Nutrition in Child Care Settings
Childhood nutrition has a significant impact on health. Providing nutritious food in a positive way in child care settings is important as children may eat over half of their food at child care. Food choices in the early years are strongly associated with dietary patterns later in life.
Registered Dietitians who are members of the Ontario Dietitians in Public Health (ODPH) collaborated with child care professionals, to develop nutrition recommendations called Practical Guide on Menu Planning and Supportive Nutrition Environments. These recommendations outline the “gold standard” for nutrition in Ontario child care settings and go beyond what is required under Child Care and Early Years Act 2014 (CCEYA). When the Practical Guide recommendations are used in menu planning, child care centres can be confident that their menus will meet the requirements of the CCEYA.
What do the recommendations include?
- Focus on minimally processed foods and vegetables and fruit
- Tools for menu planning and sample menus
- Tips on reading food labels
- Suggestions for foods and drinks to be served most often, sometimes and what should not be served
- Guides for portion sizes for different age groups
- Tools to create a supportive nutrition environment
What can I do as a parent?
Talk to your child’s care centre to find out if they are familiar with these guidelines and supporting resources. As a parent, you can support your centre in implementing the nutrition recommendations. Expect they may be introducing new foods to their menu.
It may take multiple tries before a child accepts a new food. Trying and liking new foods is a learning process. Support your child in this learning; teach them to be polite about saying “no thank you” when offered a food they do not like.
Learn more about what their meal and snack times look like. Encourage your child’s centre to adopt a family-style meal service. This allows children to decide how much food they would like and supports social skills as children learn to pass bowls and plates. Learn more about how new foods are introduced. It is important that new foods are introduced in a positive way. Children should be allowed to choose what foods to eat and how much to eat.
If your child’s care centre has questions or needs help using the guide, encourage them to contact the Middlesex-London Health Unit and ask to speak to Ginette Blake, Registered Dietitian or email at firstname.lastname@example.org