Daycare Menus Ideas for Breakfast, Lunch and Snacks

Coming up with daycare menu ideas that are nutritious and tasty while accommodating food allergies is a lot of work. But a daycare menu can make managing a daycare business much easier for providers. 

With more than 5 million children suffering from food allergies in the United States, now it's even more critical to have a menu plan in place. All this can be overwhelming, especially when you're busy trying to create a great learning environment for children. 

If this sounds familiar, it's time to give yourself some breathing space. Preparing a suitable daycare food menu is not as complicated as it seems. It will allow you to step away to focus on other important aspects of your business like marketing and lead management. 

Here is a full list of daycare menu ideas for breakfast, lunch and snacks to help you get started with meal planning. You'll find a variety of breakfast, lunch and snack suggestions that can be added to your current menu. If you're starting from scratch, check out our sample five-week meal plan that you can test and customize. 

And, if you’re looking for design help on building your daycare menus, we have you covered with our free editable templates. 

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Daycare Menu Ideas 

Chalkboard Menu on WallHere are some wonderful recipes that can be served for children from ages 1 to 5 years old. These recipes are suitable for serving large or small groups of children and should be easy to adjust. 

Are you are applying for meal reimbursement through the CACFP? You will find that these meals also follow their nutrition standards. You can find the standards on the USDA website. 


Daycare Breakfast Ideas

A bowl of cereal for breakfastSome daycare breakfast ideas in this section are more time-consuming. Keep that in mind and try to match meals that need more prep time with ones that need less cooking. 

For example, if you choose a breakfast item that needs a lot of prep, then choose a lunch item that's easier to make. This will cut down on the amount of time needed to prepare the menu. 

A breakfast meal must include these three items: 

  • Grains (can substitute with meat or plant protein three days a week) 
  • Fruit or vegetables 
  • Milk 

Below are some daycare menu ideas for breakfast that you can mix and match when you start making your plan. Remember to include a glass of milk with the meal. See the detailed section on Milk Alternatives after these breakfast ideas. 

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1) Porridge Oats With Blueberries and Milk 

Porridge Oats With Blueberries and Milk: Easy to cook in one batch and it makes a warming breakfast. Top with blueberries or serve fruit on the side. 

2) Banana Bread With Apple Slices and Dairy/Plant-Based Milk 

A sweet treat for breakfast that's also nutritious. Get the recipe here. 

3) Brown/White Toast With Milk and a Banana 

Simple to prepare; toasting the bread helps to reduce both fat and gluten content. 

4) Corn Flakes With Milk and Berry Mix 

Cornflakes are quick to serve for breakfast. Throw in a mix of strawberries and blueberries with your choice of milk for a complete breakfast. 

5) Cream of Wheat Porridge With Peaches 

Cream of Wheat porridge is made from wheat and should be avoided for children that have a gluten intolerance. 

6) Sweet Muffins With a Glass of Milk and Sliced Oranges 

Here is an easy recipe for apple muffins that you can make in advance. 

7) Breakfast Bagels With Grapes

Serve the bagels sliced and toasted with some butter or cream cheese. 

8) Savory Muffins With Apricots 

Try making zucchini or corn muffins. Both are packed with vegetables for some extra nutrients. 

9) Granola With Yogurt and Mixed Berries 

A great mix of fiber and protein, granola is very nutrient-dense and a tasty option to serve alongside fruit and yogurt. 

10) French Toast With Strawberries 

This eggy bread is tasty and simple to make. Just whisk some eggs, soak the bread and fry on both sides. Serve with butter, syrup or condensed milk and fruits. 

11) Fluffy Pancakes Topped With Bananas or Blueberries 

When it comes to favorite daycare menu ideas, pancakes are a hit. They're simple to make and delicious. 

12) Warmed Biscuits With Honeydew Melon 

These are savory scones made from buttermilk. Serve them warm with some butter. 

13) Rice Cakes With Nut Butter, Milk and Sliced Apples 

A great gluten-free option. Serve the rice with some nut butter and fruit. 

