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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Nutrition and Healthy Eating Habits Some nutritional choices and practices are harder to change than others. For instance, most people associate celebrations with food. Individual families can make the choice to eat unhealthy foods on occasion (cake to celebrate a birthday, or fast food for dinner on a busy evening). But child care providers should not make these same choices for children while in care. While this may feel uncomfortable or severe, it aligns with the overall goal of most child care programs: to support children’s growth, development, and learning in policy and practice at all times. Early care and education programs have the opportunity to increase the health of the children in care and help reverse obesity trends. The childhood obesity epidemic is clear evidence that changes are called for. Early care and education professionals should serve as role models and leaders for families and communities. Menu-Planning Procedures Goal: We follow menu-planning procedures that ensure children have balanced and nutritious meals and snacks. Menus are planned to meet USDA MyPlate guidelines for children. (See appendix G in this book to review the guidelines.) For programs involved in the Children and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), menus are planned to meet CACFP requirements. New foods are introduced one at a time on a regular basis. New foods are offered multiple times (at least seven to ten) before we determine if children will like or eat the item. Did you know? Introducing new foods can be fun. It doesn’t always have to happen at mealtimes. You can plan a fruit-tasting activity or carry out a cooking project. Even better, ask a family member to come and share some cooking with the group. Introducing new foods to young children requires patience. Often it takes ten times or so for children to decide if they like a food or not. Keep at it; don’t force it. Helping children develop healthy food preferences is well worth the effort. Menus for meals and snacks are developed prior to use and shared with families in advance. 9 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL