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Healthy Eating and Active Living for Child Care Information

The Child Care Healthy Eating and Active Living Guidelines

Healthy Eating and Active Living e-module training

Child care plays a key role in creating healthy environments where children learn and thrive. The Child Care Healthy Eating and Active Living Guidelines provide you with evidence- based standards to promote healthy eating and active living environments for young children. The Child Care Healthy Eating and Active Living Guidelines training and accompanying resources provide information and ideas to put the Guidelines into action.

Please select the Child Care Healthy Eating and Active Living Guidelines link to log on and to take the training, and use the resources to help you implement the guidelines. Early childhood educators, home child care providers, and child care centre supervisors are to complete Part 1 and Part 2 of the training. Cooks are to complete Part 1 only.

Part 1 – Child Care Healthy Eating and Active Living Guidelines Training

Part 2 – Child Care Healthy Eating and Active Living Guidelines Training

Child Care Healthy Eating and Active Living Guidelines Promo Video

Healthy Eating

A healthy menu

Weekly menus and recipes approved by Registered Dietitians at Ottawa Public Health.


The weekly menus are based on a full-day in child care and provide ¾ of Canada’s Food Guide portion recommendations for toddlers and preschoolers. These menus include kid-friendly recipes made with fresh and basic ingredients.

Post the weekly menu for parents to see what food will be served each day. Also, include the specific vegetables and fruit to be served each day, and identify any food safety and allergy concerns.


Most recipes serve 20 to 50 preschool children. Adjust the recipe servings for the number of children who attend your child care setting.


Recipes for meat and vegetarian dishes, sandwiches and soups.

Please note: a vegetarian substitution (*) is included in some main meal meat recipes, or in the Vegetarian Substitutions section. You can substitute pork with chicken or beef in most recipes.

Vegetarian substitutions

These small batch recipes for vegetarian substitutions serve 5 to 8 children. They look like meat-based main meals.


Recipes for side dishes like pasta, rice, vegetables and more.

Kitchen basics

Basic recipes for everyday kitchen preparations

Dips and sauces

Recipes for dips, sauces and salad dressings


Healthy and fun recipes for special events and celebrations.

What to serve

Tools to help you make healthy choices when you prepare and serve food and drinks to children.

Remember, you are responsible for what healthy foods are offered at meal and snack times; when children eat, and where. Children choose which food to eat from food choices you provide, and they decide how much to eat or even if they eat at all.

How to serve food safely

Learn about the health and safety of children under the age of six years, and Ottawa Public Health’s Certified Food Handler training.

Canada’s Food Guide

Learn more about the Canada’s Food Guide; what is a food guide serving and how to read a Nutrition Facts table.


BOKS Bits help young children learn about healthy eating throughout the child care daily routine. You can build these “bits” of information or quick activities into the children’s day.

  • Boks Bits Activities (PDF)
    Anytime activity ideas to help children learn and talk about healthy eating and healthy behaviours during transition time, circle time, snack or meal and play times.
  • Boks Bits Lessons (PDF)
    Activity ideas to help children learn about nutrition, making healthy food choices and healthy behaviours during classroom, circle time, craft time or play time.
  • Boks Bits for Celebrations (PDF)
    Activity ideas for special events, birthdays and seasonal or cultural celebrations.

Active Living

What to wear for active play

For indoor active play, kids need to wear loose fitting clothing and comfortable shoes, such as running shoes. This type of clothing gives them freedom to move and enjoy being active.  

For outdoor active play children need to be comfortable but also dress for the weather. Here is a check list to help you be ready for outdoor active play.


