’s a hit.

This creamy vegan pasta salad is packed full of veggies, healthy and kid-friendly! Easy to make and ready in 30 mins.

Crispy veggies and creamy caesar dressing make this pasta salad stand out from the crowd.

Hawaiian Pasta Salad is so quick, easy, and inexpensive to make using pantry staples. Lots of flavors kids will love.

Delicious, quick, and easy Vegan Pasta Salad that takes less than 20 minutes to make start to finish. It’s made with simple ingredients that are healthy, colorful, and tasty.

This easy summer green salad is filled with good-for-you shredded chicken, berries, and veggies! And if a child doesn’t like lettuce, make this salad without the lettuce and let them have the toppings for lunch! Add some crackers and you’ve got a meal!

Freezer meals for summer

Another great heat-saving idea is to make a ton of stuff and put it in the freezer for a quick meal with less cooking. We make ahead these yummy sausage balls and meatballs. Then you just pull them out, heat them up a bit, and it’s ready to go.

Sausage balls without Bisquick are easy to make in bulk and even picky kids will gobble them up! It's like having your biscuit and your sausage all in one!

We also love making sausage empanadas and ham and cheese hot pockets. They make a quick meal with some carrot sticks and watermelon, or whatever you have.

These healthy banana pikelets are super easy to make with just four ingredients. They freeze well and make excellent kid-friendly lunches. You could make a ton of them, and pop them out of the freezer, serve with some eggs, or smear with peanut butter and top with fruit. Just add a veggie, and you have lunch!

These savory cheesy muffins freeze well and are a quick and easy lunch option that kids will love. Plus you get some added veggies in them.

Corn dog mini muffins are always a win with kids. The reason this one is a win with the adults is that they can be made ahead in large batches and frozen to use as needed. And you don’t have to have a cn label because you know what ingredients you used!

Make ahead meals for daycare lunches

You can even make meals ahead of time in the evenings and have them ready to serve cold to the kids at lunch. I like to make dinner for the family and serve it leftover the next day. These meals don’t even need to be reheated.

This oven-baked egg gets ready in under 30 minutes. Slide these breakfast squares in bread slices with favorite topping and a great sheet pan egg breakfast sandwich is ready to eat.

Kids love these veggie fritters cold! They are perfect for dipping and are great for toddlers.

These delicious avocado chicken wraps are a healthy and filling meal that’s perfect for a cold lunch!

This Zucchini Slice makes a delicious lunch cold! It’s the perfect option for daycare lunches full of eggs, cheese, and veggies.

We love these bite sized frittata warm or cold! They’re perfect for daycare lunch

This Black bean pasta recipe is simple, flavorful, and cooks up in just minutes so it won’t heat the house up too much. And kids love anything with noodles!

And these Pepperoni Cream Cheese Roll Ups are a great pizza flavored treat for kids too!

And keep these 5 minute daycare lunches on hand for when you’re in a pinch! And for the pickiest eaters, Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters.

Don’t forget, you can even have the kids make their food. Check out these recipes kids can make for some inspiration. A lot of them are cold meals too.

I hope this post has inspired you to find ways to more easily survive this summer with cold meals for daycare and stay as cool as you can. It’s already so hot, I’m melting, so I’m with you on staying cool!

And for more inspiration for daycare meals that will save you money too, check out these dirt cheap meals for daycare.

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