Depending on where you live, March may bring the end of gray, wintery weather. Chase away the gloom and foster excitement by celebrating National Nutrition Month®! It is a timely way to renew interest in the fresh foods that will soon be in local markets.
Celebrated annually in March, National Nutrition Month® promotes:
Wise nutrition choices
Sound eating habits
A physically active lifestyle
Sound familiar? The goals of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and National Nutrition Month® align. Engage in activities to reinforce your CACFP’s positive role in young children’s growth and development. Pair the nutrition education messages of National Nutrition Month® with fun activities for children.
Fuel Your Future Each Week of March
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest organization of nutrition and dietetics practitioners, sponsors National Nutrition Month®. The 2023 theme is “Fuel for the Future.” Since the CACFP is all about the future of children, use this 4-week approach that includes activities and ideas to celebrate and educate the children in your program.
Week 1. Fuel Your Future With Grains
Tell the children that March is National Nutrition Month®—and they will celebrate foods that help fuel their future all month long.
Ask the children what the word “fuel” means. If needed, give an example, such as gas in a car. Explain that food is fuel for our bodies.
Show different pictures of grain foods. Tell the children that grains provide energy or fuel for our bodies to grow and play.
Ask the children to name some of their favorite forms of active play. Eating grains helps fuel their play every day.
Talk about the different grains on the menu this week and, if possible, conduct simple tasting or snack activities in the classroom.
Week 2. Fuel Your Future With Meats/Meat Alternates
Ask the children what the word “future” means. Help them understand that they will be taller and stronger in the future.
Tell the children that the foods we eat every day (for example, meats, fish, beans, cheese, eggs, tofu, and poultry) help our bodies grow.
Show pictures of meats and meat alternates, and ask the children which ones they have tasted before.
Tell them these foods provide something special to our bodies for growth and strength, called protein. They need to eat these foods every day to give their bodies what they need to grow and be strong.
Talk about the different meats and meat alternates on the menu this week and, if possible, conduct simple tasting or snack activities in the classroom.
Week 3. Fuel Your Future With Milk
Ask the children to raise their hands above their heads to show how tall they want to be next year.
Explain that children grow at their own pace.
Tell them that milk contains vitamins and minerals their bodies need for their bones to grow tall and strong.
Discuss that milk is part of your program’s meals (breakfast, lunch, and supper) every day. Encourage each child to drink milk at your program and at home.
Family style meal service (FSMS) is a best practice in the CACFP. It encourages children to master self-service of foods and beverages, including milk. Before asking children to pour milk during meal times, practice self-serve (or adult-assisted) pouring skills using child-size pitchers and water at the sink or water table. Work toward implementing FSMS if it is new to your program.
Week 4. Fuel Your Future With Fruits and Vegetables
Ask the children to name foods that come in many colors (for example, fruits and vegetables).
Tell the children that colorful fruits and vegetables also have vitamins and minerals. These nutrients help their bodies to grow and build strong bones and muscles so children can play and feel good.
Show pictures of different fruits and vegetables.
Tell the children it is important to eat different colors of fruits and vegetables.
Ask the children what words they think of when eating fruits or vegetables (for example, juicy, crunchy, sweet, etc.).
Talk about the different fruits and vegetables on the menu this week and, if possible, conduct simple tasting or snack activities in the classroom.
Remind the children that eating the different foods offered at meals and snacks fuels their future growth to be taller and stronger. They fuel good health and today’s fun and play!
March is a great time to introduce families of the children in your care to National Nutrition Month® and Kids Eat Right.
Kids Eat Right is a national effort of the Academy’s Foundation. Each week, Kids Eat Right provides helpful tips for feeding children, along with recipes and other resources. Special topics focus on key issues for developing lifelong healthy eating habits.
Here are three ideas to help introduce families to Kids Eat Right:
Share the link to the Kids Eat Right website with families. Let them know this trusted source has a variety of topics for helping children develop healthy food habits.
Feature a Kids Eat Right recipe in your take-home materials for families. Please note the recipes are developed for home use. Recipes do not include meal component crediting information needed for CACFP menus.
The following menu ideas provide a variety of foods, colors, and textures. Some recipes contain multiple food components listed in parentheses after the recipe.