Nutritional standards for school-provided lunches have recently improved as a result of this initiative, moving towards lower calorie options, more whole grains, and a wider range of fruits and vegetables. This same approach to meal planning can be applied to your child care center, ensuring that preschoolers are getting the nutrition and variety of foods they need for healthy growth and development.
For example, recent amendments to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act mandates that 80% of all grains served must be whole grains, sodium levels must be reduced and a half-cup of fruits and vegetables must be served with each meal. The overall levels of sugar in the child’s diet should also be reduced by opting for less-sugary cereals and dairy products, and reducing the amount of juice to be served to just once a day. Take a look at the sample meal plan offered by the United States Department of Agriculture as an example of how a healthy menu can be implemented into your child care facility.
Following HHFKA At Your Child Care Center
Keep in mind that preschoolers are highly active, and require a varied diet that offers a mix of complex carbohydrates, fats and lean proteins to supply them with the energy they need. Aim for around 1,000-1,400 calories per day to support healthy growth.
When choosing foods, select lean proteins and meat alternatives like tofu, beans and eggs. Choose green vegetables rich in nutrients and avoid too many starchy veggies. Source locally-grown fruits and veggies whenever possible. Any dairy products you add to your menu should be low in sugars and fats.
While following the healthy meal guidelines of the HHFKA, you must also keep in mind the specific needs of the preschoolers in your care. Your meal plans should take into consideration the allergies and food sensitivities unique to your students, ensuring that problematic foods are avoided while still meeting the guidelines for nutrition.
Looking for more help planning healthy, easy meals that preschoolers love? Check out the following resources on the HiMama website:
If you’re in need of a simple way to keep track of meal plans, record important allergy information and stay on top of what your preschoolers are actually eating, consider our child care app!