Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re wondering whether or not your child care program can improve its nutrition or physical activity practices or policies, check out these commonly asked questions.

Why should we improve nutrition and physical activity in our program?

Serving healthier foods and promoting physical activity at every age is a win-win situation for your staff, families and children.

You can make a difference. You have one of the toughest, most important, and yet most under-recognized jobs in the world. You might not hear it nearly as often as you should, but what you do matters. And this is a major way you can make a lasting impact on every kid you care for and help teach them how to grow up healthy.

You can be a champion for healthy choices. You’re on the front lines — from infancy on up. You have a powerful opportunity to instill healthy habits and make positive lifestyle changes in kids right now — as their bodies and brains are growing and before they start developing unhealthy food preferences and habits that are hard to break.

You are a role model. Kids do as you do. When children see the grown-ups in their lives eating healthy and being active — and enjoying it — they’re far more likely to do the same. When you serve nutritious foods and make physical activity a top priority at every age and stage, chances are, the kids will start asking for the same wholesome foods and fun activities at home. You might find that these changes are just as good for you too — making healthier food choices and adding more activity will give you more energy and help you feel better overall.

You are a partner in parenting. You love and nurture the children in your care like they were your own. You’re helping to raise them and keep them safe, happy and healthy just like their parents do at home. When moms and dads drop off their children, they will know you’re helping their little ones’ brains and bodies grow up healthy. You can work together as a team to promote the importance of healthy lifestyles in their children’s early development.

It’s easier than you might think. We’re here to give you the free tools and resources you need to get kids eating healthy and moving more — today.

Aren’t healthy foods more expensive?

Not really. We’ll give you information about lower-cost options. And we’ll teach you how to make portion sizes smaller (which means less food wasted and less money down the drain). Plus, many healthy options cost the same as the not-so-healthy choices.

When fresh fruits and veggies are in season they can be inexpensive — and maybe the same price as frozen or canned. Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are great, too — they’re still packed with plenty of nutritional punch.

Learn more about healthy food resources.

Our daytime schedule is already so jam-packed. How can we fit in more physical activity?

Physical activity doesn’t have to be thought of as a separate, added activity. Try incorporating exercise into other activities during the school day or into your day-to-day routines. A good example: Have the children act out a story as it’s being read to them.

See more examples on how to get kids moving.

What if parents are resistant to change?

When it comes down to it, you’re not demanding that parents make changes at home — just providing them with information about what you’re doing (and what they could do too) to give their children the best chance at a healthy future. Improving nutrition and physical activity standards in your child care and early education center opens up opportunities to start conversations with families.

Emphasize that you want to partner with them to help their kids grow and develop. Have ongoing open dialogue to specifically address concerns, provide accurate information and offer ways for families to get involved. Show families how powerful they are as role models who can instill healthy habits that last a lifetime.

To keep families in the loop and engage them as partners in their child’s healthy development:

• Have parent-caregiver meetings.
• Share recipes and brochures.
• Post information, letters, brochures, ideas and websites on bulletin boards in the classrooms and pick-up/drop-off areas.
• Show the kids engaged in healthy behaviors (through daily or weekly reports, pictures of the children).
• Give parents pamphlets and activity sheets about experiences the kids had at your center that families could reinforce at home.
• Invite families to participate in special events that involve them in healthy eating and physical activity with their kids.
• Send home specific lists of other options to bring in for birthday and holiday celebrations instead of cakes and cupcakes: fruit, vegetable platters, whole grain crackers, reduced-fat cheese, or non-food items like developmentally appropriate party favors.

Aim for empowering parents. It takes all of us, working together, to help kids grow up healthy.
Offer parents tools to help them support healthy eating and physical activity at home.

What if the kids just won’t eat or drink the new nutritious options we offer?

The good news is most children won’t even notice small changes in their diet. But be prepared — children might reject some new foods as many as 20 times before accepting them.

But the more you keep offering the new, healthy options, the more likely they’ll be to eventually accept them.

To help make transitioning to healthier alternatives a little easier (on you and the youngsters), check out our resources on healthy eating.

What if our staff doesn’t see the value in participating?

Support from your staff is absolutely key — positive changes won’t happen without it. So help them feel like they can make a difference. They are role models and can be champions for healthy choices.

Share with them all of the reasons they should join in. Educate classroom teachers and assistants about the importance of healthy eating and appropriate physical activity — that it is just as crucial as teaching reading, math skills, science and social studies. In fact, healthy eating and physical activity can be incorporated into most curriculum subjects.

Involve teachers in planning and implementing changes — like purchasing of food, switching the curriculum, educating children or other ways. Emphasize that kids who are active tend to be more attentive and better-behaved. Before you know it, they’ll see the value in what you’re trying to do and you’ll have buy-in from your staff.