What’s on the menu?

As we've mentioned before, Nola our food co-ordinator, has lots of things to think about when she plans the children's menu. Not only does she have to incorporate all the nutritional guidelines but she has to make the food look and taste great too!

And that's not all. She must also ensure that individual dietary needs are catered for including cultural requirements, individual preferences and allergies.

Food suitable for children

Menu planning and food provision requires input from families as they know their child best. Families have knowledge of what the child likes to eat, their preferences and any allergies they are prone to.

They can also provide you with information about what type of milk an infant takes, if they have started solids or how they like to feed themselves.

Individual needs

Individual needs are determined by the age and state of the child and also by their preferences. Parents can be helpful here as they often have the best ideas about what their children like and dislike. Some young children can be fussy eaters too! But it is important that meal times are relaxed and enjoyable. Always offer new foods for children to try and encourage them to taste unfamiliar food too.

Religious needs

Religious requirements might also influence the type of foods that Nola provides the children and will also influence the type of food experiences that you plan. There may be some children whose parents only want them to eat vegetarian food, and some families whose religious beliefs may influence what they eat. This information is usually discussed with the centre at enrolment and orientation.

Cultural needs

Religious reasons are not the only thing that can influence diet, but cultural preferences can also be a factor. What if some of the children in Nola’s centre have just arrived from Vietnam? Do you think that they will be used to eating salad sandwiches? It is important to take into account cultural influences when planning menus for the children.

Nola will need to find out what type of food the child is used to eating. She could even find out from the family some of the recipes of his favourite food. Even if your service doesn’t have families from different backgrounds it still is important to have food from different cultures. This allows children to appreciate diversity, respect difference and try new foods.

Activity icon

Research one of the following religions and its dietary requirements:

  • Judaism
  • Buddhism
  • Islam or
  • Hinduism.

Then research the types of food most commonly eaten in one of the following countries:

  • Malaysia
  • Egypt
  • Vietnam or
  • Sudan.

Write a summary paragraph for each set of research (one religion and one country) in your notebook, explaining how you could cater for these requirements and preferences in the meal planning at your centre.