Preventing Childhood Obesity: Tips for Child Care Professionals

Provide Healthy Eating Experiences
  * Provide healthy meals and snacks that meet the requirements of USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). For children 2 years and older, plan meals to follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Use plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

  * Limit high sugar and fat foods without being overly restrictive. Fat should not be restricted in the diets of children younger than 2 years of age. Children between 2 and 5 should consume gradually diminishing amounts of fat so that by the age of 5 their diet contains no more than 30 percent of calories from fat.

  * Make mealtimes a pleasant and sociable experience. Provide opportunities to help children develop positive attitudes about healthy foods and learn appropriate eating patterns, mealtime behavior, and communication skills. Allow children to decide how much to eat. Encourage children to eat slowly. Do not use food as punishment or reward.

Promote Physical Activity

Physical activity is an important part of good health and helps children to maintain appropriate healthy weights. Young children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Keep it fun and safe by providing age-appropriate equipment and activities.

  * Provide daily outdoor or alternative activities during bad weather. Maximize opportunities for large motor muscle activity, such as jumping, dancing, marching, kicking, running, riding a tricycle, or throwing a ball.

  * Encourage children to keep moving by including active games and play throughout the day, such as music, dance, and make-believe. Provide toys and equipment that encourage physical activity, such as balls, hula-hoops, bubbles, and cardboard boxes.

Teach Healthy Eating Habits

  * Provide daily nutrition activities, lessons, and learning experiences to promote positive attitudes about good nutrition and health. Teaching healthy eating practices early will help children approach eating with the right attitude - that food should be enjoyed and is necessary for growth, development, and energy.

  * Help families to understand and practice healthy eating habits. Provide parents with information on children’s nutrition needs and healthy eating so they can encourage young children to develop healthy eating habits.

  * Provide child care staff with appropriate nutrition and foodservice training. Staff should know the basis principles of child nutrition and the strategies for creating a positive environment. This knowledge will help promote the development of good eating habits, the importance of role modeling healthful behaviors, and healthy culinary techniques.

  * Be a role model. Set a good example for children to follow by demonstrating healthy eating behaviors and an active lifestyle. Be mindful of modeling appropriate behaviors, such as enjoying a variety of foods, being willing to taste new foods, and enjoying physical activity. Do not eat or drink anything in front of the children they are not allowed to have, such as soda, candy, or coffee.

Promote A Healthy Body Image

  * Be supportive. Help children to accept and feel good about themselves by supporting, accepting, and encouraging them, regardless of their body size or shape.

  * Provider opportunities for children to master skills using their bodies. Build self-esteem by praising each child’s strengths.

Friendship Fruit Salad

Combine nutrition education and healthy eating with this colorful fruit salad. Fruits used can vary according to seasonal availability.

Yield: 10 servings
CACFP Meal Pattern Contribution: 1/2 cup fruit/vegetable*
Serving Size: 1/2 cup


1/2 cup seedless watermelon
1/2 cup cantaloupe
1/2 cup seedless grapes**
1/2 cup honeydew melon
1/2 cup apples (1 small)
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup banana (1 small)
1/2 cup mandarin oranges (in juice or light syrup)
1/2 cup pineapple rings (in juice)


  1. Have children wash hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds in warm, soapy water.
  2. Prepare fruit (Adults): Wash and drain fresh fruit (grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and apples). Core apples. Remove rind and seeds from melons. Pour juice from canned oranges and pineapples into large bowl. Cut melons and apples into large pieces. Cut grapes length-wise into quarters. (Children will cut larger pieces into bite-size pieces). While working, discuss each ingredient with children , such as size, shape, color taste, how it grows, etc.
  3. With adult supervision, give each child a plastic knife and a piece of fruit to cut up.
  4. Have children take turns pouring their fruit into the bowl. As each child pours fruit into the bowl, ask them to name the fruit and tell something about it. Mix together when all fruit is added.
  5. Serve 1/2 cup fruit salad per child.

* For a snack that meets the CACFP meal pattern for ages 3-5, top fruit salad with 1 ounce of vanilla or fruit yogurt. Garnish with 1 tablespoon granola cereal.

** Whole grapes are a choking hazard for young children. Cut lengthwise in quarters.

Taken from Mealtime Memo for child care. A fact sheet for the Child and Adult Care Food Program, from the National Food Service Management Institute, The University of Mississippi.

Provided by ArmMed Media