Maryland EXCELS Toolkit  

Nutrition Policy and Recent Weekly Menu

Healthy habits established in young children can last a lifetime, and every child deserves the chance to grow up to be strong and healthy. There is much you can do to help make that happen for the children in your program.

Some or all of the children in your program may eat meals with you. So, you can help them and their families understand the importance of eating healthy, nutritious foods. Your nutrition policy and weekly menu are two ways to communicate the importance of proper nutrition for healthy growth and development.

a toddler eating an apple
Nutritious Can Be Delicious

This section helps you describe how you plan the meals and snacks served in your program, as well as how you communicate nutrition policies and information to families. To meet the requirements for Administrative Policies and Practices: Nutritious Meals and Snacks: ADM 4.5, you will submit a nutrition policy and a weekly menu.

Select the Requirements tab to learn about required documentation, including key components to include in your program’s nutrition policy and menu plan.

Requirements

The following interactive shows you the requirements for Administrative Policies and Practices: Nutritious Meals and Snacks: ADM 4.5. Key requirements are marked by a bright dot. Select each dot for information about what to include in your documentation.

Select the option that applies to your program type.

 

Child Care Center
ADM 4.5: Nutritious Meals and Snacks Program provides whole grains, fresh fruits and / or vegetables at least four times a week, and limits fat, sugar, and salt in food served by the program. The program monitors meals provided from home and supplements as necessary to ensure that children are receiving nutritious, balanced meals and snacks.

Family Child Care
ADM 4.5: Nutritious Meals and Snacks Program provides whole grains, fresh fruits and / or vegetables at least four times a week, and limits fat, sugar, and salt in food served by the program. The program monitors meals provided from home and supplements as necessary to ensure that children are receiving nutritious, balanced meals and snacks.

School-Age Only
ADM 4.5: Nutritious Meals and Snacks Program provides whole grains, fresh fruits and / or vegetables at least four times a week, and limits fat, sugar, and salt in food served by the program. The program monitors meals provided from home and supplements as necessary to ensure that children are receiving nutritious, balanced meals and snacks.

 

Instructions

To meet the requirements for Administrative Policies and Practices: Nutritious Meals and Snacks: ADM 4.5, you will upload:

  • A nutrition policy explaining that the program:
    • Limits the amount of fat, sugar, and salt served
    • Monitors food from home
    • Supplements when necessary
  • A weekly menu, served within the past month, documenting that whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables are served at least four times per week.

If you do not serve food or snacks, or you do not allow “outside” food in your program, you may leave a comment for your Program Coordinator. A nutrition policy is still required.

The Policy or Statement Builder provides a step-by-step guide for creating your policy.






Nutrition Policy

A nutrition policy communicates to families the importance of healthy practices and all that your program does to promote healthy habits. There are several benefits to a nutrition policy, including:

  • Communicating care and respect for children’s health and development
  • Following best practices regarding children’s health and nutrition
  • Outlining a clear plan and guidelines for staff and families to follow that promote nutrition and quality care
  • Promoting consistency related to food and nutrition between your program and home settings

Nutrition policies should consider:

  • Meals, snacks, and foods your program provides
  • Expectation about the meals, snacks, and foods families need to provide
  • Guidelines and ways your program limits fatty, sugary, and salty foods
  • How your program manages food allergies, and other dietary restrictions
  • Food brought from home for birthdays and other celebrations
  • Acceptable and unacceptable (example: candy, soda) food items
  • How your program handles unacceptable food items
  • Other food policies that are relevant to your program and the children enrolled
 

What does the documentation look like?

Your nutrition policy clearly explains how your program ensures that children are provided with a healthy, well-balanced diet. This includes how you monitor, and supplement as needed, the food families provide.

 

How can you tell if you're on the right track?

Based on your program’s written food and nutrition policy, families and staff have a clear understanding of the kinds of foods served in your program, as well as foods that are unacceptable. In addition, families and staff should be able to describe how your program handles nutrition and meal planning, including monitoring food brought from home and supplementing with additional food when necessary. Ask a couple of families to review your policy. Make adjustments if any of the information is unclear or confusing.

 

Where can you learn more?

View this sample nutrition policy for ideas of what to include in your own policy. Notice information that is especially beneficial to families.

Sample Nutrition Policy

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Weekly Menu Plan

A weekly menu plan shows the food and beverages your program serves the children for meals and snacks. A written menu plan is a quick visual reference to ensure that a balanced variety of food options are available to the children in your program. Sharing your weekly menu plan with families communicates the careful thought your program devotes to nutrition and healthy food choices, and encourages families to strive for variety and balance in their meal planning at home.