14) Waffles Topped With Mixed Berries 

Ready-made waffles are quick to prepare in a toaster. Just add some fruits a serve with a glass of milk. 

15) English Muffins With Scrambled Eggs and Nectarines 

For a vegan alternative, swap the scrambled eggs with some baked beans. 

16) With Raspberries and Milk 

Warm the croissants in the oven to crispen up the outsides. Serve with some antioxidant-boosting berries like blueberries and raspberries. 

17) Wheaties Cereal With Milk and Banana Slices 

Children can be picky eaters, so having a few different types of cereals can help mix things up throughout the week. 

18) Cheesy Muffins With Cherry Tomatoes 

Give the children a boost of vitamin C with some cherry tomatoes. No chopping is needed and you can prepare the muffins in advance. Warm them up in the morning to serve. 

19) Cinnamon Rolls With Milk and Fresh Apple Juice 

If time permits, baking fresh rolls will give you more control over the sugar content, making them a tasty and healthy breakfast treat. Try this easy recipe from Tasty and skip the icing to make them extra healthy. 

20) Cheese Toasties With Milk and Fresh Cranberry Juice 

Feel free to swap for a different type of juice, but avoid orange juice. This can cause stomach upsets when mixed with milk as the acidity will make the milk coagulate. 

21) Scrambled Eggs, Brown/White Toast With Chopped Pears 

Scrambled eggs make a great breakfast for kids if you're looking for protein-rich daycare menu ideas. Swap the toast for some rice crackers as a gluten-free alternative. Or try using gluten-free bread if that's available in the grocery store.

For serving size, check out this guide from the USDA. It will give you an idea of how much of each food should be served to young children (between 1 to 5 years of age). 

Milk Alternatives 

Glass bottles of milk

Whether it's lactose-free or plant-based milk, here are some options that will suit most dietary needs. 

22) Dairy Milk 

A great source of protein, dairy milk also contains plenty of vitamins and minerals. Its high calcium content is great for maintaining healthy bones in growing children. 

23) Soy Milk 

An excellent high-protein plant-based alternative. Soy milk contains anti-inflammatory properties and is high in potassium. 

24) Almond Milk 

Another plant-based milk, almond milk is especially high in vitamin E and important for healthy skin. 

25) Oat Milk 

Oat milk is a good alternative to almond and soy milk. It's mild tasting and it contains plenty of calcium for strong bones and teeth. 

26) Coconut Milk 

A good alternative for children that are lactose intolerant or have allergies to soy and nuts. 

27) Hemp Milk 

Hemp milk is a good source of vitamins and minerals like phosphorus and zinc. These nutrients are essential for releasing energy in food and improving the body's immune system. 


Daycare Lunch Menu Ideas 

Daycare kids at lunch

Lunch is one of the most important meals of the day and for some children, it may be their main meal. It's important to make sure that the daycare lunch menu ideas contain a good mixture of different foods to ensure a well-balanced diet.    

At lunchtime, there are some food items you should avoid, like deep-fried foods, candy, salty chips and soft drinks that are high in sugar. 

Use aromatic spices like basil, oregano, cinnamon and cumin in small amounts. Stay clear of spicy aromatics like cayenne pepper and black pepper as they can irritate little stomachs. 

A balanced lunch menu should have all of these items: 

  • Meat or plant-based protein 
  • Two varieties of vegetables or a mix of fruit and vegetable 
  • One grain-based food 
  • Dairy or plant-based milk 

Choose from this selection of healthy balanced daycare menu ideas (include milk with each meal).

28) Spiced Chicken Drumsticks With Mashed Potato, Carrots and Peas 

Chicken drumsticks make great finger food, great for batch cooking and one of the easiest daycare lunch menu ideas. 

29) Ground Chicken Fritters, Cucumber Tomato Salad and a Bread Roll 

Fritters are easy to make and fun for children to eat. They also make a very cost-effective lunch option. 

