Preparing and serving nutritious meals for growing children is a serious commitment that home daycare providers should take into account. There are several guidelines that need to be followed by childcare providers when it comes to meals that should be served to children. As a licensed daycare provider, this is one area where you will need to score very good points. See the tips below on how to plan for a home daycare menu.
- Consider the ages of children in your home daycare so you can properly gauge their daily nutrition needs. Consider also that some children need to be served more food that others. Your menu should be planned for the week or better yet for the month to make it easier for you to stock up on staple ingredients and dry goods. Always use fresh vegetables and fruits in season and buy them regularly.
- Consider the daily activities the children engage in during the day for you to count their daily calorie requirements. Strenuous activities and vigorous playtimes will require more energy to burn therefore this should be taken into consideration.
- Your menu should be a combination of 100% fruit or vegetable juices, milk, assorted grains and breads, pastas and cereals and protein sources for breakfast. Take into consideration that low-fat milk should be served to children older than 2 years and up. Toddlers who are 12 months up to 24 months in age should be served whole milk and infants should be given infant formulas.
- Lunch and supper should be a combination of vegetables, fresh fruits, meat or meat alternative, fish and poultry, grains and breads, milk or 100% fruit juices and water. You can use biscuits, cornbread, rolls and muffins. Try to serve lean meat on most occasions. Add peas and beans to the menu. Grains and breads should be made from whole grains, fortified or enriched.
- Add calcium and energy sources like nuts, raisins, peanut butter, yogurt and cheese along with milk, fruit juices and fresh fruits for snacks.
- Vary the combination for each day and introduce some alternative sources of calories to make the menu more appealing and nutritious. The children will not be bored by a routine set meal when you vary the combination of staple food.
- Prepare and/or serve the meals with safety in mind. Cut the vegetables and meat in small portions that will not choke a small child. Serve fruits in smaller chunks. Cut apples in smaller slices, grapes in half and the seeds removed. Do not serve peanuts, raisins and other dried fruits, raw carrots, hot-dogs, popcorn to very small children to prevent them from choking on these food items. Likewise, avoid serving thick gooey peanut butter sandwiches to very small children.
Rotate the use of several varieties of fruits, vegetables, fish and meat when you plan your menu. Aim to have a balanced meal for every serving. Take careful note of allergy issues. Cook the food in different ways to develop the children’s palate and introduce them to a variety of cooking methods. Serve some broiled, boiled and stewed food on different occasions. Follow the guidelines set by the USDA for serving healthy meals for children in daycare.