Menus and Variety

Planning your menu ahead of time can ensure that you meet all of the nutritional needs of the children you serve. Making sure the menu includes a variety of foods will also help make sure that a variety of nutrients are offered to the children. Below you will find resources that can help you with menu planning.


Best Practices

The resources in this category are the same for all of the following best practices.

  • “Include a combination of new and familiar foods on weekly menus.”
  • “Include foods from a variety of cultures on weekly menus.”
  • “Use a cycle menu of 3 weeks or greater that changes with the seasons.”
Building Blocks for Fun and Healthy Meals

Summary: This menu planner provides tools needed to successfully prepare and serve meals and snacks in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). It comes complete with sample menus, guidance on keeping and using production records, and information on food safety and sanitation.
Source:  United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service

CACFP Recipes

Summary:  This link provides a variety of recipes that are allowable for CACFP guidelines.  It provides the recipe for if making for a family or if making for a quantity.  New recipes are added as they are received from the USDA. 
Source:  United States Department of Agriculture - Food and Nutrition Service 


CACFP Halftime – Thirty on Thursdays

Summary:  Team Nutrition offers monthly webinar training webinars on topics related to the CACFP Meal Patterns.  They are offered in English and Spanish.  You must be registered to attend. 
Source:  United States Department of Agriculture Team Nutrition

Child Meal Pattern for Child and Adult Care Food Program

Summary:  Outlines the food pattern for children for caregivers of children from aged 1 to 18 years of age.
Source:  United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service

Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs

Summary:  This food buying guide contains all of the current information in one place. This will help you buy the right amount of food and the appropriate type of food for programs. It also determines the specific contribution each food makes toward the meal pattern requirements.
Source:  United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service

Food Buying Guide Mobile App

Summary:  This link explains how to use a mobile app about food yield information for the Child Nutrition Programs. 
Source:  United States Department of Agriculture – Food and Nutrition Services

Kid Eats

Summary:  Kid Eats provides educational videos, healthy recipes, and a fun virtual kitchen experience on the iPad, suitable for youth in grades 3-6. Adults learn to facilitate kitchen knife skills for kids, with safety-oriented videos demonstrating chopping fruits and vegetables together. Kids complete the Tortilla Pizza interactive on their own, learn the steps of the recipe and prepare to cook delicious tortilla pizza in a real kitchen, with supervision. Seven healthy recipes and supplemental materials, including videos of each recipe, can be found at The iPad app is available free at the iTunes Store.
Source:  New Mexico State University, United States Department of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture, University of Connecticut
Access: or in the iTunes store

Local Food for Little Eaters - A Purchasing Toolbox for the Child & Adult Care Food Program

Summary:  This toolbox is designed to help early care providers purchase local food for their programs. It gives step-by-step instructions for purchasing from a variety of local food sources. The instructions include successful strategies and examples of how early childhood programs nationwide are purchasing local food.
Source:  Michigan State University - Center for Regional Food Systems

Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care (NAP SACC) Manuals

Summary:  This manual provides the best practice recommendations for each question on the self-assessment. The manuals also include the rationale behind each recommendation, challenges to implementing recommendations, and tips for changing current practice.
Source:  Michigan Healthy Child Care

Nutrition and Wellness Tips for Young Children

Summary:  Collection of tip sheets for nutrition and physical activity. Each tip sheet focuses on a specific topic and includes a practical application section to help apply the tips to a child care program for children ages 2 through 5 years old. See pages 5-49.
Source:  United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service

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