Healthy daycare snacks?
January 9, 2011 6:44 PM   Subscribe

Suggestions for healthy snacks and meals for daycare?

I mentioned to the woman that runs the daycare center my kids go to that I was concerned because it seemed like the kids were getting a lot more sugary snacks than I was comfortable with. The daycare director said "great, why don't you come up with a list of good meals and snacks".

So, any suggestions, other than carrots, applesauce and goldfish crackers? Snacks would be especially helpful, but breakfast/lunch suggestions would be good, too. It's a mixed-age daycare (babies up to pre-K) but I'm more concerned about the 2 - 5 agers. There's probably...30 kids? They do have a kitchen where lunch is prepared. I'm not happy about chocolate pudding more than once a month, or pop-tarts...really ever.

There's a morning snack and an afternoon snack, lunch, and breakfast for kids who get there early enough. (It's probably not relelvant, but the daycare has a number of kids whose daycare is subsidised by the state.)

Ideally, the snacks would be inexpensive and easy to obtain/prepare.

(It's a non-profit daycare and I'm on the board, so it's not unreasonable that I would be asked to think about this.)
posted by leahwrenn to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Raisins, grapes, cubed melons, popcorn (without butter or salt,) rice cakes, cheese cubes, cereal mixes (Chex plus Cheerios, Cheerios with Honey Cheerios, etc.,) real granola with bits of chocolate, sliced apples, celery with gooey stuff, sliced bananas, dried fruit. Sunflower seeds for the bigger kids.

Also, if you're sure there are no peanut allergies, ants on a log, peanut butter between two crackers of various types, peanuts, peanuts with stuff mixed in...
posted by SMPA at 6:51 PM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bugs On A Log: A piece of celery spread with peanut butter, with raisins "sitting" atop the peanut butter.

Cheese and crackers? Peanut butter toast?

Apple slices? Grapes, for those who are old enough that the choking hazard isn't a big deal? Orange wedges. Basically any fruit, cut into manageable sizes for young children to eat. Ditto for raw vegetables, actually. Little broccoli florets? Grape tomatoes?
posted by Sara C. at 6:54 PM on January 9, 2011

Oh, right, forgot about the peanut butter issue. But the other suggestions still stand.
posted by Sara C. at 6:55 PM on January 9, 2011

hummus and lightly toasted pita bread, yogurt, cheese, orange wedges
posted by gaspode at 6:55 PM on January 9, 2011

If your non-profit daycare is licensed by the state (and I hope it is), all food served must meet certain dietary guidelines, as set by the licensing authority. Pop-tarts, to my knowledge, are not part of any approved dietary guidelines. Your director should be VERY aware of this, and I'd be concerned that you even had to raise this issue. How long has this been the state of the meal program at the daycare?

I've spent 5 years on the board of my kids' non-profit daycare/preschool, and did the bulk of the grocery shopping for several years. Our program serves all vegetarian food, with an emphasis on whole and organic foods (as much as we can afford - because the budget is always tight). If you MeMail me your e-mail address, I can send you at least one calendar month worth of breakfast, hot snack (our program does not provide lunch, but does a substantial PM snack) and light snack. Most of it is very simple, though it does require some amount of prep.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 6:57 PM on January 9, 2011 [4 favorites]

Yogurt cups, applesauce cups, rice crackers with cheese and thinly sliced meat, carrot sticks with dip...
posted by ms.v. at 6:57 PM on January 9, 2011

Multigrain crackers (Kashi makes some that pass muster in our house)

Skim or part-skim Milk Mozzarella Cheese sticks

Yogurt (though you have to be picky here as it is easy to get yogurt that is basically junk food)

Mini pitas and cheese
posted by Verdant at 7:11 PM on January 9, 2011

Fresh fruit is awesome! (And kids love it.)

Grapes, blueberries, strawberries, cut up apples, cut up pears, tangerine wedges, seedless orange wedges, pineapple chunks

Fresh coconut or sugar cane are exciting treats for adventurous kids.

Some good veggies:

celery sticks, cucumber spears, cherry tomatoes, carrots

Yogurt is also a great snack. nthing pretzels, especially if they are whole grain. Kids dig oatmeal too, especially if there is fruit involved.
posted by abirae at 7:18 PM on January 9, 2011

I work with small children and a snack they all seem to love is fruit dipped in 'magic fruit foam'! Fruit is infinitely more awesome when dipped in foam, especially magical foam. To make magical foam all you need is 1 tub of cool whip and one can of frozen orange juice concentrate. Whip them together, place in kid sized bowls and serve with grapes (sliced in half to prevent choking), apple slices, melon cubes, etc on the side for a tasty, healthier-than-a-Little-Debbie snack.

I also just slice up any kind of veggie and serve with some dip, I find that if you're excited about it generally they are too, so don't be afraid to try new things like colorful bell peppers or that purple cauliflower hybrid thing!

