Creative Menu Planning (page 2)
Creative menu planning that involves children in food activities can give children positive experiences with healthy foods. Here are some tips for involving children in meal preparation, fun food activities, and stories about food.
Menu Planning Tips
Menu planning is one of the most important jobs of food preparation. Careful planning ensures that meals are healthy, tasty, and eye appealing.
- Offer a variety of foods. Plan to serve a variety of foods throughout the day and week. Be sure that the same foods are not offered too often.
- Increase fiber and nutrients by including fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products. Include foods that provide vitamin A, vitamin C, and iron.
- Limit fried foods, high fat foods, sweets, and high sodium foods.
- Include a variety of shapes, colors, textures, and tastes.
- Include some foods in each meal that children easily accept.
- Introduce new foods to children alongside familiar, well-liked foods.
Creative Ideas for Connecting Menus to Classroom Activities
Go beyond basic menu planning; use creative ideas to teach children about food and nutrition. Try the following ideas to connect menus to classroom activities.
- Connect a menu item to a nutrition lesson.
- Plan a food activity that allows children to participate in making a snack or meal component.
- Use creative names for menu items. For example, when serving apples with peanut butter and raisins, the menu item can be called “apple smiles.” Ask children to create inventive names for menu items.
- Talk about new foods presented in meals. When introducing new foods to children, ask children to tell what food group the food belongs to and how the food grows.
- Discuss food groups represented in meals. Teach students about nutrition using songs and games.
- Read a children’s book that relates to a menu item to create interest in foods.
- Use resources such as More Than Mudpies for new ideas (NFSMI, 2004).
|Peach Muffin Squares- A-16A1
|Cream of wheat cereal
Whole-grain English muffin
|Barbecued Beef or
Pork on a Roll- F-081
Carrots and peas
Whole grain crackers
Lightly steamed carrot sticks
Black eyed peas
Green salad with shredded carrots3
|Chicken Nuggets D-09B1
Whole wheat roll
|Beef Burrito- D-211,4
Whole grain crackers
|Pineapple Scones- A-011
1 USDA Recipes for Child Care. Available online at www.nfsmi.org.
2 Children can use plastic knives to cut half a banana into slices. Talk about bananas growing on trees and ask children to tell the food groups that are represented in their breakfast (fruit, grains, milk)..
3 Children can participate in making salads by tearing lettuce. Read a book about vegetables growing on this day, such as Oliver’s Vegetables by Vivian French.
4As an optional food activity, prepare the filling for the burrito and let it cool. Allow children to place filling in tortillas and roll them before placing them in a baking dish. Talk about the meal components in this dish (meat, grains/bread, vegetable).
5 Sunflower butter can be substituted for peanut butter.
6 Have children spread peanut butter on apple slices with a plastic knife. Children can also place raisins (optional) on the peanut butter. Remember that raisins can be a choking hazard for young children.
National Food Service Management Institute. (1997). CARE Connection. University, MS: Author. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Nutrition Service, & National Food Service Management Institute. (2005). USDA Recipes for Child Care. Retrieved December 28, 2007, from http://www.nfsmi.org
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