30) Turkey Meatballs With Tomato Sauce and Spaghetti 

Ground turkey meat is low in fat and high in protein, making it a fantastic choice for a healthy lunch. 

31) Stir-Fried Chicken Strips With Broccoli, Cauliflower and Rice 

A stir fry is a quick one-pan dish. Just prep the vegetables in advance then cook them together with the chicken strips. Serve with some boiled rice. 

32) Beef Burger With Lettuce and Sliced Tomatoes 

Ground beef is versatile, packed with protein and burgers are an all-time favorite. 

33) Meatball Sub With a Tangy Marinara Sauce and a Side Salad 

Meatball marinara is another one-pot wonder. After frying the meatballs, add them to the marinara sauce to let the flavors soak in. Slice the sub rolls and serve with some mixed lettuce. 

34) Ham and Cheese Sandwich With Lettuce and Cherry Tomatoes 

Sandwiches are great when time is limited. They're also perfect for slipping in some greens like lettuce for children that don't like salad. 

35) Turkey Sandwich With Stuffing and Roasted Vegetables 

Use some seasonal flavors in this protein-filled sandwich. Add some mayonnaise to keep the sandwich moist and the layers together. 

36) Swedish Meatballs, Cranberry Sauce, Carrots, Broccoli and Mashed Potato 

A Swedish classic made world-famous by IKEA. If preferred, you can serve this with some crusty bread instead of mashed potato. 

37) Beef Stroganoff Served Over Egg Noodles With Braised Red Cabbage 

A popular dish made of stir-fried beef strips in a creamy gravy with mushrooms. This is a one-pot dish that you can keep warm on the stovetop until serving time. 

38) Fish Sticks With Sweet Potato Fries and Coleslaw 

Need some daycare menu ideas that are both high in protein and omega-3? Fish sticks are a great choice to help lower blood fats and reduce the inflammation of blood vessels. 

39) Grilled Cheese Toast With Tomato Soup and Cucumber Sticks 

While cheese is high in protein, it can also be unhealthy depending on the type of cheese. Good healthy options include feta, Swiss, cheddar and cottage cheese. 

40) Bean Burger Patty With Chunky Oven Fries and Coleslaw 

Make the coleslaw vegan by swapping the mayonnaise with an oil dressing. For a fruity dressing, mix together olive oil, orange juice and some cumin.   

41) Chickpea Spinach Curry With Rice and Buttered Broccoli 

An easy and fast curry that's full of hidden fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, onions and garlic. 

42) Tofu Stir Fry With Green Beans, Mushrooms and Egg-Fried Rice 

Make the rice vegan and switch the egg with a mix of onions and green onions, which are aromatic and boost the immune system. 

Daycare Snack Menu Ideas 

Bowl of chips for snack

Following the CACFP guidelines for snacks, daycare snack menu ideas should include two items from these categories: 

  • Milk 
  • Meat or meat alternative 
  • Vegetables 
  • Fruit 
  • Grains 

Download a PDF of portion sizes per child according to their age group from the USDA website. There are many combinations of daycare menu ideas, but here are some to get you started.

43) Carrot Sticks and Hummus 

Carrots make a sweet and crunchy snack. They’re especially high in vitamin A, which is important for eyesight and cell division in the body. 

44) Rice Crackers With Peanut Butter 

Peanut butter is high in both protein and healthy nutrients like iron, magnesium and vitamin B6. 

45) Cheddar Cheese on Whole Wheat Crackers 

Whole wheat crackers are high in fiber, which makes them a great snack for regulating blood sugar. 

46) Plain Yogurt With Berries 

Plain yogurt is high in protein and low in sugar. It also contains live cultures, which can help improve the gut microbiome. 

47) Cheese Sticks With Guacamole Dip 

Cheese sticks are great if you want to offer a warm snack. Serve them with guacamole, which is full of healthy fats. 

48) White Bean Dip With Cucumber Sticks 

White bean dip is a great alternative to hummus that's high in protein and suitable for vegans too. 

