Mealtime Memo – March 2021

March 2021 Mealtime Memo

Nature puts on a show each spring. Everything will be turning green soon. This is the perfect time to discover new foods and notice how the Earth supports new growth. Let’s dive into food creativity for ourselves and the children we serve. March can be the month to break out of food ruts. Be open to different ideas and new ways of offering and presenting food to your kids. Our kitchens can mimic nature’s green beauty and spring’s awakening. We can put on our own show with the food we prepare, offer, and serve.

March’s theme word is OPENNESS.

Be open to new foods, new ways, or even just having an open approach.

This openness is up to you. What do you need? What do you want to try? Be open to all the possibilities. We are cheering for you.

Let’s talk about food preparation and presentation for kids. Consider the following strategies to engage your children:

Individualize foods with options like food choices and toppings.
Invite kids into the kitchen.
Plan menus with kids—get their input and ideas. You can have them vote or take a poll.
Offer a colorful and enticing display of food.
Sample new food items.

March Food Themes

There are many fun food themes throughout the month. Consider using some of these themes to brighten your menus and excite the children in your care.

Peanut Butter Lovers Day – March 1

If you have some peanut butter lovers, get them involved today. What new ways would they like to eat peanut butter? Ask them. They will come up with some great ideas. You can start the discussion by asking who has tried peanut butter and honey, peanut butter and fresh fruit, peanut butter and crackers, or peanut butter and graham crackers.

Try this Peanut Butter Power Up dip from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln—even your pickiest eater may be willing to try this dip!

Pi (π) Day (3/14, get it?!?) – March 14

Feeling adventurous? Try a DIY apple pie in a cup using canned apples. Cook the canned apples with cinnamon and vanilla, then, once the mixture is cooled, have kids layer granola and apple pie filling in a cup. Top it off with a squirt of whipped topping. Enjoy this fun math and food celebration!

St Patrick’s Day – March 17

From breakfast to dinner and snacks to smoothies, get in the spirit and make all your meals green this St. Patrick’s Day. Anything green goes—leafy lettuce, green peppers, jalapenos, kiwi, green olives, peas, limes, pistachios, and avocados just to name a few. Green foods pack a punch with nutrients. See how many green food items your children can think of. Once you get going, it’s not hard to notice ALL the green fruits and vegetables. Get healthy. Go green! Your kids will love St. Patrick’s Day when celebrated with green foods.

Crunchy Taco Day – March 21

Kids love tacos, and there are endless topping possibilities for kids to personalize their own. Tacos offer a great way for kids to try new or different foods with a familiar favorite. Think about what options you can offer—beans, avocado, tomato. You can use a traditional taco recipe, or try USDA MyPlate’s Fish Tacos and even Lentil Tacos for kids to sample and taste.

World Water Day – March 22

Water is the preferred beverage choice outside of mealtimes. (Check out some great info on water here.) This is a great day to ask kids about all the ways water is used in their lives every single day. By building awareness we can help cultivate an appreciation for this precious resource. Water plays an essential part in digesting food; it helps maintain our muscles; it helps carry oxygen and nutrients to our cells; it cools us down; and it helps our bodies get rid of waste. No wonder we need water to keep us going!

March is National Nutrition Month

This month everyone is invited to learn about making informed food choices and developing healthy eating and physical activity habits. The National Nutrition Month theme is Personalize Your Plate. Let’s allow ourselves and our kids to personalize or individualize the foods that are eaten. We can offer a variety of fruits and vegetables, give a choice of entrées, and allow toppings, dips, and sauces to embrace this theme.

Get recipes from the Child Nutrition Recipe Box (CNRB).

Food Facts for Kids

Since March 22 is World Water Day, let’s talk water!

There is the same amount of water on Earth as there was when the Earth was formed.
Nearly 97% of the world’s water is salty or otherwise undrinkable.
Water regulates the Earth’s temperature.
75% of the human brain is water, and 75% of a living tree is water.

What’s In Season?

Knowing what fresh produce items are in season will not only save you money, but it also means that you’ll be enjoying fruits and veggies at their peak of flavor and nutrients.

March is the start of spring fruits and vegetables! Watch your farmer’s markets and local gardens offer more selections of fruits and vegetables as the growing season gets underway. If you are able, allow your children to go with you or help select fresh produce that they want to eat. Including them this way allows for buy-in and gets them excited to eat something they’ve had a voice in.

Look for these fruit and vegetable selections at your local markets.

Asparagus

Apples
Avocados
Bananas
Beets
Bok Choy
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Carrots

Pineapple

Cauliflower
Celery
Citrus
Kiwi
Leeks
Lemons/Limes
Mango
Mushrooms

Artichokes

Parsnips
Pears
Potatoes
Rutabagas
Strawberries
Sweet Onions
Turnips

Wrap Up

March! Early spring offers a hint of fruits and vegetables to come! Keep your children in mind as you prepare and present their food offerings each day. Involve them. Individualize food choices as much as possible. Entice them! Be open. Share your ideas here.

Next Month

Next month we will focus on where nutrients come from and how important our soil is. Garden Time is coming!

Look for our Little Bites short tips throughout the month of March for ideas and tips.

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References

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2021). National Nutrition Month. https://www.eatright.org/food/resources/national-nutrition-month

University of Nebraska—Lincoln. (2021). Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources UNL Food. https://food.unl.edu/

U.S. Department of Agriculture, MyPlate. (2021). MyPlate kitchen. https://www.myplate.gov/myplate-kitchen

U.S. Department of Agriculture, MyPlate. (n.d.). Fish tacos. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/recipes/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap/fish-tacos

U.S. Department of Agriculture, MyPlate. (n.d.). Lentil tacos. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/recipes/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap/lentil-tacos

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2016). Water trivia facts. https://www3.epa.gov/safewater/kids/water_trivia_facts.html

About Mealtime Memo

Mealtime Memo (MTM) is focused on nutrition and wellness in child care settings and is specifically intended for use by child care professionals who participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The objective is to provide research-based best practices for planning, preparing, and/or serving nutritious, safe, and child-friendly meals in child care settings operating the CACFP.

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Please note: To ensure MTMs provide the most accurate, up-to-date information, any references to Federal regulations, nutritional standards, and other best practices are considered current at the time of publication. Please be advised that this information is NOT updated to reflect any changes/revisions beyond the publication date. In addition, all MTMs published prior to 2017 have been archived and are no longer available on our website. If you need access to an archived MTM or for questions on the latest regulations and standards, please contact ICN’s Help Desk at helpdesk@theicn.org or 1-800-321-3054.

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2021-04-12T16:58:03-05:00March 5th, 2021|
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