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Updated: 4/18/2007 9:11 am Published: 4/18/2007 9:11 am

The federal government has developed standard guidelines for meal planning, to ensure a child receives balanced meals with adequate nutrition. Most state regulations require licensed caregiver's to follow these guidelines. The suggested meal plans vary according to age. Daycare centers are generally expected to provide about half of a child's daily nutritional needs, and should serve food according to the following approximations. For ages one to three, children should have an ounce of protein, which can be meat, cheese, beans or eggs; and a quarter cup each of vegetables and fruit. Half of a cup of fruit juice can be substituted for the recommended fruit serving. For ages four to six, an ounce and a half of meat, or an egg will meet the protein requirement, while a half-cup each of vegetables and fruit is recommended. If your child is seven years or older, two ounces of meat or an egg, as well as three ounces of cheese or a cup of cooked beans or peas will be sufficient. Children this age should have three quarters of a cup each of fruits and vegetables. All age groups need the equivalent of a cup and a half of milk and two slices of bread each day. Some child care providers receive federal subsidies by strictly adhering to the suggested menu guidelines and completing the paperwork required for the program.

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