Mealtime Memo for Child Care is published by the USDA Institute of Child Nutrition. Mealtime Memos offer information for child care providers participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), focused on good nutrition for young children. Click on a memo below for information, tips and recipes.
2017 Mealtime Memos
September 2017: Updated Meal Pattern
A review of the CACFP meal pattern updates and changes that take effect October 1, 2017.
August 2017: Physical Activity for Young Children
Physical activity is any movement of the body that requires it to use more energy than it would in a resting state. Learn about the benefits of incorporating active play in your child care facility.
July 2017: Appropriate Eating for Young Children
Provide meals that are appropriate and nutritious for young children.
June 2017: Nutritious Foods for Infants
Good nutrition is one of the most important components of healthy growth and development during the first year. Learn ways to support infants through good nutrition.
May 2017: Preventing Mealtime Mayhem
Avoid the mealtime mayhem that may occur when there is no plan in place for using Family-Style Meal Service.
April 2017: Tips for Serving Meals Family-Style
Tips for serving meals family-style,what makes the meal you serve family-style, and what items you need to include during mealtime.
March 2017: What About Those Fabulous Fruits
The updated meal pattern separates the fruits from the vegetables to help increase variety and consumption.
February 2017: Veggies, Yum! Providing Opportunities for Children to Like and Try Vegetables
New ways for introducing vegetables to young children and learn about the updated CACFP meal pattern requirements for vegetables.
January 2017: CACFP Meal Patterns in the New Year
Learn three ways for planning to implement the updated Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Meal Patterns.
2016 Mealtime Memos
December 2016: Training, Training, We all Need Training!
Regulations on staff training and professional development in child care programs vary widely from state to state. However, several national programs, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and the Head Start Performance Standards, require ongoing training in nutrition. Therefore, this memo will feature some key sources for meeting your training needs.
November 2016: Outdoor Playtime is the Best Time – Winter Play
Young children do best when they have many opportunities to participate in physical activities throughout the day. However, in the winter months participating in outdoor play may be less favorable than staying indoors where it is warm and cozy. Therefore, this memo will feature the importance of young children participating in outdoor play throughout the year, even in the winter months.
October 2016: Got Leafy Greens?
Fresh vegetables are great sources of essential nutrients young children need for healthy growth and development. However, many children do not eat enough vegetables each day. Therefore, this memo will features some strategies for incorporating more leafy greens on your menus.
September 2016: Please Help! Help-Desk Team at Your Call
Have you ever had a nutrition-related question about the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) but didn’t know who to ask? Maybe you had a question but were embarrassed to ask your colleagues or someone at the state agency office? Look no further, this memo will provide an overview of how the Institute of Child Nutrition(ICN)’s Help-Desk Team can help.
August 2016: Is it Safe to Eat? Food Temperatures for Child Care
Controlling temperatures is one of the most important ways to control the growth of bacteria in food. It also helps to reduce the risk of children and staff becoming sick with a foodborne illness. Therefore, this memo will feature some basic tips for selecting and using food thermometers to prepare meals for the children in your care.
July 2016: Got Time? Online Courses for Professional Development
Training and professional development are essential resources for success in a child care setting. Not only does it help everyone to succeed in their day-to-day roles and responsibilities, but training and professional development also increases confidence among staff. However, finding time to attend training can be a challenge for some child care professionals. Therefore, this memo will feature strategies for obtaining professional development through online courses.
June 2016: For Good Nutrition, Eat Foods in Season!
Good nutrition is the cornerstone of good health. A balanced diet filled with a variety of nutritious foods helps to reduce the risk of heart disease, hypertension, and obesity. In addition, when young children develop healthy eating habits, that include nutritious foods, they are more likely to continue these healthy habits into adulthood. Therefore, this memo will feature three key reasons to incorporate seasonal foods in your child care menus for good nutrition.
May 2016: Herbs and Spices
Using herbs and spices is a great way to enhance the flavor of food without adding additional fat, salt, or sugar. Although, learning to use them takes practice and can be time-consuming, if you know the common herbs and spices, understand how to use them, and are aware of how to store them, it can help you prepare nutritious meals filled with flavor. Therefore, this memo will provide some basic tips for selecting herbs and spices when preparing meals in child care settings.
April 2016: Preparing Foods with Limited Time
A busy day in a child care setting may call for many things beyond caring for children, such as greeting parents, answering phones, purchasing food, etc. Occasionally, the long list of tasks can limit the time for preparing food. Therefore, this memo will provide you with some basic strategies for preparing foods with limited time.
March 2016: Beverages That Count
The beverage aisle at the grocery store is filled with bright colors and enticing products. Unfortunately, many beverages, such as sports drinks and soda, are high in added sugars, which add unnecessary calories to the diet. Serving more nutritious beverages can provide essential nutrients to a child’s diet, as well as promote good eating habits. Therefore, this memo will provide some basic tips for selecting nutritious beverages.
February 2016: Cooking With Oils
Think about the aisle where the cooking oils are found in your local supermarket. How many different types of oils are there? In many cases, there are numerous options to choose from: olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil, walnut oil, and vegetable oil. This memo will provide the basics about the most commonly used oils.
January 2016: Mealtime Conversations with Preschoolers
Positive and effective communication is the foundation for developing healthy and rewarding child-to-child and adult-to-child relationships. When you pay attention to children and encourage communication, you help them to create a positive view of themselves and the world in which they live. Mealtimes are no exception to great conversations. To show how, this resource discusses how preschoolers communicate, as well as benefits and strategies of engaging them in meaningful conversation.
