Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a nutritious diet for children and adults. For kids, they provide essential vitamins and minerals for proper growth and development. Fried foods should be avoided because they are high in calories and fat, and sugar-sweetened beverages should be limited as much as possible. Instead, serve children water or low-fat milk.
If children don’t take to fruits and vegetables right away, keep trying – research shows it can take up to 20 exposures before a child will accept the food. And remember to reinforce the healthy messages you teach the children by being a good role model – grab a glass of water instead of soda, eat fruits and vegetables with every meal, and avoid fried foods.
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Family-style dining is a strategy that can be implemented in child care homes or centers to encourage pleasant meal times. Food should be placed in serving bowls on the table, and children are allowed to serve themselves, with assistance if needed. Child care providers join the children – eating the same foods to reinforce the healthy-eating message – and engage children in conversation during the meal. Family-style dining is a great way to encourage children to try new foods and socialize with their peers.
Planting a garden at your child care home or center is a great way to teach young children about how fruits and vegetables grow. Kids who garden are more likely to try the fruit and vegetables they grow, and they socialize and learn to cooperate in the process. If you don’t have space for a full garden, try container gardening – they are kid-sized and can make your child care center or home look beautiful!
Breast milk is the best nutritional choice for babies due to its wide range of health benefits, including strengthening the baby’s immune system and protecting the baby from problems such as obesity, diabetes, allergies, asthma and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Child care homes and centers can support mothers during this important time by allowing them to supply breast milk for their infants and providing a space on-site for mothers to breast feed during the day if desired.
Sometimes great changes are made in a child care home or center, but when the provider responsible for those changes retires or moves on, things often go back to the way they used to be. That’s why it’s important to get nutritional guidelines written down so the entire child care home or center is responsible for continuing to implement those best practices. Creating a written food and beverage policy demonstrates that your child care home or center is dedicated to the health and well-being of the children under your care.