Nutrition Information for Providers
Promote Healthy Eating Experiences
- Provide healthy meals and snacks that meet the USDA's Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Meal Pattern requirements.
- Limit high sugar and high fat foods. Fat should not be restricted in the diets of children younger than 2 years of age, but watch the intake of saturated fats for children 2 years of age and older.
- Make mealtimes a pleasant and comfortable experience. Children will feel more comfortable if you sit together and share a meal. Engaging children in positive conversations will help them feel relaxed, learn new vocabulary, and practice their social skills.
- Encourage children to try new foods without forcing them.
- Allow children to decide how much to eat.
o Introduce new foods one at a time to gain a greater acceptance. Serve a variety of textures, colors and temperatures of food.
o Serve food from a diversity of cultures, especially those of the children enrolled in your program.
o Serve age-appropriate servings. Large servings will make children feel overwhelmed. Allow the children to decide how much they will eat. Family style dining is a best practice.
o Serve foods that will appeal to the children. Bite-size pieces, interesting shapes, small muffins, and funny sounding names are all things you can incorporate into your menus.
o Allow the children to participate in meal preparation. Assisting and watching the process of making a meal may entice the children to try something new.
Teach Healthy Eating Habits
- Provide daily nutrition activities, lessons, and learning experiences to promote positive attitudes about good nutrition and health. Teaching healthy eating practices early will help children approach eating with the right attitude - that food should be enjoyed and is necessary for growth, development and energy.
- Help families to understand and practice healthy eating habits. Provide parents with information on children's nutritional needs and healthy eating practices, so they can encourage young children to develop healthy eating habits.
- Provide child care staff with appropriate nutrition and foodservice training. Staff should know the basic principles of child nutrition and the strategies for creating a positive environment.
- Be a role model. Show your enthusiasm for healthy food. Set a good example by demonstrating healthy eating behaviors and an active lifestyle. Be mindful of modeling appropriate behaviors, such as enjoying a variety of foods, being willing to try new foods, and participating in physical activities.
Follow Food Safety Guidelines
o Always wash your hands, and the children's hands, before and after every meal and snack.
o Keep all work surfaces clean and organized. Keep the work area clean and wipe up all spills immediately.
o Wash all raw fruits and vegetables before using them
o Scrub and sanitize all cutting boards, knives, and counter tops immediately after contact with raw or cooked meats, fish or poultry using a solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach to 1 quart of water.
o Be sure to use a thermometer. Keep hot foods hot (140 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) and cold foods cold (refrigerate or chill food at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below).
o Promptly refrigerate or freeze leftovers. Divide larger quantities into smaller containers or use shallow pans for quick cooking.
o To prevent choking, do not serve popcorn, nuts, raisins, grapes, raw carrots or hot dogs (unless cut into 1/4 inch pieces) to children under the age of five.
o Talk to parents about any allergies or special diets their children may have. Keep a list posted in the eating area for staff reference. Some allergic reactions can be very severe, so attentiveness is critical.
o Keep a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit handy in your food preparation area.
o Remember that you cannot always determine food safety by sight, taste, odor or smell. If you have any doubt, throw the food away!
o Planning meals in advance is the key to economical shopping. This makes it easier to compare prices of brands, use coupons, and purchase the correct amount. Knowing what you need to buy also helps to decrease purchasing in excess.
o Many packaged meals are high in fat and sodium and are often expensive. Purchasing the meal components individually and preparing the meal from scratch is more cost-effective and creates a healthier meal for the children.
o Choose whole grains. Look for the words "whole grain" at the beginning of the ingredient listing.
o Plain frozen vegetables have less fat and salt than those in sauces or canned versions.
o Half of the calories from chicken are in the skin. Buy skinless parts or remove the skin before cooking or eating.
Promote A Healthy Body Image
- Help children to accept and feel good about themselves by supporting and encouraging them, regardless of their body size or shape.
- Build self-esteem by praising each child's strengths and individual skills.
Promote Physical Activity
Physical activity is an important part of a good health and helps children to maintain a healthy body weight. Young children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Keep it fun and safe with age-appropriate equipment and activities.
- Provide daily outdoor or alternative indoor activities when there is bad weather. Maximize opportunities for large motor muscle activity, such as jumping, dancing, marching, kicking, running, riding a tricycle or throwing a ball.
- Encourage children to keep moving throughout the day by including active games and play, such as music and dance. Provide toys and equipment that encourage physical activity, such as balls, hula-hoops, bubbles and cardboard boxes.