Provide Healthy Food
Childhood obesity is a complex health issue. It occurs when a child is significantly above the healthy weight for his or her age and height.4 Among Florida children in the WIC program, 27.1% of children 2- to 5-year-olds were overweight or had obesity in 2018. Addressing this epidemic is important because children who have obesity are more likely to become adults with obesity. Adult obesity is associated with an increased risk of several serious health conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
Starting good nutrition practices early can also help children develop healthy dietary patterns into adulthood. Also, good nutrition during the first 2 years of life is vital for healthy growth and development. Research shows that well-nourished children are healthier, more attentive and have better mental performance than children who are under-nourished. Healthy eating can help individuals achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, consume important nutrients and reduce the risk of developing health conditions such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, iron deficiency and dental caries (cavities).
Many children spend time in early care and education programs. These settings can directly influence what children eat and drink and how active they are. Child care programs can support the development of healthy eating habits among the children they serve by aligning meal plans with the Child Care Food Program guidelines and having policies for food brought from home and served on site.
Improving Child Nutrition ECE Best Practices
- Have a written nutrition policy and menu plan.
- Serve a variety of vegetables in fresh, frozen, canned or dried form. Choose low-sodium canned options.
- Serve a variety of no sugar added, whole fruits in fresh, frozen or dried. Choose fruits served in water or 100% fruit juice.
- Make half the grains served whole grains or whole-grain products.
- Serve fish, poultry, lean meats and eggs.
- Limit processed meats and poultry.
- Limit the amount of pre-fried and fried foods served.
ABC’s of a Healthy Me Session Six: Watch session six of our FREE six-part online training, ABC’s of a Healthy Me. Session six overviews the healthy food best practice areas for promoting a healthy weight in children 0 to 5 years old in the ECE setting. Complete all six sessions to earn 1 continuing education unit.
University of Florida’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Science Extension- Family Nutrition Program: The UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program (FNP) has provided free nutrition education to SNAP-eligible people in Florida since 1996. FNP also provides free resources for local organizations to support and promote healthy eating and physical activity in their communities. Visit their website for information, resources and to see if FNP serves your county.
Healthy Kids Healthy Future: Healthy Kids, Healthy Future is a nationwide call-to-action that empowers child care and early education providers to make positive health changes in children that could last a lifetime. On their website you can find trainings and resources focused on nurturing healthy eaters.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): CDC is helping our nation’s children grow up healthy and strong by creating resources to help partners improve obesity prevention programs and use nutrition standards. Child care providers and parents can explore this page for information and practical strategies on feeding healthy foods and drinks to infants and toddlers, from birth to 24 months of age visit this site.
Florida Department of Health Child Care Food Program (CCFP): The Child Care Food Program provides reimbursement for nutritious meals and snacks served to children in child care settings. The CCFP helps child care facilities implement “best practices” to ensure children have access to a variety of nutritious foods for healthy growth and to reduce obesity risk. To find out how your organization can participate in the Child Care Food Program click here.
The map below shows child care centers in Palm Beach and the Treasure Coast and their CCFP participation status. It also shows if these centers are in areas with low access to supermarkets or grocery stores and a high number of families that may be eligible.