Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 4: Nutrition and Food Service

4.2 General Requirements

4.2.0 Assessment and Planning of Nutrition for Individual Children

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 11/9/2017.


As a part of routine health supervision by a primary health care provider, children should be evaluated for nutrition-related medical problems, such as failure to thrive, overweight, obesity, food allergy, reflux disease, and iron-deficiency anemia (1). The nutritional standards throughout this document are general recommendations that may not always be appropriate for some children with medically identified special nutrition needs. Caregivers/teachers should communicate with the child’s parent/guardian and pediatrician/other physician to adapt nutritional offerings to individual children as indicated and medically appropriate. Caregivers/teachers should work with the parent/guardian to implement individualized feeding plans developed by the child’s primary health care provider to meet a child’s unique nutritional needs. These plans could include, for instance, additional iron-rich foods for a child who has been diagnosed as having iron-deficiency anemia. For a child diagnosed as obese or overweight, the plan would focus on controlling portion sizes and creating a menu plan in which calorie-dense foods, like sugar-sweetened juices, nectars, and beverages, should not be served. Using these nutritional differences as educational moments will help children understand why they can or cannot eat certain food items. Some children require special feeding techniques, such as thickened foods or special positioning during meals. Other children will require dietary modifications based on food intolerances, such as lactose or wheat (gluten) intolerance. Some children will need dietary modifications based on cultural or religious preferences, such as vegan, vegetarian, or kosher diets, or halal foods.

The early years are a critical time for children’s growth and development. Nutritional problems must be identified and treated during this period to prevent serious or long-term medical problems. Strong evidence shows a relationship between preschool-aged children being presented with larger sized portions and increased energy intake, prompting the importance of implementing proper portion sizing as soon as 2 years of age for children at risk of being overweight (2). The early care and education setting may be offering most of a child’s daily nutritional intake, especially for children in full-time care. It is important that the facility ensures that food offerings are congruent with nutritional interventions or dietary modifications recommended by the child’s pediatrician/other physician, in consultation with the nutritionist/registered dietitian, to make certain the intervention is child specific.
Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Routine Health Supervision and Growth Monitoring Feeding Plans and Dietary Modifications Responsive Feeding of Infants by a Consistent Caregiver/Teacher
  1. McAllister JW. Achieving a Shared Plan of Care with Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs. Palo Alto, CA: Lucille Packard Foundation for Children’s Health; 2014. Accessed September 7, 2017
  2. McCrickerd K, Leong C, Forde CG. Preschool children's sensitivity to teacher-served portion size is linked to age related differences in leftovers. Appetite. 2017;114:320–328
    US Department of Health and Human Services, US Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th ed. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services; 2015. Accessed September 7, 2017 

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 11/9/2017.