I hope things work out well, healthy daycare snacks are totally win!
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 7:24 PM on January 9, 2011

Toasted chickpeas (for those old enough not to choke), which are basically drained canned chickpeas toasted in the oven on a cookie sheet for a few minutes, and mmmmmmmm on the hummus & pita! Hummus also makes a good dip for carrots, celery, broccoli, etc.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:26 PM on January 9, 2011

commercially sweetened yogurt is chock full of corn syrup; I let my girls have it as an occasional sweet, but it's not a healthy everyday snack.

blueberries in season are great, kids love them. "veggie booty" seems popular. cubed cheese and firm tofu. whole grain pretzels. kids love dipping stuff, so vegetables are more likely to get eaten if cut into dippable strips and served with hummus or yogurt ranch dressing. Red pepper strips and cucumber rounds are accessible and easy snacks.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:31 PM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Celery stick filled with pimiento cheese was a favorite of mine growing up.
posted by kamikazegopher at 7:56 PM on January 9, 2011

I love cheddar cheeses an afternoon snack for my girls. I really think cubed cheese is a potential choking hazard for two year olds though. We get a block of cheddar and cut it in to thin strips about the width of a pencil and 1/4 of the length.

Fruit as snacks was highly recommended by the dietician I took my kids to...not carbs except as a very occasional treat...they get enough in their meals rice, potato pasta, bread... so snacks should be fruit or veggies.

Cucumbers and halved cherry tomatoes....and if you give out grapes, they should be halved...again with the choking thing.
posted by taff at 7:58 PM on January 9, 2011

'Snacks' here involve gobs of every kind of unsalted nut and seed going; can you get away with any sort of nut/seed...?

Vegetable pikelets -- a pancake-y thing...

You can make "pizzas" in bulk on whole wheat mini pitas, use pesto as the sauce for less mess, top with a bunch of minced veg and enough grated cheese to bind it all together; cook half-way, and freeze, and those can be popped in a toaster oven when needed

Cold brown rice is a toddler/preschooler favourite here, as are grain/bean salads

Tzatziki is cheap and simple

Growing sprouts = good activity and edible

Plain yoghurt or cottage cheese topped with fruit or a dollop of jam

Muesli, oatmeal


Bean burritos


Tomato (+ ?) sandwiches

As a 'treat' I do graham crackers topped with peanut butter and a few chocolate buttons -- I'm sure some sort of alternate spread could be found

We go through a fair bit of frozen fruit. Surprise hit: frozen pomegranate seeds

(I have asked the resident three-year-old. "Bread is the most important, I think. Also, strawberries and milk.")
posted by kmennie at 8:03 PM on January 9, 2011

My near 3 year old (in addition to just about everything listed above) loves dill pickles, hard boiled eggs, tuna, cubed chicken, olives, cold cooked chickpeas and beans. Food certainly doesn't have to be sweet for a kid to eat it.

Slightly more labor intensive are sandwiches made with tortillas.

pizza-dillas quesadillas made with mozzarella dipped in pizza sauce (can be made in batches in the oven/microwave)

roll-up style - either eaten as is or sliced into pinwheels

nut butter or cream cheese with any of the following: banana, jelly, shredded carrot, raisins,
craisins, apple or pear slices.

refried beans with shredded cheese dipped in plain yogurt

Also just FYI, popcorn is a pretty serious choking hazard for kids this age.
posted by a22lamia at 8:24 PM on January 9, 2011

If you don't serve nuts on the premises, sunflower seed butter is a great and much less allergenic substitute. (And if you bake with it, the result turns a kind of awesome, freaky greenish color.) The Sunbutter brand is far superior to, say, the Trader Joe kind.

For kids as young as that, you'll probably want to avoid whole nuts, popcorn, and raw veggies like carrots as choking hazards. Our daycare even has us quarter grapes instead of halving them. I also get a little nervous about string cheese, but I'm funny that way.

More snacks:

* Cold green peas (from frozen)
* Raw bell pepper, sliced thin
* Sugar snap peas, raw
* Granola
* Dry cereals (like Cheerios)
* Taquitos
* Tortilla chips with bean dip
* Fresh fruit, seedless and cut into small pieces
* Rolled-up turkey slices
* Turkey pepperoni (cold, sliced)
posted by Andrhia at 8:51 PM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

A lot of these suggestions are great for children older than age 6, but are known choking hazards for younger children. Anything with about the width of a grape or a hot dog slice can easily block the windpipe; so can hard foods (nuts, carrot chunks) and foods with a tendency to get stuck (popcorn, globs of peanut butter, dried fruit).

See also
posted by hat at 8:54 PM on January 9, 2011

I would be careful with the apples, carrots, nuts and popcorn - all are MAJOR choking hazards.

One thing the kiddo has been REALLY loving is drained greek yogurt. She would eat it by the spoonful. It's tasty on crackers, as a dip, or as a base for dip.

Beans and rice, with or without sauce, are a great favourite for the kiddo too.
posted by geek anachronism at 9:07 PM on January 9, 2011

Lots of good suggestions for food already, esp the choking hazard warnings. My daycare snack pet peeve is offering juice instead water. Juice = sugary drink! Just because its naturally occurring sugar doesn't make it any less sugary :) So, offer water instead of juice. If they are already juice addicts, then water it down, and offer water instead of juice at least for one snack time a day.
posted by Joh at 10:27 PM on January 9, 2011

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