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Planning Healthy Meals

Dear Debi,
Some of the children in my care bring very unhealthy snacks. I told the parents not to send snacks with them because I provide them myself. But I worry about the nutrition these children get when they are home. Should I talk to the parents about it?
Dianne, Los Angeles
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Share tips about healthy eating habits
  • Share information about healthy foods kids like
  • Eat with your kids and don’t use food as a reward
Expert Advice
Susan Singer
Susan Singer
Chefs in the Classroom
There are many things child care providers can do to help encourage healthy eating habits. Role modeling is important – child care providers should eat healthy foods themselves. I wouldn’t necessarily say you always need to substitute juice for soda –because sometimes too much juice means too much sugar –but I’d certainly recommend avoiding sodas.

I would also tell parents to make sure to introduce vegetables at a young age. Make sure to include veggies with every meal, even as snacks. Try not to have a lot of junk food around. That doesn’t mean never, but make it limited. Allow ice cream on Sunday, but don’t serve it everyday. Make sure to eat with your kids. Remember, don’t use food as a reward or punishment.

Other ideas for encouraging healthy foods are to incorporate foods from a child’s favorite story. There are some great books out there, such as “Tops and Bottoms” which are about root vegetable. It’s designed for Pre-K and Kindergarten. Another good choice would be “Oliver’s Fruit Salad.”

You can also encourage kids to think healthy by involving them in grocery shopping as well as the actual cooking and preparation of healthy foods. Kids love to taste foods that they’ve helped create.

You shouldn’t necessarily scold a child for expressing displeasure with a particular food. They’re entitled to have their taste, but they should be encouraged to try things more than just once. Remember, it takes about 10 different tries for a child to develop a taste for something. It’s important to help them start developing a taste for healthy foods at a young age.
Child Care provider Comments
Clarissa August
Clarissa August
Family child care provider for 21 years
If you are worried about the nutrition your children are getting, I would suggest talking to the local school district to see if one of their nutritionists could come and make a presentation to the parents about healthful eating. The nutritionist can show the parents what is healthy or unhealthy for the kids.
Sonnia Corzo
Sonnia Corzo
Child care provider for 6 years, mother of four
I give parents healthy recipes, brochures about the importance of giving kids healthy foods, and information from the Food Department telling them what the kids need to eat throughout the day. I talk to them about the dental health issues and how sugar affects behavior. We first let the parents know what the kids are eating by posting the menus.
Parent Comments
Mother of 3-year-old
Right now, I’m having an issue with the birthday cake and ice cream served at my daughter’s school for the kids’ birthdays. I think it’s great to make the kids feel special, but there are three birthdays this week and my daughter is the one who will be eating cake for 3 days. I feel you have to say something, you’re the parent and you have to be responsible for what they are eating. So I talked to her teacher about it.

Healthy Snacks Featured Activity:
Healthy Snacks
Family-Style Meal Featured Video:
Family-Style Meal
Topic: Health & Safety
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