49) Boiled Eggs With Cherry Tomatoes 

Simple and quick to make. A fun variation is pickling the eggs with beet juice and vinegar for a tangy and colorful snack. 

50) Milk and Oatmeal Raisin Cookies 

Make the oatmeal raisin cookies gluten-free by subbing the wheat flour with a gluten-free version. 

51) Cheese Sticks and Red Pepper Dip 

Ready-made puff pastry makes this snack easy and quick to put together. 

52) Yogurt and Peaches in Fruit Juice 

Use canned fruit to cut the preparation time needed. Just make sure to get peaches packed in fruit juice, which are much healthier. 

53) Soft Pretzels and Zucchini Hummus 

Soft and chewy, baked pretzels only take 30 minutes to make. They contain important B vitamins like niacin, riboflavin and thiamine. 

54) Milk and Fruit, Vegetable, Toast, Cheese or Crackers 

If you're low on ideas, just pair milk with one of the items listed for an energy-boosting snack. 


Food Allergies and Intolerances 

Coming up with daycare menu ideas can take a lot of work, and catering to special dietary requirements can complicate things further. Here are some food substitutes you can incorporate into your menu planning if needed. 

55) Egg Substitutes 

For recipes like muffins and banana cakes, swap each egg with a small banana or use self-rising flour as an alternative. 

You can also use flaxseed as a substitute for eggs in baking. All you need to do to make one flaxseed egg is to use a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds mixed with three tablespoons of water. Wait a few minutes to let it thicken up. 

Flaxseed eggs also work well for burger patties and sausage meat. You can also skip the egg entirely by keeping the meat well chilled so it binds together easily. 

56) Wheat Flour Substitutes 

A lot of gluten-free recipes call for coconut flour, which can often be expensive and difficult to get in some areas. 

A good substitute for general baking is rice flour and cornmeal flour. Try mixing half of each type of flour to replace the wheat flour for recipes like pastries and cakes. 

57) Lactose-Free 

For plant-based milk, you can refer to the list of milk in the Daycare Breakfast Ideas section. Or you can use lactose-free milk if that's available at your local grocery store. 

While it's best to avoid cheese, there are some varieties that have very low lactose. It's a good idea to check this with the parent or guardian, as some children that are lactose intolerant might be able to eat cheeses like cheddar. 


Five Weeks of Menu Ideas 

Menu on Table with silverware and tableclothHere are some sample daycare menu ideas including breakfast, lunch and two daycare snack menu ideas. Having a meal plan in place will give your staff a simple set of guidelines to follow and take the stress away. 

Week 1 Breakfast 

  • Cream of Wheat, peaches and milk 
  • Wheaties, apples and milk 
  • Pancakes, strawberries and milk 
  • Brown toast, grapes and milk 
  • Waffles, banana slices and milk 

Week 1 Morning Snack 

  • Carrot sticks and hummus dip 
  • Yogurt and raspberries 
  • Cheese and crackers 
  • Rice crackers with peanut butter 
  • Cucumber sticks and cottage cheese

Week 1 Lunch 

  • Ham and cheese sandwich, lettuce and tomato salad and milk 
  • Chicken drumsticks, carrots and peas, mashed potato and milk 
  • Fish sticks, sweet potato fries, coleslaw and milk 
  • Beef stroganoff, egg noodles, red cabbage and milk 
  • Bean burger, chunky fries, vegan coleslaw and milk

Week 1 Afternoon Snack 

  • Cheese sticks and guacamole dip 
  • Milk and oatmeal raisin cookies 
  • Boiled egg and cherry tomatoes 
  • Milk and apple muffins 
  • Yogurt and blueberries 

Week 2 Breakfast 

  • Porridge oats, blueberries and milk 
  • Banana bread, apple slices and milk 
  • Bagels, grapes and milk 
  • Zucchini muffins, apricots and milk 
  • Granola, berries and milk

