Why is it important to plan menus for children ages 1 years?

Foreseeing the future and planning a menu can be an economical and efficient way to ensure that young children receive a nutritionally balanced diet every day. Menus for young children can be for family meals or for meals in early education settings, such as day care centers or play groups. Careful menu planning is a fundamental process for successful child care food service programs. By planning the menus, time and money are saved, efficiency is increased, orders are expedited and the menus are ensured that the menus comply with the provisions of the CACFP regarding the reimbursement of meals.

Menu planning also makes it possible to serve balanced, nutritionally appropriate meals to the children in your facility. Because the menu planning process may be slightly different from program to program, it is recommended that you consult with your supervisor about the specific menu planning process used in your program before starting this activity. Cyclical menus usually last three to five weeks, although they can be of any length of time. Use these documents to practice filling out the Thursday lunch section of the file for the first week of spring production based on the number of children in each age group at your facility (the first week of spring begins in row 59 of the production calculator file).

Children have high iron requirements and should be encouraged to eat meat regularly (at least three or four times a week) to prevent the onset of anemia. All menus must incorporate a variety of nutritious foods in portions that meet CACFP requirements for children in each age group. When children “accept” the meal planning process, they are more accepting of the menu offerings served to them. The CACFP provides guidelines for serving nutritious meals and snacks to infants and children attending day care.

It's also important for children to eat foods that are low in salt and limit their intake of foods such as ready meals or crackers. Child care centers that provide meals and snacks through the Food Care Program for Children and Adults (CACFP) play a critical role in supporting the well-being, health and development of children by providing them with nutritious food and beverages. From a management standpoint, the use of standardized prescriptions helps control food and labor costs, inventory, and purchases. You can survey children and ask them to vote on what foods (from a selected list) they would like to see on the menu.

Below are two Department of Defense Excel calculators used to plan the amount of food to be prepared as part of the spring cycle menu. Some nurseries choose to use cyclical menus, which are a set of different daily menu options served during a specific period. Children's meals should be made with fresh, quality ingredients. The intake of processed foods, such as chicken nuggets, should be limited, as they lack nutritional value.