A daycare nutrition program is an important component of the overall daycare program. What are parents looking for (or what should they be looking for) when they evaluate your nutrition program, nutrition education programs, and mealtime environments? We asked Susan Leger-Ferraro, Founder and President of Little Sprouts, Inc, for some tips about nutrition in daycare.
OwnADaycare: When selecting daycare for children, how important is it for parents to consider its overall nutrition program, its nutrition education program and the mealtime environment?
Leger-Ferraro: Nutrition and the mealtime environment is critically important. Research proves that balanced nutrition influences children’s moods, as well as ability to participate and concentrate. Childrens’ individual preferences, food allergies and availability of choice should all be discussed.
OwnADaycare: When selecting a daycare program what should parents look for with respect to meal plans and scheduling?
Leger-Ferraro: Meal planning and scheduling should be based on Department of Educations guidelines. Parents should request to view a copy of meal plans. Meals should be offered at least every three hours.
OwnADaycare: What questions should parents ask child care centers about their food safety and sanitation policies? Are there usually local and state regulations for nutrition in daycare?
Leger-Ferraro: Parents should ensure local and state licenses are up current and posted. Request to peruse the kitchen to ensure cleanliness and proper storage of foods.
OwnADaycare: How would you describe an appropriate mealtime environment?
Leger-Ferraro: Mealtimes should be a time for teachers and children to share dialogue that builds oral language. Discussions should be centered around recalling children’s work time, play experiences and a variety of topics. Teachers should be eating and engaged with children.
OwnADaycare: For parents that send their child to daycare with lunch and snacks, can you recommend the best foods to send to daycare?
Leger-Ferraro: Whole foods that have previously been prepared are best food choices for children. Left overs with fruit for snacks are typically best choices. Packaged foods typically have excess amounts of fats and sodium. They are a quick fix for parents, children typically enjoy them, but they are a nutritional nightmare. Adding one sweet treat typically will balance out a child’s need for the entire meal to be packaged.
OwnADaycare: For parents that send their child to daycare with lunch and snacks, what is the best way to pack them?
Leger-Ferraro: Packaging foods in air tight containers with a frozen cold pack in a thermal sealed bag is the best way to store foods. Label containers to support teachers ability to spend meal times engaged with children. Napkins and utensils are typically provided by the center. A loving note from the parent that teachers can read brings a smile to ever mealtime!
Do you have any additional daycare nutrition tips to share?
Leger-Ferraro: Mealtimes are an opportunity to share traditional and unique cultural influences with your child’s class. Sending a traditional food to share at snack is a great way to build awareness of sharing and diversity to a classroom community.
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