Week 2 Morning Snack 

  • Cheese sticks and red pepper dip 
  • Milk and oatmeal raisin cookies 
  • Milk and whole wheat crackers 
  • Rice crackers and almond nut butter 
  • Yogurt and apricots

Week 2 Lunch 

  • Swedish meatballs, carrots, broccoli, mashed potato and milk 
  • Turkey sandwich with stuffing, roasted vegetable and milk 
  • Chickpea spinach curry, rice, broccoli and milk 
  • Sausage patty, potato salad, greens, pineapple and milk 
  • Ground chicken fritters, cucumber tomato salad, bread and milk 

Week 2 Afternoon Snack 

  • Milk and toast 
  • Corn muffin and milk 
  • Yogurt and berries 
  • Pretzels and hummus 
  • Cucumber sticks and white bean dip 

Week 3 Breakfast 

  • Cinnamon rolls, milk and apple juice 
  • Croissants, raspberries and milk 
  • Cheesy muffins, mixed fruits and milk 
  • Scrambled eggs, tomatoes and milk 
  • Biscuits, honeydew melon and milk 

Week 3 Morning Snack 

  • Milk and cheese sticks 
  • Carrots and cottage cheese 
  • Boiled eggs and crackers 
  • Cheese and toast 
  • Rice crackers and peanut butter 

Week 3 Lunch 

  • Turkey meatballs, tomato sauce, spaghetti and milk 
  • Stir-fried chicken, broccoli, cauliflower, rice and milk 
  • Ham and cheese sandwich, lettuce, cherry tomatoes and milk 
  • Beef stroganoff, egg noodles, red cabbage and milk 
  • Bean burger, chunky fries and vegan coleslaw 

Week 3 Afternoon Snack 

  • Blueberry muffin and a banana 
  • Milk and apple slices 
  • Cheese and crackers 
  • Boiled egg and pepper sticks 
  • Milk and peaches 

Week 4 Breakfast 

  • English muffins, nectarines and milk 
  • French toast, strawberries and milk 
  • Corn flakes, milk and mixed berries 
  • Toast, banana and milk 
  • Pancakes, raspberries and milk 

Week 4 Morning Snack 

  • Rice crackers and peanut butter 
  • Pickled eggs and cherry tomatoes 
  • Milk and oatmeal raisin cookies 
  • Cheese sticks and hummus 
  • Pretzels and sour cream 

Week 4 Lunch 

  • Fish sticks, sweet potato fries, coleslaw and milk 
  • Tofu stir-fry, green beans, mushrooms, egg-fried rice and milk 
  • Grilled cheese toast, tomato soup, cucumber sticks and milk 
  • Ground chicken fritters, cucumber tomato salad, bread roll and milk 
  • Beef burger, lettuce, tomatoes and milk 

Week 4 Afternoon Snack 

  • Milk and pears 
  • Carrot sticks and hummus 
  • Boiled egg and spinach 
  • Banana muffin and milk 
  • Cheese sticks and guacamole dip 

Week 5 Breakfast 

  • Pancakes, bananas and milk 
  • Porridge oats, apricots and milk 
  • Apple muffins, oranges and milk 
  • French toast, blueberries and milk 
  • Cinnamon rolls, apple juice and milk 

Week 5 Morning Snack 

  • Crackers and nut butter 
  • Pita bread and hummus 
  • Pickled eggs and cucumber sticks 
  • Milk and peach slices 
  • Milk and crackers 

Week 5 Lunch 

  • Meatball marinara sub, lettuce and milk 
  • Chicken drumsticks, carrots, peas, mashed potato and milk 
  • Beef stroganoff, egg noodles, red cabbage and milk 
  • Chickpea spinach curry, rice, broccoli and milk 
  • Fish sticks, sweet potato fries, coleslaw and milk 

Week 5 Afternoon Snack 

  • Waffles and milk 
  • Blueberry muffin and milk 
  • Cucumber sticks and white bean dip 
  • Milk and oatmeal raisin cookies 
  • Boiled egg and cherry tomatoes 

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