Guides to Menu Planning

Planning menus appropriate for young children in the childcare setting starts with the meal pattern. Following the meal pattern when planning meals helps make sure the meal is nutritious and satisfying. Here are some suggestions for planning meals the children will like.

  • Variety - Plan several days or a week of meals at a time. This will help the menu planner avoid repeating foods too often.
  • Color - Think about all the different colors of foods. Colorful meals are more appealing. Color in foods such as orange and green can indicate the presence of vitamin A.
  • Texture - Include foods that are crunchy, chewy, and smooth. This will add interest to the meal.
  • Aroma - Prepare foods that smell good. Baking bread, cooking with spices such as cinnamon, and sautéing onions are examples of aromas that will stimulate young appetites.
  • Arrangement - Place the food on the plate so that items do not touch. Some children do not want their foods to touch each other. Pay attention to how food looks on the plate. It should look good.
  • Choice - Allow children to select the foods they want to eat when possible. you can do this by offering several different vegetable/fruit choices and still meet the meal pattern requirements.
  • Independence - Allow children to serve themselves from serving containers. Children are more likely to eat the foods offered, and they will begin to take responsibility for their own good food habits.

Taken fromWhat's Cooking? A fact sheet for the Child and Adult Care Food Program, Volume 2, Number 3, National Food Service Management Institute, The University of Mississippi.