New USDA Nutrition Guidelines In Effect October 1st!
Helping children develop healthy eating habits is an important goal in every quality childcare setting. In April 2016, the USDA released new guidelines for healthy meals and snacks for all ages effective starting October 1, 2017; as of this date these are the standards BrightStars assessors will use during an ERS observation when assessing adherence to USDA guidelines. Summaries of the updated standards in both English and Spanish as well as meal pattern charts for the new standards can be found at the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) nutrition standards page: https://www.fns.usda.gov/cacfp/meals-and-snacks
The improvements for child meal patterns focus on adding a greater variety of vegetables and fruit and more whole grains while reducing added sugars and saturated fats. Changes to the infant meal patterns support breastfeeding and, when appropriate, the consumption of vegetables and fruit without added sugars. Careful review of the new standards is needed to ensure children receive the best possible nutrition. Some important updates include:
Separate vegetable and fruit components have been added.
Milk must be unflavored (non-dairy milk substitutes that are nutritionally equivalent to milk to meet medical/dietary needs are also acceptable).
Fruit juice may only be used to meet a vegetable or fruit requirement at one meal, including snack, per day.
Cereals must contain no more than 6 grams of sugar per dry ounce and yogurt must contain no more than 23 grams of total sugars per 6 ounces.
The guidelines also address “offering vs. serving” required components, noting that merely offering foods to younger children without serving the foods does not support the goals of introducing new foods and helping children develop healthy food preferences. If it is not served, there is no opportunity to try new healthy options! The USDA website offers additional information about OVS (offering vs. serving) as well as guidelines for family style meals: https://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/cacfp/CACFP05-2017os.pdf