Author Archives: Emily Barrow

A provider’s view on food and the CACFP program

by Emily Barrow,  CACFP Child Nutrition Professional

March 12th-18th is National Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) week. To celebrate, here’s a peek into the work that we do every day at Child Care Answers, sponsoring providers throughout Central Indiana.

Proper nutrition during the early stages of childhood ensures appropriate development and reduces physical and educational problems later in life.  Providers participating on the program receive valuable nutrition education that helps them support growing children and their nutritional needs. In addition, they receive a reimbursement to assist them financially in serving nutritious meals.


I recently reached out to one of my child care home providers, Shannon Garcia, to understand her experience with the CACFP program. She shared, “CACFP not only provides good nutrition for the children but also enhances my business. It is a marketing tool that makes me stand out from other home day cares that don’t participate. I enjoy meal planning and shopping for meals. It eliminates the hassle of trying to decide and make meals on the fly. It also helps me see menus in writing so that I know I’m offering variety and healthy choices.”


The children in Shannon’s program also love to help her make colorful fruit salads and sing songs as they prepare them.  As providers (or parents), involving kids in the preparation is always a fun way to get meals going.  Below is a delicious fruit salsa recipe served with cinnamon chips that makes an excellent CACFP snack. Enjoy!


Recipe by Jen Nikolaus, Yummy Healthy Easy


Fruit salsa:

  • 16-oz. strawberries, diced
  • 2 kiwi, peeled and diced
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • ½ cup raspberries
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar-free apricot preserves or jam

Cinnamon chips:

  • 4 flour tortillas (I used soft taco size)
  • cooking spray
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1½ tsp. cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.  Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. On a large plate, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Spray each tortilla front and back and carefully lay on the plate, one at a time. Move around lightly to get the cinnamon and sugar to adhere to the tortilla, then flip coating the other side.
  3. With a pizza cutter, cut cinnamon and sugar tortilla in half and then each half into four pieces, creating 8 slices per tortilla. Spread out on the baking sheet. Repeat with all tortillas and then place in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Pull baking sheet from oven and set aside to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the fruit and the preserves in a medium sized bowl. Serve with cooled cinnamon chips and enjoy!

Cover image by Flickr user Quinn DombrowskiCreative Commons license.

Tips for Raising a Healthy Eater

by Emily Barrow, CACFP Child Nutrition Professional

As a parent, you have the ability to greatly impact your child’s eating habits by modeling healthy eating and encouraging her to try new foods. Children develop their eating habits and preferences from infancy, and they remain with them through adulthood. Studies have shown that children exposed to a variety of fruits and vegetables between the ages of 6 and 23 months will have a positive association between dietary variety and nutritional status[1] and will be more likely to accept healthier food later in life.

So what does healthy eating with children look like? It starts when you set the meal. Take the time in your busy schedule to sit at the table as a family. Create a relaxing and pleasant environment for the meal time.

Plan a healthy menu ahead of time. Be aware of some pitfalls, like the fact that some foods packaged for children are very high in sugar. For instance, 55% of the 80 calories in “kid-friendly” Go-Gurts, (Yoplait’s kid-friendly yogurt in a tube) are made up in sugar[2]. Yogurt can be a wonderful way to incorporate dairy into a child’s diet, however, make sure to read the labels when shopping. Another item commonly served to children that is high in sugar is juice. 12 ounces of grape juice contains 15 teaspoons of sugar. In comparison, a 12-ounce soda only contains 10 teaspoons. Offer your child fresh fruit over juice – it reduces the amount of sugar she consumes and gives her fiber in her diet.

When the meal begins, allow your child to serve herself and decide for herself when she is full. Offer a variety of foods; keep in mind temperatures, textures, and colors. Discuss new foods together and model a positive attitude about it. Offer new foods more than once to the child, but make sure to offer familiar foods at the same setting.

Children react positively when meal time becomes fun and engaging.



Children like to know what to expect next. Make sure you are serving your meals at the same time each day.


If a child is part of the growing process, she takes ownership in the finished product and is more willing to try it.


Some children may not eat a raw apple, but they might eat it if you cut it up and cook it. Discuss with your child the different ways you prepare food. Relate a tomato to all the products it becomes. Let him see what a whole tomato looks like.


Children love to help in the kitchen. Find creative ways the children can be part of the process. They can cut up veggies, stir a pot, wash veggies, or help with the measuring. Give them ownership of the meal , and they will be more likely to eat it.

Cover image by Flickr user Donnie Ray JonesCreative Commons license.

[1] Arimond M, Ruel MT. Dietary diversity is associated with child nutritional status: Evidence from 11 demographic and health surveys. The Journal of Nutrition 2004;134:2579-2585.


Making Meal Times Positive

by Emily Barrow, CACFP Child Nutrition Professional

I know your schedule is jam-packed with work, child care drop-offs, sports, lessons, and play dates. But what about meals as a family? It’s easy to rush through them, but meal times are an important part of child development. Meal times are more than just feeding your child; they are a chance to learn socialization, healthy eating habits, independence, and table manners. As a monitor for the Child and Adult Care Food Program, I often remind providers they are shaping children’s eating habits for the rest of their life, and parents can often benefit from similar advice.


To begin with, serve meals family-style, and try to follow consistent times for each meal. Children need predictable patterns. Knowing when to expect breakfast, lunch, and snack helps set the stage for their day. A routine of washing their hands, setting the table, and knowing what to expect during the mealtime will make the meal run more smoothly. When children use child-sized utensils, cups, plates, and serving dishes, it sets them up for success when serving themselves. I know it can get messy for children to serve themselves, but think of this as a learning experience. Sometimes a mess is going to happen while learning. Just keep a positive attitude about it.

During the mealtime, sit with your children, and interact with them. Talk about the food you are eating. Help the children learn to serve themselves. Take the chance to introduce table manners. All of these actions help children learn how to socialize during the mealtime. You set the tone for the entire meal. If you are rushed and stressed about the meal, the children will feel the same way. Encourage healthy eating habits and manners by modeling them for your children.

  • Have your children help. Assign the children jobs, such as cleaning and setting the table. This allows them to feel more engaged about the mealtime, and it will be less work for you.
  • Serve children appealing foods. Think about the texture, color, and temperature of the foods. Try to offer a variety of colors to make the meal more interesting. Serve familiar foods along with something new.
  • Let children lead. Remember – you set the mealtime scene and offer healthy foods. Children should have the freedom to choose what they eat and how much. Don’t buy into the clean plate club. Children are very good at self-regulating how much food they need. However, you can encourage them to try new foods.
  • Start small. Changing the way your serve your meals can be scary, but start small. Perhaps you begin by starting a routine before the meal, or just have the children serve themselves the fruit or vegetable. You do not have to change everything overnight. Set goals and slowly integrate a positive, family-style dining routine into your day.

Cover image by Flickr user Phalinn OoiCreative Commons license.