  • Comfortable play clothes
  • Waterproof and wind resistant coat
  • Comfortable shoes for vigorous active play
  • Waterproof boots for rainy days
  • Wide brimmed hat to cover face, ears, and neck


  • Comfortable and lightweight play clothes like linen or cotton
  • Light coloured clothing to reflect the sunlight
  • Comfortable shoes for vigorous active play
  • Wide brimmed hat to cover face, ears, and neck


  • Comfortable play clothes
  • Waterproof and wind resistant coat
  • Comfortable shoes for vigorous active play
  • Waterproof boots for rainy days
  • Hat
  • Scarf
  • Gloves


  • Comfortable play clothes
    • Inner layer: long sleeve shirt and pants made with polyester or silk
    • Middle layer: fleece or wool sweater
    • Outer layer: waterproof and wind resistant snowsuit or winter coat and snow pants
  • Warm socks
  • Waterproof winter boots with room for an extra layer of socks
  • Hat
  • Scarf
  • Mittens tucked under the cuffs of the coat

Whatever the season, sun safety is an important part of children’s dress code too. Remember sun safety for children every day:

  • Check UV index each day
  • Wear sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB protection
  • Limit time in the sun between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Play in the shade under a tree, umbrella or in the shade of a building.
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen and lip balm that block UVA and UVB rays with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.
  • Apply sunscreen generously 20 minutes before going into the sun.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming, drying off or sweating.
  • Keep babies less than one year out of direct sunlight at all times.
  • Do not apply sunscreen to babies less than six months old.
  • Remember to have water within reach for children to drink at all times.

BOKS Bursts

Activity ideas to help you plan opportunities for active play and to help you teach fundamental movement skills throughout the daily child care program.

Physical Literacy

For more information on physical literacy and activity ideas

Supporting Families

  • Parenting in Ottawa
    Parents have access to local community resources, events, and they can connect with health and parenting experts. There is information for expectant parents to families with teenage children. 
  • Parenting in Ottawa Facebook
    Moms and dads can talk live with other parents and with a Public Health Nurse about various parenting topics.

Did You Know?

To share information, insert healthy eating and active living messages into your newsletter or blog for parents

  • Healthy Eating Parenting Messages
  • Parents as Role Models 
  • Active Living Parenting Messages
  • Growth and Development

Did You Know? Healthy Eating Parenting Messages

Eating Environment

  1. Parents and children both have jobs when it comes to eating. Your job as a parent (or caregiver) is to decide what, when and where to offer food. The child’s job is to decide if and how much to eat from the healthy choices that you offer.
  2. It’s normal for young children to eat a lot one day and eat very little the next day.  Children’s appetites vary from day to day. Even on the days when a child is less interested in food, keep offering a variety of healthy foods without pressuring them to eat. Make one family meal, not separate meals, with at least one food your child likes even if it is just bread or another one of their favourites.
  3. The most important thing that you can do to prevent food-borne illness is to wash your hands regularly and properly.   Teach children to wash their hands often and for long enough (sing the Happy Birthday song).
  4. Children under age 4 are at greatest risk of choking, especially on hard or slippery foods.  Prevent choking by supervising children while eating, cutting foods into bite-size pieces and cooking hard or stringy foods to soften them. Never give nut butters to very young children on a spoon. Spread it thinly on bread or crackers. 
  5. A food allergy is different than food intolerance.  A food allergy always involves the immune system while a food intolerance is an unpleasant reaction to a food that does not involve the immune system (like lactose intolerance).
  6. Most toddlers should have three snacks every day.   Offer one snack in the morning, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. Not so big that it means they won’t eat their next meal but not so small that they are too hungry at their next meal.  Include a vegetable or fruit with each snack. Offer different snacks as much as possible so that children are exposed to new foods regularly.
  7. It helps your child know when he or she is hungry if you offer meals and snacks at regular times.  Young children have small appetites and small tummies. They need to eat small meals and snacks often throughout the day. For most children, offer snacks about 2 hours before meals. Grazing between meals and snacks (like having food available at all times) is not recommended since it tends to lead to eating less at mealtime.
  8. It’s okay for a child to say “I’m full.”  It’s up to the parent or caregiver to decide what foods are served but up to the child to decide how much is eaten. By allowing the child to decide when they are hungry or full, we are giving them the tools they need to recognize their own hunger cues. This will help them to avoid overeating as they get older.
  9. The more you push a food, the less likely a child is to eat it.  Offer new foods often to encourage children to try them.  It may take 10 tries or more before a child accepts a new food or a previously disliked food. If they see you eating it, that might help.
  10. It’s common for most children to go through periods where they’ll only eat a few kinds of food.  These are called food jags. Be patient and don’t worry, especially if they’re still growing. Continue to offer a variety of foods.  Most children will grow out of this.
  11. Most toddlers are not fast eaters.  Let them eat at their own pace. If they haven’t eaten much after 20-30 minutes, take away the food without comment but leave their plate. Let them leave the table when they have decided that they are finished eating.
  12. An unfinished plate is not necessarily a bad sign.  At mealtimes, talk about what happened during the day rather than what your child eats. Trust that he or she will eat an amount that is right for him or her. By serving a variety of healthy meals and snacks 2-3 hours apart, your child’s appetite will guide what and how much he or she eats.
  13. Unpasteurized foods including ciders, juices, milk products, honey or eggs are unsafe for young children to eat. Never give these foods to infants, toddlers or preschoolers because they could get very sick.

