Twisted Queso Meatball Sub recipe that meets USDA school lunch regulations

 

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Creating CACFP Menus and Recipes That Work for Those You Serve

Providing food in a preschool, child daycare or an adult-care setting often has staff juggling programming as well as food prep and serving. They may not be well-versed in the nutritional guidelines of the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Or, there simply isn’t time in the day to do menu planning. CACFP recipes need to be convenient as well as nutritious to ensure overall well-being for everyone served and kids’ healthy development and academic growth.

According to the USDA, more than 4.2 million children and 130,000 adults receive nutritious meals through the CACFP every day. Children younger than school age are served CACFP menus through the likes of daycare centers, Head Start programs and preschools. After-school enrichment programs operated by schools and local nonprofit organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs and the YMCA also serve snacks and meals under the CACFP to help fill the evening hunger gap for those of school age. Adults receive CACFP meals through a variety of programs, such as daycare programs for adults with disabilities, senior centers and nonprofit organizations that deliver meals to seniors’ homes. 

Creating CACFP recipes and compiling them into weekly CACFP menus can be tricky. The federal nutritional guidelines for CACFP menus limit the amount of sodium, calories and fat that providers can serve. That means, each CACFP recipe needs to grouped into weeks and shuffled around to arrive at the precise combination to fall below those weekly limitations. The guidelines also call for specific amounts of whole grains, fruits and a variety of vegetable subgroups on each CACFP menu week. 

As you can imagine, CACFP menu planning can be time consuming without the right tools or familiarity with nutrition and dietetics. NutriStudents K-12 has mastered the creation of age-appropriate, CACFP recipes and compiled them into a 30-week rotation of CACFP menus, each of which complies with all the USDA nutritional guidelines.  

Based on our experience, here are a few tips for creating CACFP recipes and CACFP menus:

Vary the Menu

We all know kids who could eat the same meal every day. Macaroni and cheese or chicken nuggets, perhaps? While the goal is to provide food kids or adults will eat, you also need to ensure they get a variety of nutrients, particularly the required whole grains, vegetable subgroups and fruit, throughout the week. Offering repeated entrees is not likely to get you there. Changing your CACFP recipes each day and your CACFP menu week-to-week will keep mealtime interesting and greeted with anticipation. 

Varying the menu is also important because food preferences change with age and certainly differ from one person to the next. If you serve a diverse population, tastes may range even further. Aim to create menus that appeal to a broad cross-section of those you serve. NutriStudents K-12 CACFP menus include traditional favorites, such as hamburgers and chicken tenders, as well as CACFP recipes with a cultural influence – Orange Chicken, Mongolian Meatballs, Pollo de la Playa and Beef Pho are just a few.

Consider Food Allergies in your CACFP Recipes

Food allergies and intolerances are becoming more prevalent today. Allergic reactions may range from hives and sour stomachs to life-threatening conditions. Accommodate those with food allergies by creating CACFP recipes without the most common allergens: dairy, gluten, soy, eggs, fish/shellfish, tree nuts and peanuts. Gravitate to less-processed foods as the foundation of your meal – unseasoned shredded chicken, chicken breast or ground beef/beef crumble. Add simple herbs. Pair it with a side of brown rice, steamed vegetables and fresh fruit for a complete meal. 

Age-appropriate Recipes

Your CACFP recipes also need to be tailored to the age of the population you serve. Spicy foods may not well-received by young kids or by seniors. Stick with herbs for additional flavor rather than the smoked paprika, chili powder or condiments like Sriracha. Both kids and seniors will do better with softer foods. For example, they may experience pain biting into a whole apple. Baby carrots could also be painful and are a choking hazard to be avoided. NutriStudents K-12 has omitted foods like chicken drumsticks and foods on a stick (e.g., corn dogs) from our preK CACFP menu for the safety of toddlers. 

Family-style Menus / Recipes

If your childcare program serves meals family style, you’ll want to consider CACFP recipes that lend well to that service style. Family-style meals are more common in childcare settings today because there’s no better time than mealtime to teach children about manners, patience and sharing. And, nutrition education can easily be built into the group setting. One-dish meals work well for family-style meals, such as NutriStudents K-12 CACFP recipes for macaroni and cheese, teriyaki chicken bowl, chicken and potato pilaf, bean and cheese burrito, sloppy joe mac, to name a few. 

If you lack the time to create CACFP recipes or are not confident in your understanding of the USDA guidelines for CACFP menus, NutriStudents K-12 can help you. We’re pleased to provide #MenuFreedom for childcare (Ages 3-5) and adult care programs. Gain access to our 30-week rotation of USDA-compliant, CACFP menu weeks, as well as all the necessary compliance reports: weekly calendar menus and verification reports, and daily food production reports for downloading.

 

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We'd Love to Answer Any Questions You Have!

Call toll-free: 844-204-2847 / Email: info@NutriStudentsK-12.com

Or you can Request information

Ask us about our money-back guarantee!*

*Must meet minimum-use requirements to be eligible.