We’ve all been there: Preparing the same daycare snacks and lunches can be monotonous and the kids in your care get boring. No, you’re not running a restaurant, but it’s also important to provide children with a wide variety snacks and lunches and help them learn about a variety of foods. We interviewed two health and nutrition experts to get some insight into how to keep from burning out on daycare snack and lunch options. Here is part 1 of the interview.
Meet the experts:
Kelly O’Connor, RD, LDN, CDE: Registered Dietitian/Certified Diabetes Educator, Director of Diabetes Education at The Center for Endocrinology
Dr. Moshe Lewis, M.D.: Internationally renowned expert on health. Dr. Lewis has been featured in USA Today, ABC, CNN, CBS, NBC and on KISS FM.
OwnADaycare: How important is it that children in daycare receive a varied menu for lunch and snack? What are the drawbacks to recycling the same menu over and over?
Kelly O’Connor: Providing meals for children in daycare can be a fun and excellent way to set a good example for a future of healthy eating. Preschool children are at a perfect age to develop their tastes for specific foods as well as good eating habits that will hopefully serve them for a lifetime.
Having a varied and changing menu then is of great importance in exposing them to new foods and providing adequate calories, protein and other nutrients to meet their developmental needs.
Young children often choose to eat the same few foods over and over again for a period of time but the best defense is to continue to offer them new foods each week as possible. This way, they will be able to taste and experience a variety of foods. Also, you will hopefully meet more of their nutritional needs with a greater variety.
In doing so, you will also show them that although they may not like a food in it’s fresh form, they may enjoy it much more in a cooked format. For example, they may not like apple slices with peanut butter as a snack but perhaps they would really like applesauce, etc. By having a varied menu, you encourage them to continue to explore lots of foods and keep them interested in what is being served, versus having , for example, a week long menu that repeats. Also, since young children may be very picky, you risk having some children eat very little if the foods served are not to their tastes at that time.
Dr. Lewis: Very important. This is the first opportunity to introduce fruits and vegetable which are beneficial nutritionally. Using the same menu does not spark creativity or childrens’ desire to try new food.
OwnADaycare: What are some tips for making daycare snacks and lunch fun?
Kelly O’Connor: Snacks can be fun and nutritious with very little effort. They should include a variety of food groups, including fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, low fat dairy and whole grains. Finger foods and small portions are best for preschool/daycare age children. Allowing them to have some choice in the selection is important as well.
Vary the way the food is served. Instead of serving fresh fruit whole or just sliced, put it on a frilly toothpick with a cube of low fat cheese and serve it like an appetizer. . Use different shapes if possible- ie goldfish crackers, teddy grahams( in moderation!), small crackers in various shapes. You can even buy goldfish shaped bread these days for small sandwiches( use whole wheat wherever possible).You might even use some of the foods in lessons – i.e adding and subtracting with crackers or strawberries or grapes,etc.
Including the children, perhaps a few children at a time, on a rotating basis,etc in snack preparation will encourage them to make suggestions in what items can be combined and what items they may like to try. Offer a few flavors of the same item- ie. chocolate, vanilla and butterscotch pudding cups,etc so children can practice making their own selections and also try new flavors.
- Use colors (orange carrots and orange slices), green cucumber and broccoli, yellow bananas
- Use creative designs like making a face, or a sun or a house with the fruits/vegies
- Use mini size slices and pieces so they are not too large to digest or chew
- Only give a few pieces so they are not too overwhelming
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