Healthy Choices

  1. When children eat healthy foods they have energy to be active.  Serve some peppers with hummus or yogurt dip with fruit for a snack before an activity.
  2. It is best to have 3-4 food groups in each meal that you offer.  For example, a healthy breakfast could include 1 egg, oatmeal with sliced apples and a glass of milk. That’s 4 food groups!
  3. Young children eat better if it’s fun.  Broccoli can be a tree and your child can be a dinosaur.  Sliced peppers can be snakes or worms. Dip can be a ski hill. The possibilities are endless. Children will help you to come up with ideas.
  4. You can save time and money by serving meat alternatives (eggs, beans, tofu) for a few meals a week.  Try making spaghetti sauce with tofu or dried beans instead of meat once in a while.
  5. Many vegetables and fruits are less expensive when they’re in season.  Check out for in season produce.
  6. Frozen or canned vegetables and fruit can be as healthy as fresh.  Read labels and choose those with no added sugar or salt or with the lowest amount. Use only fruit canned in juice or water. When using canned vegetables, always drain the water and rinse the vegetables. This will help to get rid of some of the salt that is added.
  7. On the Nutrition Facts panel, 5% DV (Daily Value) or less means there’s a little of that nutrient in the food.  Look for less than 5% DV on foods for things that you would like to get less of like salt in crackers or bread.
  8. On the Nutrition Facts panel, 15% DV (Daily Value) or higher means there’s a lot of that nutrient in the food.   Look for at least 15% DV on foods for things that you would like to get more of like iron in breakfast cereal or more fibre in breads, cereal or crackers.
  9. If you offer foods from different cultures children can learn to accept a wider variety of foods.  Many foods from other cultures are healthy choices and include more vegetables, fruit and meat alternatives than more “North American”-type foods.  For example, tacos or curry meats with rice or meatless meals made with beans or lentils.
  10. Water should be the beverage of choice for keeping young children hydrated.  If plain water is offered to children from a very young age, they will learn to choose it first.  Once children are eating solid foods, make sure it’s always available.  If children see adults drinking water, they will want to drink it too.
  11. Cream cheese is not part of the milk and alternatives food group.  It has very little calcium andprotein and it’s high in fat. Choose hard cheeses instead and use cream cheese in moderation.
  12. The nutrient most infants and toddlers are likely to be low in is iron.  Research shows a link between low iron status with certain behavior problems and possible delays in learning. That’s why it is so important for children, especially toddlers, to eat iron-containing foods like dried peas, beans, lentils, meat, fish, iron-fortified cereals, dark green vegetables and eggs.
  13. Until a child is 2 years old, they should be served homo (3.25%) milk.  After this age, you can switch to 2% milk, then 1%. Under the age of 2, the fatty acids in whole milk and other foods are needed to help with brain development.
  14.  Juice is high in sugar.  Even though it’s natural from fruit, it’s still sugar and your child’s body treats it the same way as added sugar. Limit daily juice consumption to 125mL (1/2 c) per day. And stay away from “fruit drinks” or “fruit beverages”.
  15. Your child’s sodium intake matters.  How much salt they eat now will shape their taste for salty foods and it also has an impact on their heart health and blood pressure as they get older.  

