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.1 Among Florida children in the WIC program who were at least 2 years old, 29.7% were overweight or obese in 2021. Addressing this issue 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. Additionally, 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
To Improve child nutrition best practices, ECEs should:
- Have a written nutrition policy and menu plan.
- Serve a variety of vegetables in fresh, frozen, canned or dried form. ECEs are encouraged to choose low-sodium options when using canned goods.
- Serve a variety of no-sugar-added, whole fruits in fresh, frozen or dried forms. ECEs are encouraged to choose fruits served in water or 100% fruit juice.
- Make half of 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 reviews 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 residents 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 connect with a FNP program in your area.
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): The 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.
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 in an effort to promote healthy growth and reduce obesity risk. To find out how your organization can participate in the Child Care Food Program click here.
In partnership with Child Care Aware, Florida’s HEROs created a Child Care Food Program Story Map for Palm Beach and the Treasure Coast. This map shows the CCFP participation status of all ECEs in Palm Beach and the Treasure Coast. It also shows which of these centers are in areas with low access to supermarkets or grocery stores, as well as those with a high number of families that may be eligible. This tool can help identify additional opportunities to expand CCFP participation and increase access to healthy, nutritious food among child ages 0 to 5. You can view the Story Map here: https://arcg.is/vP9ia