Melrose Daycare began nutritional improvements to their Daily Menus in April 2008 and completely revamped the entire menu November 2008. This was done with the help of the Bureau of Nutrition guidelines and various experts in the field of childhood nutrition, Natalie Egan, Jeanne Mac Donald and Kirsten Damaresq. For this, we are most grateful and thank them for helping to place Melrose Daycare Center on the ‘cutting edge’ of children’s nutrition.
Nutrition Education goals are:
1. Provide training and technical assistance for Child Nutrition Food Service professionals.
2. Provide multifaceted, integrated nutrition education for children and parents.
3. Provide support for healthy eating and physical activity by involving school administrators and other school and community partners.
Cultivating Your Child’s Eating Habits
It is imperative that children develop good eating habits while they are young. Offer fruit and veggies for snacks and treats in place of sugary, empty calorie foods. Lots of little ones love to dip. There are a number of dips you can make with cottage cheese and yogurt. The kids can dip carrots, broccoli, and whole grained crackers and crisp breads, etc. Never force children to clean their plates and don’t forbid junk food. Just don’t keep it around often and offer other foods in its place. You must encourage their drinking milk. Juices, especially apple juice, are not good substitutes on a regular basis. Read the nutritional labels on the bottles to ensure they are drinking 100% juice.
However, as a last resort, there are several ‘sneaky ways’ to add more nutrition to the family diet. Add cooked mashed carrots to any red sauce such as Spaghetti, Sloppy Joes or Chili. Also, add dried-enriched skim milk to foods, i.e. puddings, in which the taste will not be altered.
To help make kids more open-minded about what they put in their mouths:
- Set and stick to a daily meal and snack time schedule. Young children usually need three meals and two or three nutritious snacks a day.
- Buy and serve nutritious fare. Stock your kitchen with foods you’d actually want them to eat.
- Reel in the junk food, but don’t ban it altogether. If you completely forbid certain foods, kids are much more likely to want them even more. So, it’s OK to allow some special treats every once in a while.
- Don’t cook special meals just for picky eaters. Serve the same thing for the whole family, but include new choices alongside something you know your kids like.
- Let them feel like they have a choice. That doesn’t mean letting them pick out their snacks or meals. It means presenting them with healthy options, then allowing them to decide whether to eat, what to eat on their plates, and how much to eat.
- Don’t expect kids to be “clean-platers.” Let children recognize their own internal cues that tell them when they’re hungry and when they’re full.
- Encourage trying at least one bite of different nutritious foods at each meal, but don’t negotiate for bites or use dessert as a reward. If you tell kids they can have a cookie if they eat their spinach, that only makes the treat seem that much more appealing than the veggies. Plus, it creates mealtime tension and sets the stage for a power struggle.
- Be persistent. It may take a while for little eaters to accept new tastes and textures — you may have to present a food up to 15 times before they’ll try it.
- Involve the kids. Look for recipes with ingredients your children like, and invite them to join you to shop for, cook, and serve the food.
- Say no to soda and too much juice (no more than 4 to 6 ounces of juice per day for preschoolers). Water and milk are the only beverages kids really need. But avoid serving any drink right before meals that might spoil their appetite.
- Serve smaller portions, which are less overwhelming for kids. Plus, bigger portions may encourage overeating.
- Create positive peer pressure. Look for opportunities for kids to eat healthy with friends (at home, playgroups, or school).
- Set a good example. Sit down for family meals together and make sure your kids see you enjoying the same wholesome foods you’re expecting them to eat.
If your picky eater opts not to eat anything at all, don’t make a big deal about it. Simply offer nutritious choices again at the next scheduled meal or snack. But if your child is regularly skipping meals and snacks or you’re worried that your little one isn’t getting enough calories or nutrients, talk to your doctor. Remember, children learn by example and their parents are their greatest teachers. Be sure to make exercise also part of daily activities.