When planning menus, programs are encouraged to:

  • Focus on variety, serving sizes, and nutritional content
  • Choose foods and beverages that are low in saturated fat, salt, and added sugars
  • Choose whole grain options to include in the menu
 

What does the documentation look like?

Your weekly menu clearly shows that whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables are served at least four times per week. Consider highlighting or circling these items in your menu. Any combination of fruits and vegetables meets the “four times per week” requirement (example: four fruits, four vegetables, or a combination of fruits and vegetables), although a balance between fruits and vegetables is highly recommended.

 

Examples:

Whole Grains:
Oatmeal, whole wheat or whole grain breads and crackers, whole grain cereals (shredded wheat; Cheerios), brown rice, whole wheat / whole grain pastas

Fresh Fruits:
Apples, bananas, peaches, pears, grapes, melon, strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes

Fresh Vegetables:
Carrots, celery, broccoli, cucumber, avocado, cauliflower, green peppers

 

How can you tell if you're on the right track?

Your program’s weekly menu shows a balance and variety of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables served at least four times per week. Limited amounts of fatty, sugary, and salty foods are served at snack and mealtimes. The menu is written and planned in advance and shared with the families.

 

Where can you learn more?

The American Pediatrics Academy provides helpful guidelines on appropriate amounts of fat, sugar, and salt for children’s diets.

Fat, Salt, and Sugar: Not All Bad

Fat, Salt and Sugar: Not All Bad

Forcing children to eat food doesn't work. Neither does forbidding foods. When children think that a food is forbidden by their parents, the food often becomes more desirable. It's important for both children and adults to be sensible and enjoy all foods and beverages, but not to overdo it on any one type of food.

The United States Department of Agriculture developed “MyPlate” as a reminder that everything our bodies consume matters, and a balanced diet contributes to lifelong healthy habits. MyPlate provides tips, strategies, and ideas for encouraging and promoting healthy habits with the children and families you serve.

ChooseMyPlate

Kids

I am a nutritionist and personal trainer. I work for physicians in their offices helping to bring awareness to patients in a preventative healthcare environment. Many of the patients love MyPlate's simple-to-use tools and graphics on eating properly.

This sample menu plan shows fruits, vegetables, and whole grains served throughout the week. Compare the menu to items served in your program. Do you see similarities? Are there other food items or options that could be added to your program’s menu?

Sample Menu Plan

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Policy or Statement Builder

This interactive helps you describe your program's nutrition policies and practices. You have the option of emailing your responses to yourself and editing your final policy before uploading it to the Maryland EXCELS System. You are encouraged to type your responses in full sentences to make it easier to edit your final policy.

 

Build-A-Policy: Nutrition Policy

 

Final Touches

Check your documentation as you prepare to upload it to the Maryland EXCELS System.

 

Check to be sure your documentation includes:

 
  • Meals / Snacks provided by families are monitored
  • Meals / Snacks provided by families are supplemented, as necessary
  • Fatty, sugary, and salty foods are limited
 
  • Whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables served at least four times a week.
  • Limited servings of fatty, sugary, and salty foods
 

Save your document:

  • Use a file names that you can find easily when you upload it to the system. (examples: nutritious-meals.docx; weekly-menu.docx)
  • Use any one of these formats:
    • Typed electronic version (examples: Microsoft Word, PDF)
    • Scanned version (examples: PDF, PNG, JPG)
    • Digital image/picture (examples: JPG, PNG, PDF)
    • Identified section within a handbook

Next Steps

Use the following guide to upload your documentation, look ahead, and think about a plan for ongoing improvement.

 

Step 1: Prepare to Upload Your Document

  • Locate your username and password for logging into your Maryland EXCELS account
  • Locate where you saved your documentation regarding nutrition and menu planning on the computer.
 

Step 2: Look Ahead and Plan for Improvement

Look Ahead

Congratulations! You are ready to upload documentation that your program serves whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables at least four times per week and that you work to limit children’s intake of fat, sugar, and salt.

Plan for Improvement

Make a plan to review your menu and food choices periodically and adjust any food items to offer additional healthy choices. Consider ways you can encourage families to partner with you to provide healthy foods for their children and ensure that they receive consistent messages in both settings. Learn all you can about promoting good health and nutrition, including keeping yourself healthy and strong.

 

Step 3: Upload Your Documentation (ADM 4.5)

Log in to the Maryland EXCELS System to upload your weekly menu plan and nutrition policy.

Remember, if you do not serve food or snacks, or you do not allow “outside” food in your program, you may leave a comment for your Program Coordinator. You are still required to provide a policy that meets the remaining requirements.

screenshot of Maryland EXCELS upload screen with a comment box
Upload Documentation