Take Charge is helping WEC children to eat healthy at Child Care and Early Years Centres
Children develop eating habits at an early age. Helping children make healthy food choices early in life, is important for their future health. Early exposure of children to healthy foods helps them build lifelong healthy eating habits. As a child care or early years centre provider, you have an important role of helping children build healthy eating habits by providing a food environment that makes it easier for children to eat healthy. The Take Charge - Vegetables and Fruit the fun way toolkit has been provided to support you in your existing work of promoting healthy eating among toddlers and preschoolers at your centre. The toolkit also provides some sample activities and links to resources to guide you in designing age appropriate activities that promote healthy eating in children.
Vegetables and fruit are an important part of a healthy diet for toddlers and preschoolers. They provide vitamins, minerals, and fibre that are necessary for growth, development and overall health of the child. Low intake of Vegetables and Fruit at young age can increase lifelong risk for chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and some cancers. Water is the best form of hydration for children. It is important to create a healthy food and beverage environment at all places where children live or play.
The Windsor Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) appreciates your partnership and your work with children at your centre through promoting healthy eating. WECHU is proud to support your existing work with Take Charge, a program designed to support Windsor Essex County families to make healthy food and beverage choices, wherever they live, work or play.
What does Take Charge - Creating healthy food environment mean at your centre?
- Encouraging healthy eating in children through role modeling, education and activities.
- Including vegetables and fruit in every meal or snack
- Providing snacks (and meals if applicable) on regular schedules
- Providing snacks (and meals if applicable) according to Canada’s Food Guide
- Offering water instead of sugary drinks
- Offering child-size food portions
- Offering whole foods, and limiting packaged foods that are high in salt, fat and sugar
- Gardening vegetables and fruit with children
- Cooking vegetables and fruit with the children
- Developing a policy that supports healthy eating in children at your centre
Encourage healthy eating in children by making vegetables and fruit a part of every meal and snack.
Toddlers and preschoolers should eat about 4-5 servings of vegetables and fruit every day respectively. Offer at least one serving of vegetable and fruit for snack and at least 2 servings of vegetables and fruit for meals (if applicable).
View Nutrition Recommendations for Licensed Child Care Providers in Ontario for more information.
Choose recipes that have vegetables and fruit as major ingredients
Children should have a serving of dark green and one orange vegetable every day.
- Dark green vegetables include: broccoli, romaine lettuce, spinach, arugula, chard, dandelion greens, kale/collards, and mustard greens.
- Orange vegetables include: carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, pumpkin and yams. Orange fruits such as apricot, mango, orange, cantaloupe and papaya can also be offered in place of orange vegetables.
- Provide healthy meals and snacks according to Canada’s Food Guide Develop a menu that incorporates variety of vegetables and fruit at your centre. Review some meal planning tips and Sample Meal and snack plan for Toddlers and Preschoolers, to help you plan meals and snacks for your specific centre. These snack ideas can help you in your future menu planning.
Provide snacks (and meals if applicable) on regular schedules
Typically, children should have 3 small meals and 2-3 snacks per day.
Schedule a meal or snack every 2.5 to 3 hours. Do not allow children to graze.
If food is placed in a central place throughout the day, children tend to continue eating all day and this affects their appetite for the next meal or snack.
Your Centre should schedule snacks (and meals if applicable) according to the Ontario Child Care and Early Year Act.
Offer water instead of sweetened drinks for hydration.
Offer whole vegetable or fruit and limit the offer of juice or sweetened beverages. Whole vegetables and fruit are higher in fibre and lower in sugar than juice or sweetened beverages. Fibre is important in helping keep children full and satisfied for longer. Offer water when children are thirsty. Keep water interesting by making flavoured waters with vegetables and fruit.
- Encourage children to use refillable child size-water bottles
- Offer milk with meals or snack
- If you have to offer juice, 125-175 mLs per day of 100% juice with no added sugar is recommended.
Offer child size food portion at meals and snacks
Follow Canada’s Food Guide. Typically, children 2-3 years of age should eat 4 servings and children 4-5 years should eat 5 servings of vegetables and fruit per day. These servings can be divided into child size portions for meals and snacks through the day. Using a child size-portioned plate will guide you in providing adequate portion of vegetable and fruit for children; make half the plate, vegetables and fruit at every meal. Offer at least one serving of vegetable and fruit for snack and at least 2 servings of vegetables and fruit for meals.
Cook with the Children
Cooking is a fun and exciting activity for children. Getting children involved in the kitchen at a young age can help them develop lifelong cooking skills and healthy eating habits. There are age-appropriate tasks that children can do in the kitchen including: Activities as small as setting the table, adding ingredient to a mixture, removing vegetables from the fridge or washing salad ingredients, can help boost children’s confidence in the kitchen.
For more tips on involving children in the kitchen visit Cooking with Children, and EatRight Ontario Award winning child friendly recipes.
Frozen and canned vegetables and fruit are healthy, affordable and easy to store for longer periods of time. Avoid canned vegetables and fruit that are high fat, salt and sugar. Read the food label to help you compare and in choosing healthier food options for your centre. Example, fruits packed in heavy syrup have more sugar than those packed in fruit juice. Rinse canned foods with clean water to remove excess salt and sugar, and drain well before serving.
Garden with the Children.
Planting a garden can get children interested in trying vegetables and fruit; it can also keep them physically active. Children can learn about food, and where food comes from. The following resources have been provided to help you plan a vegetable garden at your centre.
- Kid’s first gardening book
- Early Learning Gardening Guide
- Garden safety guidelines
- Seed library
- Plants to grow in cold weather
Plan a visit to a produce farm close to you.
Plan a visit to a produce farm with care givers and their children. Young children learn more about food and where it comes from during farm visits. For list of farms in your area visit Windsor Essex County Farms