Did You Know? Parents as Role Models 

Parents as Healthy Lifestyle Role Models

  1. You are your child’s first and best teacher about how to grow up healthy.  Be a role model for healthy eating and active living. Your child watches you first.
  2. Role modeling healthy behaviours at home will help young children develop positive attitudes about healthy living that will last a lifetime. 
  3. When young children see you eating healthy foods and being physically active on a daily basis, they will role model these behaviours. 
  4. Small things you do together as a family every day like playing outside and eating a healthy meal together will help you role model a healthy, active lifestyle for your children. 

Parents as Healthy Eating Role Models

  1. Your child is more likely to try a new food if they see you eating it. Offer a wide variety of healthy foods and try them yourself in front of your child. They will see it is worth trying.
  2. Eating together as a family is one of the most important things that you can do to help your child grow up healthy.  Make family meals a priority. Let your child play a role by choosing one food or recipe or help with preparation, serving or clean up.
  3. Children who eat with their families more often have fewer behavioural problems.  Eat healthy meals together as a family as often as you can.
  4. Children should be able to use an open cup by 12-15 months.   It is better for their teeth and their nutrition.
  5. By the age of 1 year children should be able to feed themselves. Let them make a mess and play with their food.  This is how children learn about food.  Don’t worry if it takes them longer to eat. Children will eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full.
  6. Watch out for food allergies. When introducing a new food to infants and toddlers, wait 2-4 days between each new food. Even if there is a family history of food allergies, try highly allergenic foods like whole eggs, nut butters or wheat when starting solids. Research shows that it is best not to avoid these foods but to introduce them early on so that the child is less likely to be allergic.

Parents as Active Living Role Models

  1. Children develop gross and fine motor skills when adults’ role model and teach them to be physically active.
  2. Active parents are more likely to have active children. 
  3. Children who participate in active play in the early years are more likely to participate in physical activities and sports as teenagers. 
  4. Active play that is challenging, like climbing and running fast, helps young children develop problem solving skills and confidence. 
  5. Active play that takes place in a challenging and safe environment helps young children learn to judge risks and learn what their bodies can and cannot do safely.

Did You Know? Active Living Parenting Messages

Active Play

  1. Active play is spontaneous, fun and full of energy.
  2. Active play is not only good for your child’s health, but also for their development, focus and readiness to learn! Get them ready for school by being active together.
  3. Toddlers and preschoolers need at least 180 minutes of daily physical activity. Each day, make sure your preschooler gets at least 30 minutes of vigorous active play, such as running in the park.
  4. Infants under 1 year old need active play several times a day. Take time to play with your baby on the floor and teach them to roll over, crawl and climb.
  5. Outdoor active play is free! Visit your local park today to jump puddles, build a snowman or fort, play catch, or kick a ball with your kids.
  6. Children of all abilities enjoy active play. To find out about physical activity programs for children with special needs, check out the City of Ottawa’s Recreation Guide at or call 311.   
  7. Start active play from birth. Tummy time is a fun time for you to read a story or to play a game with your baby. You will build your baby’s strength, build a loving relationship and teach them language skills.
  8. Active play teaches children how to play with others, problem solve, and how to cope with their feelings.
  9. Nature is a great place for active play in all kinds of weather. Kids can run, climb, jump, crawl and explore natures’ playground.
  10. During outdoor active play children need to be sun safe. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks UVA and UVB rays with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. 
  11. For outdoor active play children need to be dressed for the weather.  Rain boots for spring puddles, wide-brimmed hats for the summer sun, and warm hats and neck warmers for the winter snow will all make children comfortable to for active play outdoors. 

