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Improving Early Childhood Nutrition in Your Childcare Program

Good early childhood nutrition supports healthy development and growth. Learn simple ways to teach children healthy eating habits from a young age.

Improving Early Childhood Nutrition in Your Childcare Program

Early Childhood Nutrition

A child’s early years are a crucial time for nutrition. Children experience a great deal of physical and cognitive growth during this time and need the right nourishment to support their development.

At about six months old, children begin eating their first solid foods. This is an opportunity to start teaching children about proper nutrition and help them develop healthy eating habits as early as possible.

In this article, we'll cover the importance of early childhood nutrition and simple ways to teach your children healthy eating habits. 

Importance of childhood nutrition

Eating the right food during early childhood supports children’s overall development. There are so many benefits of good childhood nutrition and consequences for a lack of it. It’s important for childcare providers to understand why it needs to be a priority. Some of the things that good nutrition helps accomplish are:

  • Stable energy and moods
  • More consistent sleep patterns
  • Improved cognitive function, concentration, and alertness
  • Lower chances of chronic disease and illness
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Stronger bones and teeth

With brightwheel, you can ensure your children are getting the proper nutrition they need. Plan custom menus, log food activities, and manage your meal reporting directly in the app. You can create detailed food menus that meet nutritional guidelines and easily share with families.

How to develop healthy eating habits

As a childcare provider, you spend a lot of time with your children and play a critical role in their development. You have the opportunity to help them develop healthy eating habits that could stay with them throughout adulthood. Here are some strategies for instilling healthy eating habits in children:

  • Monitor their food choices: Record a child’s current meal or snack activity easily with a tool like brightwheel. This will help you figure out what needs to be adjusted in the future. Make a plan to introduce healthier options gradually.
  • Set an example: Children are very observant and will absorb what they see the adults around them do. If you make healthy food choices daily, children are more likely to follow your lead and aren’t exposed to unhealthy habits. 
  • Avoid battles over food: Children can be picky sometimes. If they adamantly refuse certain foods, even healthy ones, it’s better to let it go, give them other options, and try again another time. Eventually, most children will usually open up to healthier choices. 
  • Have a routine: Set an established meal or snack routine for your children. Create a menu or meal plan that you can pull from each week. Having a set schedule with healthy options normalizes healthy eating throughout their day.
  • Focus on the positive, not the negative: When discussing nutrition with children, emphasize the importance of what they should eat rather than what they shouldn't. Concentrating on food restrictions can lead to feelings of deprivation and negativity towards healthy eating. Instead, highlight the abundance of delicious food choices available to them, making it a positive experience rather than a focus on what they can't have.
  • Don’t use food as a reward: Children must understand that food is something we consume to give us energy and nourish our bodies. Using it as a reward or as a form of affection can teach them to connect their emotions with food, causing unhealthy habits. Give them verbal praise or other consequences as a reward instead.
  • Provide healthy snacks: Stick to a snack time routine in your schedule to keep children full and energized between meals. Provide plenty of healthy snack options that feature a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Since snack portions are often smaller than meals, this can be a good time to introduce children to new flavors and textures that can later be incorporated into meal time.

Explaining healthy eating to children

Helping children to understand good eating habits isn’t just one conversation; it’s a daily practice. You aren’t just teaching them how to eat healthy foods; you’re also teaching them to have a healthy relationship with food. So, using different nutrition-focused activities and practices over time will give them an understanding of good nutrition. 

Here are some ideas to explain healthy eating to children:

  • Read the nutrition facts of different foods with children, so they understand how to identify healthy foods
  • Challenge children to make the most colorful plate possible when they’re choosing meals and snacks
  • Educate them on the “powers” that different vitamins and minerals have and how they can help their bodies grow big and strong
  • If you have the space, plant a garden and show children how to grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs
  • Keep fresh fruit on hand and easily visible, so it becomes the first choice for snacking
  • Use food as art to make it more appealing and fun before eating it
  • Involve children in the selection of food for the day, the preparation of those foods, and the clean up after eating
  • Incorporate veggies into a variety of food forms to ease them into a child’s diet, such as spiralizing broccoli or baking zucchini into muffins
  • Share nutrition education activities and habits with families so they can adopt them at home

Set children up for lifelong nutrition habits

Early childhood is a crucial period for shaping mindsets and behaviors. Fostering a positive connection with food from the beginning paves the way for children to embrace healthier choices as they grow. Transforming nutrition into a joyful experience for children is key, and remember to set a good example for them to follow.

Brightwheel is the complete solution for early education providers, enabling you to streamline your center’s operations and build a stand-out reputation. Brightwheel connects the most critical aspects of running your center—including sign in and out, parent communications, tuition billing, and licensing and compliance—in one easy-to-use tool, along with providing best-in-class customer support and coaching. Brightwheel is trusted by thousands of early education centers and millions of parents. Learn more at

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