2015 Mealtime Memos
December 2015: Gluten: What is It?
From magazine articles to commercials, from food items on grocery store shelves to mealtime conversations, gluten-free eating has grown in popularity, and it is commonly a hot topic for many. But what is gluten; where is it found; and why would someone need to avoid it? If you are like many who are not familiar with gluten and gluten-free eating, this resource will provide you the basics about gluten.
November 2015: Servings versus Portions
Do you know the difference between a serving and a portion of food? The two terms may sound similar, but they have different meanings. This resource will define the two terms and provide tips for planning, preparing, and serving meals based on serving and portions.
October 2015: Ways to Cut Food Cost
Purchasing nutritious food items on a budget can include many strategies, such as shopping in season, buying storable foods in larger quantities, and using coupons. For that reason, this resource will provide different methods for curbing food cost when purchasing food items in child care settings.
September 2015: Evaluating Your Wellness Policy
A child care wellness policy, although not required, provides a positive impression about your commitment to good health and nutrition to parents and the community. Developing and implementing a wellness policy demonstrates the facility’s commitment to the health and well-being of children. This resource will provide you with good practices for evaluating your wellness policy to ensure that it meets the needs of those in your child care setting.
August 2015: Power Outages and Food Safety
What would you do if you lost power at this very moment in your child care facility? How would you assure the safety of the food in your facility? This resource will provide tips and strategies for handling power outages in child care settings.
July 2015: Organic Fruits and Vegetables – Are They Better?
This resource provides a basic overview of what, where, and how organic foods are harvested and processed. Additionally, this resource provides easy methods for identifying organic foods when shopping for food items.
June 2015: It’s Spice Time: Adding Herbs and Spices During Meal Preparation
This resource provides tips and strategies for planning menus using herbs and spices. It also includes some basic tips for replacing salt and sugar with herbs and spices. Additionally, this resource features key information for reading claims on food packages, such as “fat-free” or “calorie free.”
May 2015: Sodium: What Is It?
This resource describes sodium and how it affects the body. It also describes methods for limiting sodium when planning menus for child care. The recipe is Banana Smoothie. The fruit of the month is pineapple.
April 2015: It’s About That Time: Enhancing Nutrition Education Programs to Promote Healthy Eating Habits
This resource provides an overview of the importance and benefits of incorporating nutrition education in child care programs. It features nutrition education curricula and user-friendly tips for incorporating nutrition education in the child care classroom. It also includes information for celebrating the Week of the Young Child.
March 2015: Snack Times are the Best Times: Planning Nutritious and Appealing Snacks for Young Children
This resource provides an overview of the importance and benefits of snacks. In addition, it provides information for planning meals based on the Child and Adult Care Food Program. It also features nutrition fact information on consuming good fats. The vegetable of the month is spinach.
February 2015: Menu Planning for Healthy Eating
This resource provides tips and strategies for planning menus based on the Building Blocks for Fun and Healthy Meals “ABCs of Successful Menu Planning.” It features key information for planning menus that are balanced, varied, colorful, appealing, and nutritious for young children. This memo also provides information on the importance of water. The recipe is yogurt fruit dip.
January 2015: Setting Goals for the New Year
This resource provides tips and strategies for setting nutrition, physical activity, and other health related goals for child care settings. This resource also features a seasonal fruit recipe utilizing bananas and berries.
2014 Mealtime Memos
December 2014: Time Saving Tips for the Child Care Kitchen
This resource provides tips and strategies for saving time when planning and preparing meals in child care settings.
November 2014: It’s Cleaning Time: Tips for Cleaning in the Child Care Kitchen
This resource provides tips and strategies for maintaining clean kitchen environments in child care settings. It features good practices for washing dishes using manual and mechanical methods, directions for proper handwashing, and additional methods for cleaning equipment.
October 2014: Conquering Picky Eating with Nutrition Education Activities
This resource provides an overview of picky eating as it relates to young children. In addition, it provides basic tips and strategies for helping young children try and like new foods through educational activities.
September 2014: It’s Time to Grocery Shop: Shopping the Safe Way
This resource outlines methods for avoiding cross contamination while shopping at the grocery store. It provides key strategies for using a shopping cart, steps for ensuring the check-out process keeps foods separate, and good practices for bagging groceries.
August 2014: Understanding the Meat Alternate Component
This resource outlines methods for choosing meat alternates to meet the requirements of the Child and Adult Care Food Program. In addition, it provides basic tips and strategies for healthy meal planning using meat alternates.
July 2014: Creating and Maintaining a Safe Mealtime Environment
This resource outlines the importance of training and professional development for creating and maintaining a safe mealtime environment.
June 2014: Nutrition Education: Why, When, Where and How
This resource will provide information on the importance of giving children nutrition education at an early age. It will provide information on how, where, and when to provide it and most importantly why nutrition education is important to incorporate in children’s lives and routine at an early age.
May 2014: Feeding Infants
This resource will give you information on how to feed and introduce solid foods to infants.
April 2014: MyPlate Vegetable Subgroups
This resource will provide you with information and understanding of what vegetables fall into which MyPlate subgroups as well as the benefits of including the MyPlate vegetables subgroup in the menu.
March 2014: Healthy Meals on a Budget
This resource will give ideas for purchasing and serving credible nutritious meals while being on a budget
February 2014: Play Time is the Best Time
This resource will provide you with strategies to use to help keep your children active throughout the day while in your care.
January 2014: New Year, New Healthy Food Choices
This resource will provide you with strategies to use to help young children make healthy food choices.