It is important to start at a young age to be offering healthy food to nurture their bodies and fuel their brain for development. Eating habits that children learn from a young age carry over into adulthood. Childcare settings can influence their eating habits and how they feel about food. There are many steps that should be taken to develop a heathy menu for infants, toddlers and children.
There are many steps to develop a healthy menu for infants. From birth to six months of age, infants should not be introduced to any sort of food. At this age this age they should only be drinking breast milk and/or formula. Parents should provide written instructions for their child to help with infants feeding schedules. When giving a baby formula and breast milk, it is important to use within two hours of it be prepared and within one hour of when feeding begins. If feeding has not started within two hours, store in refrigerator, and use within 24 hours. Around six months of age, infants can slowly be introduced to food along with their formula or breast milk.
When new foods are introduced to infants, they should be presented individually to encourage infants to taste and accept individual flavors. Infants should have a variety of fruits and vegetables of different colors. Infants should be introduced to one new food every three to five days to help identify food allergies and/or intolerances. When infants start being introduced to new foods, it would be good to coordinate with parents and serve that same food that the child has already tried. As the infant gets older and reaches eight months, their food variety becomes bigger as they should have already been introduced to a variety of foods. When feeding food, avoid feeding from a jar. Double dipping into a jar, causes bacteria to grow in unfinished jars of food, as this can lead to food poisoning. Food allergies start at a young age and any known food allergies should be posted in clear view in both cooking and serving areas at the childcare center. As there are just a few steps to planning a healthy menu for infants until they reach to be a toddler. When they have just about reached this stage, it causes some rapid changes. Some may show a food preference, become independent and even refuse foods. As toddler stage approaches, there are steps to follow to make a healthy menu.
Toddlers are very active, and their bodies need nutrients on a regular basis, even when they don’t feel hungry. First, food safety is very important at any age. Both food poisoning and choking can have serious consequences. Younger children have a weaker immune system; it is very important to use safe food handling and preparation to reduce the risk of spreading food poisoning. When toddlers are eating, encourage them to take their time. Always watch and encourage them to chew their food. Offer finger foods that are finely cut up. Some foods that are choking hazards are: chunky peanut butter, raw veggies, taffy, whole grapes, popcorn and nuts. (Ben-Joseph, 2018). It is also important to follow any food allergies kids may have.
At this age, it is crucial time when families discover that their child may be allergic to nuts or strawberries. If children have any known allergies, this should be kept on file and have a protocol to follow if that child were to ingests that food. Any known allergies should be posted in clear view of both cooking and serving areas. When planning a food menu, one also needs to keep in mind children’s backgrounds. Ask families from different cultures if they have any food they cannot eat. For example, some cultures cannot eat pork. In this case for meat substitute would be needed. Instead of giving ham, one would receive turkey. Diverse food cultures and habits of Americans makes eating interesting and an enjoyable learning experience. Early and frequent exposure to a variety of foods is a great encouragement to healthy eating habits. Exposure to other cultures brings a personal meeting. This helps influence on what children of all ages think and believe. As toddlers are getting older and becoming more confident so is there menu choice. Menu grow and change with the child.
As children get older, they become more confident in making decisions and taking responsibility for their actions. Children choosing what they eat allows them to explore these skills and build confidence for a happy and healthy life. A healthy menu for children would include fruits and vegetables, nonfat milk and dairy products, lean meats and whole grain cereals and breads. (Ben-Joseph, 2018). Many daycares and schools have programs where they are required to safely serve nutritious meals and snacks that meet the requirements and are appetizing to children. Children need about 1,200 to 2,000 calories depending on growth and activity level. Portion size is also adjusted by age group.
There are several polices regarding meals that childcare providers must meet when participating in the CCFP. The CCFP stands for Child Care Food Program and is a type of United States federal assistance provided by the United States Department of Agriculture to provide food service to children nationwide. (US. Agriculture, 2016). Some examples of this would be, while planning food, also keep in mind cultural foods. As mentioned, some families don’t allow certain meats for their child to eat. One can ask parents what cultural foods they do eat and include in menus if it meets regulations. Keep in mind of allergies to foods. Many food allergies have made their appearance by this age. Keep a list of any food allergies in view of both the cooking and serving area. Allergic reactions happen fast. They can range from mild skin sensitivity to very severe. Be sure to check labels, avoid cross contamination and consider prohibiting certain foods. For example, if you have a group that is allergic to nuts, it would be wise to be a nut free zone. Arranging menus for children of various ages requires making a few steps. Menus are to meet certain criteria and funding requirements and are appealing to children.
Eating healthy includes eating a wide variety of fresh foods from the five food groups. Each one has different nutrients our bodies require to grow and work properly. It is important to start at a young age to help fuel their brain for development. Starting out on the right foot by making good eating habits influences their choices all the way into adulthood.
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- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. (Nov. 2016). Child and Adult Food Program. Retrieved from: http://www.fns.usda.goc.cnd/Care/