Order Up! – Calgary Daycares & Their Food


Written by Marlene Alcon Kepka


| 10 MIN READ |




Kids and food. The eternal struggle. Most Calgary daycares struggle with this… the ones that offer food anyway. We sure do.

How important is nutritious food to your child?

Are all Calgary daycares the same when it comes to quality?

Is catering the same as having a chef on-site?

What can you do as a parent, so your child eats and eats healthy?

All important questions to ask any daycare. Food is a very important part of your child’s development. It’s as important as the academics and level of care.

But there’s a huge difference in feeding your little one a hotdog and ketchup or a whole wheat bun with sliced, fresh ham. All food isn’t equal in nutrition, taste, and cost.

Your children probably love the junk food and not the healthy food. That’s typical for children…heck… even us adults. Who doesn’t love a greasy pizza or burger?

A treat here and there is fun and great for the kids. We just have be careful not to overdo it. There’s an obesity epidemic right now. Nutrition is important.

We Love Food!! A Bit Too Much

Canada, like the rest of the world has an obesity problem. If you add over weight to that its even worse. Obesity rates have tripled in the last 30 years. Our children are larger than they have ever been.

Parents and Calgary daycares need to take this very seriously. Obese children can develop a lot of health issues.

  • Bone and joint issues
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Breathing and sleep issues

Those are some of the physical side affects of being obese. This is for kids and adults alike. Children have it a bit worse. They start young so changing the behavior is harder and the negative affects compound over time.

I know through my years working at and owning a daycare there’s another side that is just as bad and, in my opinion, even worse. The emotional side of being obese or overweight.

We’ve all seen a funny movie or commercial with a “fat” kid that does something silly and usually falls over. We laugh and the move on..

What we don’t see in the movies or cartoons is the emotional toll that takes on children. Being picked on for being overweight is hard on children. They can get bullied and treat very differently than their thinner friends.

A few emotional affects to being overweight are:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Bullying or teasing
  • Depression
  • Feeling left out

The good thing is that some Calgary daycares understand this. But many don’t. Knowing which take your child’s nutritional health into account is huge.

Michelin Star Daycare?

Your child is having an amazing day! Playing, learning, and getting to know his peers even more. The sun is shining and it’s a beautiful day. Your child is running and learning. They’re hungry.

Now the questions is; does your child get a Greek yogurt and homemade granola parfait with fruit on top. Or a pre-packaged sugary “breakfast cookie”?

What about lunch? Is it a whole wheat vegetarian lasagna made from scratch that’s filled with veggies… or a hotdog?

Which would you rather they eat? Which would you rather feed your little one?

Our daycare chooses the first one. Is it as popular as the sugary or nutrition devoid options? No. Kids love hot dogs and sugar of course. But over time they start to enjoy the healthier options more.

I’ve seen this myself. Children that maybe don’t have the best diet in the world. Really pushing back on the home made, nutritious daycare food. But over time they eat a lot.

Why don’t all Calgary daycares just make amazing food so the children have a lot of brain food? Running my daycare, I know it’s time and money.

Let’s take a veggie butter chicken recipe we use at our child care centre. Feel free to try it out on the weekend. Our kids love this. Add some Naan bread and it’s a winner.

Anyways. Back to the time and money thing. If you clicked on the recipe above you can see it’s a lot of ingredients.

This is from scratch (most of it is but you can cheat a bit with cans). Now make that for 80 kids like at our daycare. That’s a lot of work.

Our chef must prep everything. Cut up all the vegetables. Get the chicken prepped and cut up. Spice things just right for children. As you might know kids are fussy with how much spice is in things.

Once you add up the amount of healthy ingredients, which cost more. Plus the extra time the chef is putting in the food. It can get pricey. But I strongly believe its worth it.

If you make the food tasty AND nutritious it’ll help kids get out of the rut that good food tastes bad. Many kids default to the SAD diet (Standard American Diet) that Canadians and Americans eat.

The faster we can get them away from the SAD diet and into something more balanced the better.

Catering Vs A Daycare Chef

My daycare uses a chef. On site all the time and cooking home made meals daily. You might be asking if catering is just as good or even better. Let’s take a look.

