Why is it Essential for People with Special Dietary Requirements to Follow Special Diets?

Food allergies, sensitivities, religious practices, and ideological beliefs are some of the main reasons why individuals adhere to certain diets or dietary restrictions. While some of these limitations are intended to avert life-threatening events, others are based on personal and moral convictions. In a child care program, food allergies, cultural and religious preferences, and vegetarian diets are common issues that must be addressed. Child care providers, center directors, and parents must collaborate to guarantee that children with special dietary needs receive adequate nutrition.

It is essential to include foods from different cultures as a regular part of the menu, rather than a “special food” that is served only on certain days. This helps children learn about the foods that are eaten in different cultures. When it comes to meetings, association conferences and events, food plays a central role and it is imperative that the event organizer addresses dietary needs in a safe and professional manner. No one should feel alienated or like they are missing out due to their food needs.

The Disabled World category of recipes and special dietary information for health conditions offers diet plans and recipes for conditions such as diabetes, allergies and Crohn's disease. Planning to meet the child's special dietary needs must begin before the child is enrolled in the child care program. If the program cannot provide food to meet the child's needs, parents should provide meals and snacks that meet the child's needs or refer the family to another child care program that may be better suited to their child's special diet. Lida De Souza from De Souza Associates shares her experience of dealing with unusual dietary needs.

When talking to parents before enrolling the child, ask about these special practices and discuss with them the best ways to adapt to these dietary changes. Decide whether or not the program can provide foods that meet the child's special dietary needs before you agree to enroll him or her in the child care program. Artificial sweeteners tend to work best in foods that don't require sugar for texture, moisture, or color. For more information on how to support children with special needs in a child care program, see the Extension Alliance for Better Child Care section on child care for children with special needs.