Meal plans for children should be simple and include a wide array of colors. Many times, you may have to introduce children new foods must 10-15 times in order for a child to accept them. While you meals should be varied (within reason) in order to nutrient needs, caregivers must still keep the foods repetitive enough so that the child feels safe with the predictability of familiar foods.
A child will be more likely to eat adequately by mixing new and familiar foods together in the daycare meal plan. Caregivers should allow plenty of time at meals and snacks. Make sure that the caregiver or teacher is comfortable with eating, sits down with the children at meals and neither pressures nor restricts the child’s food choices.
Caregivers should allow kid-friendly fare such as candy and sweets to be used occasionally as a prize or reward earned and use other rewards as well such as game time, crayons, special responsibilities to also teach the child manners and cause/effect of choices.
Food Safety for Day Care providers is usually regulated by the government. If the Day Care provider “cooks” or “serves” the food they must be licensed. Licensing comes from the initial application, provision of adequate facilities, and then “regular” inspections usually 2 times each year. The Day Care provider follows the same “rules” that as the government regarding food safety — ultimately the U.S. Public Health Services Food Code through the FDA. States and Counties (and even cities) can have stricter Food Codes than the U.S. one but not “less strict”. A Day Care facility should have a copy of their daycare license posted in a conspicuous place and they should have their inspections available for review.
As you evaluate the mealtime environment consider the following:
- Look at the overall cleanliness of the food preparation facilities. If the food is “catered” I would look at the caterer’s credentials and if possible their facility.
- Look at the area where the children eat. Are the tables sanitized before the meal? Is the area clean?
- Look at the cleanliness of the employees. Do they wash their hands before handling the food? Are they clean and neat?
- Look at the process for serving the food. Are the cold items held in the refrigerator or on ice? Are the hot foods hot?
It is important for parents to ask questions; however, the most influential messages about nutrition still come from how the primary care giver models behaviors in the home.
In daycare, the nutrition program is best when a variety of foods are offered in a relaxed environment where some emphasis is put on proper eating but not so much so that it creates anxiety and shame for children. Good nutrition includes eating with balance, variety and moderation; letting one’s own body regulate what foods are “good” and how much is enough. Nutrition education is done best when a relaxed, neutral approach is taken toward food and eating. Allow the child’s body to develop on schedule as naturally intended. Avoid over-emphasizing rules and restrictions around food and body sizes. Encourage diversity in eating styles, amounts and frequency; celebrate diversity in body sizes, colors and shapes.
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