At Crystals Childcare and Preschool, we believe that instilling healthy eating habits in young children is one of the most important things we can do. As an organization dedicated to the well-being and development of children, we take child nutrition very seriously. We recognize that the eating patterns and preferences established in early childhood tend to carry through to adulthood. That’s why we strive to expose the children under our care to a diverse variety of nutritious, appealing foods to positively shape their eating habits for life. 

Our nutrition philosophy is guided by expert standards and the latest scientific research on child health. However, we also understand that no one-size-fits-all approach works when it comes to fostering healthy eating. We collaborate closely with parents and customize our menus and dining practices to suit each child’s unique needs and preferences. 

In this blog post, we’ll give you an in-depth look at our approach to child nutrition and healthy eating education. Read on to learn about: 

  • Our Nutrient-Dense Menu Planning Guidelines 
  • Incorporating All Food Groups 
  • Portion Sizes & Food Presentation Strategies 
  • Creating a Positive Eating Environment 
  • Cooking & Food Education Activities 
  • Accommodating Allergies and Dietary Restrictions 
  • Partnering with Parents on Healthy Eating 
  • The Benefits of Our Nutrition Approach 

We hope this overview gives you confidence that your child’s nutritional needs will be exceptionally well cared for here at Crystals. As always, we welcome your input and ideas on how we can work as partners to instill healthy eating habits. Please reach out with any questions! 

Our Nutrient-Dense Menu Planning Guidelines 

The starting point of our healthy school meal program lies in standardized nutritional guidelines for childcare facilities. Our in-house nutritionist refers to established recommendations from health agencies and scientific literature to craft rotating weekly menus that far exceed minimum standards. 

Some key principles that shape our weekly menus include: 

– Emphasis on fruits, vegetables, lean protein, fiber-rich whole grains and healthy fats – Minimizing processed ingredients, added sugars, unhealthy fats, and excess sodium

– Focus on “nutrient density”, ensuring calories pack a solid nutritional punch – Carefully controlling portions to meet children’s caloric needs 

– Creative incorporation of global flavors to expand young palates 

Our weekly menus cycle through a diverse blend of nutritious, appetizing breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. Some examples of dishes your child might enjoy include: 

  • Breakfast: Greek yogurt parfaits with berries; oatmeal bake with apples and cinnamon; mini whole wheat pancakes; scrambled eggs with veggies, etc. 
  • Lunch: Lentil & brown rice soup; turkey wraps with hummus; roasted salmon with broccoli; veggie chili; chicken fajitas, etc. 
  • Snacks: Apple slices with nut butter; carrot sticks and red pepper strips with guacamole; cottage cheese with pineapple; hard-boiled eggs; homemade trail mix; berries; edamame, etc. 

You can find our latest weekly menus posted on our information boards or request a digital copy from our front office staff.

Incorporating All Food Groups 

Following leading health authority recommendations, our menus incorporate appropriate portions from all the food groups children need not just to meet caloric needs, but also to ensure the intake of essential vitamins and minerals. This includes: 

  • Fruits & Vegetables: We incorporate both fruits and vegetables of vibrant colors and textures into a minimum of two meals and one snack per day. Making up about 30% of our weekly menus, we strive for a high proportion of plant foods full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protective phytonutrients. 
  • Grains: We focus our grain choices on whole, minimally processed options like brown rice, oats, farro, quinoa, 100% whole wheat bread, and whole grain pasta. These provide valuable nutrients including B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and fiber. We limit refined grains as much as possible. 
  • Proteins: We include a nutritious protein source such as lean meat, fish/seafood, eggs, beans, or lentils into at least two daily meals/snacks. These provide sustained energy, satisfy hunger, and help children build strong muscles.
  • Dairy: Non-dairy milks fortified with calcium and vitamin D join yogurt and cheese on our menus to promote bone health. Children who cannot tolerate dairy receive comparable plant-based alternatives. 
  • Healthy Fats: Our dishes regularly incorporate plant fats like nut butter, avocado, olives and oils which provide essential fatty acids kids need for brain development along with fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. 

By thoughtfully combining all essential food groups into our weekly planning, we ensure complete, balanced nutrition tailored to support children’s growth and wellness.

Portion Sizes & Food Presentation Strategies 

We carefully control portions of all meals and snacks served based on the USDA’s age-specific nutritional guidelines. This ensures children not only receive balanced nutrition but also appropriate calories to fuel their high activity levels and rapid growth without promoting excess weight gain. 

Research does show that how foods are prepared, plated, and presented also influences consumption patterns in children. We leverage evidence-based strategies that increase their acceptance of healthy options: 

– Serving nutritious foods attractively arranged into simple patterns or fun shapes – Allowing children autonomy in building their plates from healthy bulk-batch dishes – Presenting new items separately instead of mixed dishes to reduce neophobia – Garnishing foods vibrantly with herbs, vegetables and sauces 

By taking presentation seriously and making wholesome dishes appealing, we coach children to enjoy nutritious cuisine as their tastes and familiarity build.

