March 2022 Mealtime Memo: National Nutrition Month®: Celebrate a World of Flavors

March 2022 Mealtime Memo: National Nutrition Month®: Celebrate a World of Flavors

MARCH 2022

National Nutrition Month®: Celebrate a World of Flavors

March is National Nutrition Month®, and the theme is “Celebrate a World of Flavors.” Together this means March is the perfect month to be adventurous and start exploring different cuisines to help children gain an appreciation for other cultures. Take this time for children to try foods they may not have tasted before. While sitting around the table, engage the children in conversations about their family traditions, favorite meals, and celebrations. Then help children learn about other cultures by exploring and talking about foods from around the world!

Below are ideas and recipes that will add a variety of foods and flavors from around the globe to child care menus.

Each recipe in this Mealtime Memo can be found in the Multicultural Child Care Recipes
and are available in yields of 6, 25, and 50 servings.

Asia

Common ingredients in East Asian cuisine are soy, tofu, vegetables, and rice. Chopsticks are often used at meals as the utensil of choice. Incorporate East Asian culture into the meal by eating with chopsticks, discussing East Asian dishes, and preparing vegetables like bok choy, Chinese cabbage, mustard greens, winter radish, and snow peas. Stir-fried chicken and vegetables is an East Asian-inspired dish children might enjoy. Or try Bok Choy Wrappers for a different spin on the typical wrap!

Did you know that when children use chopsticks, they practice fine motor skills and improve hand-eye coordination? To master the skill of using chopsticks, children can practice outside of mealtime. They can use chopsticks to pick up and transfer objects such as cotton balls, dried beans, dice, or pieces of yarn or string from one bowl to another. Or they can use chopsticks instead of hands to move the pieces of a board game. There are so many fun and creative ways to engage children in exploring East Asian culture.

Europe

The Mediterranean diet is a healthy way of eating based on the traditional cuisines of Greece, Italy, and other countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. It includes plant-based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and olive oil. Try these tips to start incorporating the Mediterranean diet into your menus:

  • Build meals around vegetables, legumes (beans), and whole grains.
  • Serve fish 1–2 times per week.
  • Use olive oil instead of butter in preparing food.

At mealtimes, talk with children about the importance of eating healthy foods. For example, you can talk about how whole grains like pasta, oatmeal, and brown rice give energy so children can run fast. Or discuss how eating different vegetables and fruits will help them see better and fight germs, so they don’t get sick.

Celebrate Greek culture by serving Tzatziki, a mint cucumber sauce. You can add it to sandwiches or serve as a dip for fresh veggies. Try this recipe for Turkey Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce.

Children may enjoy trying Italian dishes like polenta (cornmeal porridge) for breakfast or Minestrone (soup made with vegetables and pasta) for lunch. Also, try this Italian Vegetable Medley to serve as the vegetable at lunch or supper.

Latin America and Africa

In many cultures cooking and eating together as a family is very important and a time to bond with each other. This can be duplicated in the child care setting by letting children help with meal preparation, setting tables, passing dishes of food to each other (family style meal service), and having conversations during mealtime. Eating together may help children eat more nutritious foods because they are exposed to healthy foods like vegetables and fruits and see other friends and adults enjoying healthy foods too.

Explore African heritage foods by serving staples such as beans, corn, greens, hot peppers, melon, okra, rice, squash, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. Serve Veggie Mash-Up, a traditional Kenyan dish of mashed potatoes, corn, and green vegetables, along with warm Cornbread. These items can count as the vegetable and grain components at lunch or as the two components at snack.

Many Latin American dishes use fresh foods like tomatoes, tomatillos, sweet peppers, hot chili peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro, and oregano. Children can experience Latin American culture and a variety of flavors by dipping fresh vegetables (such as cucumbers, carrots, and peppers) in Fresh Salsa. Add a glass of milk for a reimbursable snack. You can also serve this sweet dish of Baked Batatas and Apples (sweet potatoes and apples) as the vegetable and fruit components at lunch. Mixtures of vegetables and fruits may credit toward both the vegetable component and the fruit component if the minimum amounts of each are served.

