Whether kids are vegetarian, or have special nutritional needs due to allergies or intolerance to certain foods, special diets in childcare are not uncommon. When children have special dietary needs, you can do one of two things to accommodate their eating habits: You can go out of your way to provide them with specialty food items, or you can ask the parents to bring in what their children need every day.
Instead of meat, milk, and eggs, children who are vegetarian may consume soy, almond, or coconut milk, and soy-based meat and cheese alternatives. Kids who suffer with allergies may require foods that don’t contain wheat, gluten, peanuts, milk or eggs. These types of specialty foods are costly, and can be difficult to find at traditional grocery stores.
If you opt to provide specialty foods yourself, you will have to spend extra money, and possibly go to more than one store to find them. You’ll also have to take the extra time to prepare the specialty foods for the kids to eat.
If you plan to provide and prepare specialty food items, you can tack on an extra fee to the parent’s weekly childcare bill to compensate for the extra time and money spent gathering and preparing the food.
If providing specialty foods and preparing extra meals sounds like a hassle, you can require parents to feed their kids breakfast before they bring them to school in the mornings, and pack their lunches and snacks every day. This way, you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to prepare for kids on special diets.
Sometimes kids will share their food, or have food residue on their hands after eating. So if a child in your care suffers with severe peanut or egg allergies, you’ll have to take special precautions to prevent the allergic child from coming into contact with these foods when you serve them to the other children.
If a youngster has severe allergies, it’s in your best interest to require parents to bring in all of their child’s meals. This way, you won’t accidentally feed the tyke something that will land him in the hospital.
Whether you choose to go out of your way to provide specialty foods for kids, or require parents to bring their children’s lunches and snacks to childcare every day, it’s important to outline in your policies how you handle special diets in your childcare program.