This section will be my opinion. Like and op ed piece in a newspaper. Because it’s so hard to prove any of this and find legitimate information. But I am sure you will see, like I do that its just common sense.

Making things in bulk isn’t always the best. Stay with me. Here is my logic. Catering is a business that needs to make profits. They must make food in bulk.

It’s not profitable to make individual food items like we do at many Calgary daycares.

We know how hard it is to make food for 80 children at our Calgary daycare so it must be 10x harder to do it for 800. A lot of pre-made, canned, pre-packaged items are used. You’ve probably heard of Sysco of GFS.

Those are large corporations that many caterers, restaurants, etc. use for buying their food. These are pre-made, bulk food stuffs that probably aren’t the best when it comes to nutrition or being natural.

It saves cost to purchase from them and it saves a lot of time. They always deliver in bulk and you can quickly use there pre-made pastes, powders and other fillers. Quick, easy and cheap.

I know for sure some caterers add some fruit and some other healthy, natural items to their menus. But that doesn’t make there entire menu nutritious or healthy.

You can make protein packaged spaghetti super lunch in two ways. Which would you prefer that your child eats?

1) White noodle spaghetti, canned pasta sauce, hotdogs cut in (maybe some bulk ground beef), apple

2) Whole wheat spaghetti, home made spaghetti sauce with vegetables cut into it, beef shank cut into cubes in the sauce, whole wheat bun, fruit of choice

Both are spaghetti and both sound amazing but I know which one I would want to feed the children.

I know from experience that you can make anything sound good but you have to know what to look for to see if it truly is.

Between catering and an on site chef. I would go with a chef anytime. I haven’t even touched on customizing dishes and being creative with new foods. Our chef at our daycare does this all the time.

We also share recipes with our families so they can make this delicious food at home.

The Making of A Foodie Kid

Parents ask me all the time about food and their child. With over 20 years of experience with children I got to know a thing or two. Here are my top tips.

First and foremost, you need to have nutritious food. No point in starting this journey if the food you give is just plain bad.

I recommend 5-6 days a week of nutritious, vegetable laden foods. Then 1-2 days a week you can have fun.

Maybe the weekend is pizza and hotdogs. Some ice cream to wash it all down. Fun and enjoy. Teach your child that food can be fun and make some fun memories. I wish our daycare had this option.

Then the other 5-6 days a week you want to feed your child vegetables, fruits, whole wheats and water. This gives them the best of both worlds.

Some fun and junk food while watching a movie or at a birthday party on the weekend. While still keeping things healthy and teaching them about nutrition during the week.

Here are some great tips for keeping a healthy and fed child.

In the tips guide link above there is something I want to touch on again. Its not being a short order cook and standing your ground. Those are the biggest take aways from the guide.

It’s very similar to what we do at my daycare. Everyone eats the same. There is no ordering or saying that the children don’t want that. They eat what is given.

This is crucial. Once you start catering to them you’ll be making 10 dinners and lunches a day.

The last one is harder at my daycare but you as a parent can do this. That’s being very firm. Telling your child dinner is now.

Its here for and hour and after that its breakfast. Not sneaking an apple or finding something else to eat.

I know its harder with younger children but stick to it. This will really help set a standard and they will love you for it later in life.

What Calgary Daycares Has Taught Me About Food

Running our daycare in Calgary and being a daycare worker at other centers have given me insights others might not have. Healthy eating is crucial for little children.

Their brains are developing and they badly need the vitamins and minerals great food gives them.


Something like the picture above is exactly what I see work with kids. Don’t deprive them of fun and junky foods. Don’t use food as a punishment.

If your child is going to a daycare in Calgary or any daycare. Ask them who makes the food. What company? Is it a chef on site? Which I strongly encourage you to look for.

As long as they serve fresh, wholesome and little pre-packaged food then you’re good. Check out this article on daycares and nutritious foods. Its an eye opener.

It’s bad food and bad food choices that start a slippery slope decline into being over weight and then obese.

Obesity is very unhealthy for your child’s body AND mind. Doing whatever you can to have a healthy little child is very important to their wellbeing.