Mealtime Discussion Prompts

During mealtime, spark conversation with children about culture using the questions below:

  • What are some family traditions or celebrations you enjoy at home?
  • Do you help with meals at home? If so, what do you help with?
  • What foods from different parts of the world (Chinese, Mexican, African, etc.) have you tried that you liked?
  • Can you describe what the food tasted like? Was it spicy, sweet, sour, bitter, or salty?

Multicultural Menu Ideas

Breakfast

Spinach Egg Bake
(Europe)

Apple slices
1% Milk

Lunch/Supper

Red Pozole
(Central and South America)

Whole wheat crackers
Orange smiles
Diced avocado
1% Milk

Snack

Baked Egg Rolls
(Asia)

1% Milk

More Information and Recipes

For more National Nutrition Month® ideas, messaging, and a tool kit that offers tip sheets, handouts, games, activities, PowerPoint presentations, and more, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics National Nutrition Month webpage.

Check out the Around the World Sample Cycle Menu from the National CACFP Sponsors Association for themed menu ideas with creditable recipes.

Multicultural Child Care Recipes is a Team Nutrition collection of 40 recipes from different cultures and regions that are available in yields of 6, 25, and 50 servings.

Get Recipes on the Child Nutrition Recipe Box

References

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2019, September 12). Global foods for a healthy plate. https://www.eatright.org/health/lifestyle/culture-and-traditions/global-foods-for-a-healthy-plate

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2022). National nutrition month. https://www.eatright.org/food/resources/national-nutrition-month

Institute of Child Nutrition, Child Nutrition Recipe Box. (2021). Cornbread – USDA recipe for child care centers. https://theicn.org/cnrb/recipes-for-centers-grains-breads/cornbread-usda-recipe-for-cacfp/

Matthews, A. (2021). Got chopsticks? A great tool for improving hand skills. North Shore Pediatric Therapy. https://www.nspt4kids.com/parenting/got-chopsticks-a-great-tool-for-improving-hand-skills/

Mayo Clinic. (2021, July 23). Mediterranean diet for heart health. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801

National CACFP Sponsors Association. (n.d.). Around the world sample cycle menu. https://www.cacfp.org/assets/pdf/Around+the+World+Sample+Cycle+Menu+cacfp.org

Oregon State University. Food Hero Monthly. (2021, July 14). African heritage. https://foodhero.org/magazines/african-heritage

Oregon State University. Food Hero Monthly. (2021, October 20). Latin American culture. https://foodhero.org/magazines/latin-american-culture

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. (2019, August 8). Multicultural child care recipes. https://www.fns.usda.gov/tn/recipes-cacfp

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. (2019). Baked batatas and apples. https://theicn.org/cnrb/recipes-for-homes/recipes-for-homes-main-dishes/baked-batatas-and-apples-usda-recipe-for-home/

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. (2019). Baked egg rolls recipe. https://theicn.org/cnrb/recipes-for-homes/recipes-for-homes-main-dishes/baked-egg-rolls-usda-recipe-for-cacfp-multicultural-6-servings/

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. (2019). Italian vegetable medley. https://theicn.org/cnrb/recipes-for-homes/recipes-for-homes-vegetables/italian-vegetable-medley-for-home/

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. (2019). Red pozole. https://theicn.org/cnrb/recipes-for-homes/recipes-for-homes-main-dishes/red-pozole-for-home/

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. (2019). Spinach egg bake. https://theicn.org/cnrb/recipes-for-homes/recipes-for-homes-main-dishes/spinach-egg-bake-for-home/

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. (2019). Turkey burgers with tzatziki sauce. https://theicn.org/cnrb/recipes-for-homes/recipes-for-homes-main-dishes/turkey-burgers-with-tzatziki-sauce-for-home/

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. (2019). Veggie mash-up. https://theicn.org/cnrb/recipes-for-homes-side-dish/veggie-mash-up-for-home/

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. (2020). Minestrone soup – CACFP home childcare. https://theicn.org/cnrb/recipes-for-homes/recipes-for-homes-soups/minestrone-soup-usda-recipe-for-cacfp-home/

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. (n.d.). Bok choy wrappers. https://theicn.org/cnrb/recipes-for-homes/bok-choy-wrappers-usda-recipe-for-family-child-care/

U.S. Department of Agriculture, MyPlate. (n.d.). Fresh salsa. https://www.myplate.gov/recipes/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap/fresh-salsa

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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