At the same time that I am thinking about what to serve my toddler for breakfast, lunch , and dinner, I am also sort of thinking.... "what will we have for lunch 6 years from now?" Of more concern is what will we be having to drink with that meal. Deciding on milk as a beverage for a non allergic toddler and deciding to serve milk with every meal seems uncontroversial, which is not to say easy. Not cultivating toddler cravings for juice? not all that controversial either. But what will we have to drink with dinner 6 years from now? Especially if we ever stop drinking milk, just because "well, they're older."
Why do I even think about this? Will serving water now ensure drinking water later in childhood? Will an older child ever go back to drinking milk for dinner, after stopping? or will new tastes have replaced water? New tastes would be great as a treat, but for a daily meal? What else is there to consistently offer that contains any nutrition?
For @thelunchtray the issue is clear: Solve the boring drink problem for packing elementary school lunch.
We drink milk with every meal. If milk becomes a breakfast only drink, what will it be replaced with? Every time I contemplate this I am faced with an empty answer. For us (adults) water is an in between meal beverage, and usually also part of a restaurant meal. So far the same has been true for our toddler. But if you remove milk from the dinner menu, what comes onto the placemat?
I can think of no beverage replacements with nutritional value. We drink Kefir only as a treat because it is very high in sugar. We do drink water. We have orange juice when breakfast (on Saturdays and Sundays) has migrated (frequently) to brunch.
We are sticking with milk. I also like the @lunchtray solution, lightly sweetened chilled flavored herbal teas. I would object to the sweetening, but for myself the goal would be to not make a "sweet" tasting drink, just to knock the herbal dry taste up to a drinakble on the beverage scale.
Without milk as the expected beverage, the dinner drinks of caffeine, sugar, and food colorings supplant. School lunch seems even more difficult to sort out. So for us the expectation is milk, with every meal. The alternatives just have very little to offer.