Physical Literacy

  1. Physically literate children learn to move with confidence and control in all kinds of environments like on the ground, snow, and in water.
  2. Children need to learn basic movement skills first, and then they learn how to put these movements into actions like kicking a ball and learning to play games.
  3. Young children who learn to move with confidence and skill enjoy being active for life.
  4. Toddlers and preschoolers need to learn movement skills like running, jumping, throwing, kicking, catching and striking with a bat and ball. They master these movement skills overtime and with practice.
  5. Developing physical literacy begins with newborn babies, beginning with tummy time, rolling over, crawling and pulling themselves to stand-up. Play with your infant on the floor and teach them these movement skills.
  6. Children with disabilities need to learn physical literacy skills too.  To find out about physical activity programs for children with special needs, please check out the City of Ottawa’s Recreation Guide at or call 311.  
  7. Toddlers and preschoolers need to be taught a variety of movement skills. Keep it simple. Kick a ball at a park, dance around the room, or play catch together.

Sedentary Behaviour

  1. Less is more when it comes to screen time.  One hour or less a day of screen time for 3 and 4 year-olds and no screen time for children under two is best. 
  2. Screen time should not replace active play time.  Limit young children’s screen time and get them moving. 
  3. Children are moving less than ever before.  Turn off the screens and get them moving by teaching them games you played as a child.

Did You Know? Growth and Development

  1. Children have sensitive times to learn developmental skills. Do you know what to expect? Talk to your health care provider about any concerns or call Ottawa Public Health 613-580-6744.
  2. Screening leads to early identification of problems and helps parents get support from health care providers.
  3. How is your child developing? The Nipissing District Developmental Screen™ (NDDS) is a short and simple checklist that gives you a snapshot of your child's growth and development at a specific age. Register with   to receive email reminders to screen your child regularly. 
  4. NutriSTEP® is a simple nutrition survey for young children that consists of 17 questions and takes five minutes to complete.
  5. Ottawa Public Health offers NutriSTEP® free of charge to parents and caregivers of children 18 months to 5 years old. Call Ottawa Public Health at 613 580-6744 for more information. 
  6. NutriSTEP® can be used in preschools, parent education programs, school board kindergarten registration and by doctors or other health professionals. Call Ottawa Public Health at 613 580-6744 for more information.
  7. In the first 2 years of life, a few significant people matter to your child. This could be you, a partner, a grandparent, or a childcare provider.  Your baby's first bonds form the basis for all future relationships. Attachment plays a large role in a child's social development.
  8. From birth, your child can communicate. Learn to understand and answer your child’s cues and teach your child language and speech skills as they grow. 
  9. It is important to identify hearing loss as early as possible.  Most children learn to talk by copying the sounds and voices they hear around them. Unfortunately, this is not the case for every child. Some children must learn speech and language in a different way. Talk to your health care provider if you have concerns about your child’s hearing. 
  10. Vision is important for your child's development. 80% of a child's learning involves seeing. It is important to detect vision problems early. Talk to your health care provider if you have concerns about your child’s vision.  


Child Development

How well is each child developing? Screening tools and reference guide to determine if each child is on track!

  • NutriSTEP® 
    NutriSTEP® is simple questionnaire to assess a child’s eating, physical activity, screen time habits and more.
  • Nipissing District Developmental Screening Tool
    Nipissing District Developmental Screening Tool (NDDS) is a short and simple checklist to review the child’s development at a specific age (birth to age 6).
  • Red Flags
    A Quick reference guide for early years professionals in Ottawa to help identify potential developmental concerns and refer for further assessment.