Creating a Positive Eating Environment 

In addition to the food itself, we optimize the full dining experience by promoting a relaxing, engaging atmosphere where children learn to appreciate mealtimes. Some examples of our evidence-backed techniques include: 

– Scheduling adequate time for children to eat without feeling rushed 

– Playing soft, calm music and minimizing loud noises that could be distracting – Encouraging pleasant conversation about food textures, tastes, and nutrition

– Having teachers model positive enjoyment of various healthy foods 

– Avoiding overly restrictive practices around meals and snacks 

– Using praise and positive reinforcement for trying new foods 

The inviting, warm environment helps children associate healthy foods with comfort and enjoyment – powerfully reinforcing nutritious eating habits.

Cooking and Food Education Activities 

Getting little hands involved can not only make eating healthy fun – it advances children’s culinary skills, food knowledge, and willingness to try more adventurous nourishing foods! Our facility incorporates regular cooking projects and food literacy education through: 

– Age-appropriate cooking classes letting kids prepare their healthy snacks and meals 

– Maintaining an onsite garden where children plant and harvest fruits, vegetables, and herbs that go straight onto their plates 

– Thematic educational units on topics like farms, healthy snacks, nutrients and vitamins, dietary variety, etc. 

– Field trips to orchards, farmers markets, and other sites to learn how ingredients are grown and produced 

By actively participating in food preparation and broadening their understanding of nutrition, children form meaningful connections that motivate ongoing healthy eating habits.

Accommodating Allergies and Dietary Restrictions 

With rising rates of food allergies and other medical diets, we take necessary precautions to make mealtimes safe and inclusive for all children. Our rigorous processes to prevent reactions include: 

  • Maintaining updated documentation of all student allergies and dietary restrictions ● Modifying recipes and preparation practices to exclude problematic allergen ingredients ● Sanitizing surfaces and using separate equipment to avoid cross-contamination ● Clearly labeling foods served and indicating allergen contents 
  • Training all staff comprehensively on medical and dietary accommodations ● Making safe substitutions so restricted children enjoy comparable foods

Through diligent coordination, planning, and preparing, we successfully cater to children with specialized diets, allowing all students to participate equally and safely at shared mealtimes. 

Partnering with Parents on Healthy Eating 

While your child spends weekdays under our care, we recognize you maintain authority over their diet. We aim to align closely with parents to consistently promote the same wholesome nutrition principles. Some ways we facilitate open collaboration include: 

– Regularly communicating about your child’s eating patterns and preferences – Providing copies of weekly menus and new recipes to try at home 

– Updating you on emerging nutrition issues relevant to kids’ health 

– Offering free educational resources and family cooking classes 

– Welcoming suggestions to improve our healthy school meals 

By continually cooperating as partners in your child’s nutrition, we help cement wholesome eating habits that become their lifestyle at home and in our facility.

The Benefits of Our Nutrition Approach 

As a recognized leader in early childhood education and care, our professional, evidence-backed approach to children’s nutrition delivers meaningful benefits that parents value greatly, including: 

  • Health: Optimizing nutrition safeguards children’s well-being, supporting healthy development. 
  • Academic Performance: Proper nutrition boosts cognitive abilities, concentration, memory, and learning. 
  • Lifelong Habits: Exposing kids to nutritious foods from early on helps healthier eating 
  • Behavior: A balanced diet rich in brain-fueling nutrients enhances self-regulation and reduces behavioral issues. 
  • Safety & Inclusion: Our diligent allergy and restriction accommodations enable all children to participate fully in daily meals. 
  • Convenience: Our menus and coordination with parents take the stress out of providing daily healthy, appealing meals and snacks. 
  • Peace of Mind: You can feel confident your child’s unique nutritional needs are met in a thoughtful, conscientious manner.

When you enroll your child at our facility, you can trust their diet will checked off your list of parenting duties! We handle all the planning, preparing, serving, and education around healthy eating – allowing your child to flourish. 

We’re Here to Support Your Child’s Nutrition! 

As you can see, diet and nutrition are central to our overarching commitment to children’s growth, development, and well-being here at Crystals Childcare and Preschool. We would love to discuss our healthy eating program in more detail and answer any questions you may have! 

We aim to be fully aligned partners with parents in fostering a lifelong foundation of wholesome eating habits starting from a young age. Please reach out to learn more about openings for your child here in our top-rated facility.

Ready to give your child the nutrition advantage? We’re currently accepting enrollment applications for the upcoming school year. Contact us today at  (432) 687-5904  to learn more! Let’s schedule a tour so you can see our child nutrition philosophy in action.