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Planning healthy meals for children

Maintaining a well-balanced diet and good nutrition is essential to health. What children eat is important to both their physical and mental development. Child care providers and parents should ensure that children eat healthy snacks and meals and learn good eating habits.

During the toddler and preschool years, children grow in spurts and their appetites can also fluctuate. They may eat a lot one day, and the next day hardly exhibit any appetite. Nonetheless, the focus should still be on providing them with a healthy selection of foods. 

Calcium is an especially important nutrient for children. Known as the body's "building block," it's needed by children to develop healthy bones and teeth. Milk is one of the best sources of calcium and is readily available in grocery stores, so make sure to include it during snack-time. If some children are lactose intolerant or have other dietary restrictions, you can use a milk substitute—just be sure that it is fortified with calcium. Soy milk, tofu, waffles and oatmeal also provide good sources of calcium. As a general rule, strive to provide students with vegetables, fruit and whole grains on a daily basis. 

To learn more about integrating nutrition into your classroom, refer to ProSolutions Training's course, "Healthy Meal Planning." This course provides information on nutritious menu planning and a nine step process designed to help you develop nutritious menus for preschool children. After participating in this course, you will be able to list at least five essential nutrients, as well as identify the steps in the menu planning process and finally, use the USDA meal pattern guidelines to plan a healthy meal. ProSolutions Training also offers CDA training for early childhood educators.