Need new inspiration for making lunch for your kids? Check out these lunch ideas for childcare to get your creativity flowing.

CACFP Lunch Ideas for Childcare

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Need new inspiration for making lunch for your kids? Check out these lunch ideas for childcare to get your creativity flowing. They will meet the requirements for the food program for daycare providers and they will please picky eaters too. If you’re wondering about the child and adult care food program for daycare providers, check this out.

childcare child eating healthy food at the table and a plate with a few bites leftover and a spoon

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And if you want to learn more about how to navigate the new requirements for CACFP menus, check this out. And don’t forget to check out this food buying guide for the food program. All of these can be a great help to you!

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 sample menus

For the food program, each lunch menu must include:

And remember to check this out for how to navigate CN labels on processed foods.

Daycare menu ideas

Here are the serving sizes required for lunch ideas for your childcare menu

The New CACFP Meal Requirements for Childcare Made Simple, snack ideas, lunch ideas, breakfast ideas

Once you get used to making menus that include all of these, it becomes second nature, and planning daycare menus is much easier.

Toddler lunch ideas for daycare with chicken

Chicken is a versatile meat that is liked by most toddlers and preschoolers. I like to buy boneless skinless chicken breasts in bulk and cook a bunch up ahead of time. I can shred or chop all the meat up and put it in ziplock bags in 12-ounce portions, that’s 8 servings of 1 1/2 ounces so I can pop one bag out and dump it in a rice or pasta dish. This is a super easy trick for making CACFP menus.

Another easy way that will save more money on my daycare meals is to roast a whole chicken (it’s really easy to do in the crockpot too) and let it cool and pull all the meat off the bones. Then you can package it up in the same 12-ounce portions to freeze. I like dark meat better anyway, it’s more flavorful. Then I can reuse the bones to make chicken stock for adding even more nutrition to the daycare meals. I love getting more for my money.

  • Milk, chicken and brown rice, broccoli and apples
  • Milk, baked drumsticks, whole wheat rolls, corn, and cabbage
  • (click here for a delicious cabbage recipe, so yummy. My kids and I love it.)
  • Milk, homemade chicken strips and cauliflower stir fry, brown rice, pears
  • Homemade chicken strips are super easy to make. Just take boneless skinless chicken breast, cut it into strips, dredge it in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, and either bake it on a baking sheet in the oven or saute it quickly in a skillet. So good and so easy for the daycare kid’s lunch. And who doesn’t love chicken strips?
CACFP Lunch Ideas for Childcare
chicken and rice on a plate with peas and carrots showing

Beef lunch menu ideas

  • Ground beef is economical meat for the childcare menu. I like to thaw 5 pounds of ground meat and cook it in a big skillet until it’s browned. Then I can portion it up into 5 freezer containers and have it ready for the CACFP lunches.
  • Milk, ground beef and whole grain pasta with peas and oranges
  • (click here to see how to make your own hamburger helper type recipes from scratch)
  • Milk, beef and broccoli stir-fry, brown rice and carrot sticks
  • Milk, meatballs, whole wheat pasta with kale, and grapes
  • Milk, beef and vegetable soup, whole wheat Ritz crackers and bananas
  • Milk, steak quesadillas, and oranges

Pork menu lunch ideas

Pork roast is the most economical meat I can think of for my daycare menus. I love the taste of pork too. It’s a great cook ahead and use out of the freezer CACFP meat as well.

Another great pork meat I like to portion out for the freezer is ham. I can buy a real spiral sliced ham and be ready to serve preschool and toddler lunches. I cut half of it into small slices and portion it into 12-ounce packages and dice the other half and do the same.

Once I am making lunch ideas for childcare, I can pull out a package of slices and serve it alongside mashed potatoes or make sandwiches. I can also toss the diced ham into pasta, on top of pizza, dump it in an egg casserole, and the ideas go on and on. I love saving time and money by bulking up on my cacfp meat.

  • Milk, pulled pork sandwiches on whole wheat buns, green beans and raisins
  • (Click here to see how to make pulled pork and a ton of other things out of pork roast leftovers. Click here to see how to make world famous green beans)
  • Milk, pork chops, fried okra, mixed vegetables and whole wheat rolls
  • Milk, ham, corn, broccoli and whole wheat bread
  • Milk, homemade pizza on whole wheat crust, cheese and pepperoni, bell peppers, and apples
  • Milk, pepperoni pizza cups, cucumbers, and grapes

(click here to see how to make your own pizza)

These ham and cheese sliders are so easy and everyone loves them.

pulled pork sandwich on bread on a plate.

Childcare lunch menu ideas

There are tons more great cacfp menus you can make. Think outside the box. Three of my all-time most popular meals at Little Sprouts are taco soup, cheese quesadillas, and cottage cheese with crackers. Nothing too fancy, kids like simple lunches but they are well-loved.

  • Milk, homemade fish sticks, corn, baked potatoes, and whole wheat bread (click here for a great fish stick recipe!)
  • (click here to see how to make your own homemade whole wheat bread, hamburger buns, and rolls)
  • Milk, spaghetti made with ground beef, sauce, and whole wheat pasta, tomatoes, and plums
  • Milk, cottage cheese, Ritz crackers, corn, and broccoli
  • Milk, beans, cornbread, carrot sticks, and apples
  • Milk, whole wheat club crackers, cheese slices, peaches, and peas
  • Milk, peanut butter, and jelly sandwiches on whole wheat bread, cottage cheese, asparagus, and squash.
  • Milk, taco soup, tortilla chips, and apples
  • (click here for a taco soup recipe kids love)
  • Milk, boiled eggs, whole wheat goldfish crackers, brussels sprouts, and corn

Breakfast for lunch menu ideas

Breakfast for cacfp lunches is a great way to add in all your components in a way that kids love.

  • Milk, egg in a nest (cut a hole in your whole wheat bread with a biscuit cutter and drop your egg in the hole to cook it) carrot sticks, and strawberries
  • Milk, whole grain waffles, scrambled eggs, watermelon, and cherry tomatoes
  • (click here for a great waffle recipe)
  • Milk, whole wheat biscuits, sausage patties, corn, and applesauce
  • Milk, whole wheat English muffins, fried eggs, cucumbers, and cabbage
  • Milk, whole wheat muffins, boiled eggs, blueberries, and broccoli
  • Milk, whole wheat pancakes, bananas, scrambled eggs, and hash browns

Check out these great tools for childcare providers too!

Hopefully, some of these lunch ideas will help you make sense of the new CACFP requirements starting in October 2017.

If you have some great preschool or toddler lunch ideas for daycare, leave them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.

Food Program for Daycare Provider Helps

For more tips for daycare providers, click here.

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  1. the recipes are amazing i will be trying them on september when we get ready to go back to work. i think the children will enjoy.

  2. Hello Christina,

    I am a CACFP sponsor of Child Care Homes in Kansas. I would love to share you site with my providers on my Facebook and website with your permission.

    Thank you so much for all the love and dedication you put into your chosen career.

    Mindy David-Graybeal

  3. A HANDS IN THE AIR THANK YOU FOR COMPOSING THIS! I can’t begin to tell you how helpful this is going to be for me!!!!! YOU ROCK SISTER!