Presentation is KEY: Presenting Snacks in a Fun Way

Presentation is KEY: Presenting Snacks in a Fun Way

Snacks may be the most UNDER UTILIZED reimbursable meal in the Child and Adult Food Program (CACFP). A provider may find themselves thinking, “oh it’s just a snack”, I will just give them some crackers and “fill in the blank”. But hold on… SNACKS can be so much more than just snacks. Snacks serve so many important purposes, in addition to simply being FUN! Snacks are most definitely an important part of your overall meal planning.

Meal planning can help you serve meals that meet CACFP meal pattern requirements, reduce food costs, limit food spoilage, save time and money and share great nutrition education with parents and caregivers.

Think of snacks as “mini meals” that provide an important source of nutrition for growing children. Try to give your snack planning as much attention as you would your lunches or breakfasts.

Snack Requirements & Ideas

Snack component requirements by age & four snack ideas for any age

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    Snacks help form lifelong healthy habits

    Offering vegetables at snack can help the children get important nutrients like potassium, folate and vitamins A and C. Vegetables can add color, crunch and flavor to snacks, providing dietary fiber to help children feel full and make bathroom time easier as well. Finally, including vegetables in snacks will help children develop healthy eating habits that may reduce the risk of certain diseases such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Water is not considered a food component in the CACFP, but it is vitally important and should be available all day every day. Water is a great choice to accompany snacks when milk is not offered.


    Snacks can help support an educational theme

    Choose a theme to enhance your weekly curriculum and find a story that goes along with the theme. Stories that mention healthy foods are a double WIN! You can use sweet peppers, cucumbers, carrots, strawberries and grapes to learn colors, shapes and sizes. Practice counting with blueberries, raisins, cherry tomatoes or tiny blocks of cheese. Planting seeds, indoors or out, is a great way to generate “buy-in” from the children. They always seem more willing to try foods that they have helped plant, grow or tend. It’s also very important to teach children where their food comes from and all the effort that farmers and producers invest in creating our good foods.


    Snacks can be used to increase food acceptance

    Children want to accept foods that are familiar to them, and the best way to increase familiarity is through repeated exposure to that food. We have all heard many variations of the “number of times” a new food must be presented before it will be accepted. It’s interesting to note that even visual familiarity can increase willingness to accept new foods, and the earlier the better.

    A great weekly “game” would be to lay out several different vegetables and ask the children to identify them for a simple reward, like a sticker. Make sure those babies are watching, they are absorbing the world around them all the time.

    Another fun exercise is to place one vegetable in a brown bag and let each child reach in, feel, and try to guess what vegetable it might be. These visual and sensory activities truly help build food acceptance.

    After building this knowledge base with the children, try offering an appetizer plate of several different veggies, and setting it out for the children to make their own choices. This also works very well to set out the appetizer plate while preparing lunch. The vegetables count for the meal pattern component, and the children have an opportunity to eat them while they are at their hungriest.

    Always try to offer a “new or newish” food first, before offering more familiar items. Children will always gravitate towards the most familiar item on the plate.

    The “Make Today a Try-Day!” stickers available, for free, from USDA Team Nutrition are a wonderful resource for building food acceptance. Click here for those. 

    Snacks are FUN!

    Snacks can be so much fun to prepare and present! Cookie cutters are a wonderful way to make cute shapes. Bread, meat, cheeses, watermelon, apples, you name it! Mini cookie cutters are a great resource.

    Facebook and Pinterest have so many wonderful ideas for vegetable and fruit “boards” that present the food in a fun shape. Fun shapes literally beg for a story to go along with them. Facebook pages that I particularly enjoy are Deana’s Designs, Sugarland Treats and Persnickety Plates.

    USDA encourages several OPTIONAL best practices that are recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines and the National Academy of Medicine. Here at TKM, we build the following best practices into every week of menus and we also applaud those providers who are willing to incorporate these suggestions into their meal services:

    • Make at least one of the two required components of snack a vegetable or fruit.
    • Serve a variety of fruits and choose whole fruits (fresh, canned, frozen or dried) more often than juice.
    • Provide at least one serving each of dark green vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas (legumes), starchy vegetables, and other vegetables once per week.

    Remember, snacks are a crucial part of a child's diet and should not be overlooked. By making snacks fun, educational, and healthy, we can help children develop better eating habits that will last a lifetime. Let's utilize the potential of snacks to its fullest and see the positive impact it has on our children's health and learning. Keep experimenting, have fun, and remember, snack time is an opportunity for nutrition education and fostering a love for healthy foods.

    Happy snacking from your friends at The Kids Menus!

    Snack Requirements & Ideas

    Snack component requirements by age & four snack ideas for any age

      We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.


      More resources:

      USDA Snack Planner 

      USDA What's in a Snack?


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