P.E.I. daycares preparing for changes to food menus

Island child-care centres and nursing homes say Canada's new food guide will prompt changes to their food menus. Though toddlers and seniors shouldn't expect a big plate of quinoa any time soon.

Province's menu guidelines for early years centres still based on old Canada Food Guide

Children at First Friends Child Care Centre in Charlottetown chow down on Monday's lunch — spaghetti, carrots, bread, and water. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Some Island child-care centres say Canada's new food guide will prompt changes to their food menus. Though toddlers shouldn't expect to be served up a big plate of quinoa and lentils any time soon.

"I don't think you'll see lots of changes for the first six months to a year," said Sandra Mills, the director of First Friends Child Care Centre in Charlottetown.  "It'll be a very slow process I believe, just trying new things.  You know, what's going to work, and what's not going to work?"

Sandra Mills, director at First Friends Child Care Centre, says it will take time to adapt the centre's food menus to Canada's new food guide. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

As the director of an early years centre regulated by the P.E.I. government, Mills says she's always had to serve up meals to children based on Canada's old food guide, and its four food groups.

'It's always been about meat as our protein'

Canada's new guide, unveiled in January, gets away from those food groups and recommended servings, and puts a stronger emphasis on fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods, and more plant-based proteins like beans and lentils. 

"Because I'm old school, it's always been about meat as our protein. So this would be something new," said Mills.  

"I really have no idea myself what would be good options when it comes to plant based [proteins]. So I think that's an educational thing. We need to find someone who can give us more information on the nutrients of it ... and how much of that you would need during the week. Is it three times a week or twice a week?"

Province waiting on Health Canada 

Ultimately, it's the province that sets the menu guidelines at its early years centres, as well as its other facilities that serve food, like its hospitals and nursing homes. 

In an email to CBC, a government spokesperson said it won't adapt its guidelines to the new food guide until Health Canada releases a document due out "later in 2019" that provides more information on "the amounts and types of foods people should be eating throughout the life course."

"We expect that this document will be important to inform policy and practice for health-care facilities and services that deliver nutrition programs," the email said. 

Canada's new food guide places a stronger emphasis on fruits and vegetables and encourages more whole grain foods and plant-based proteins. (Health Canada )

In the meantime, Mills says she will experiment with some different foods at her centre, in hopes of landing on some new healthy options that children enjoy. 

"It's just a trial and error thing for us, and hopefully we'll find some good choices to make."

More P.E.I. news 

About the Author

Steve Bruce

Video journalist

Steve Bruce is a video journalist with CBC P.E.I. He landed on the Island in 2009, after stints with CBC in Fredericton, St. John's, Toronto and Vancouver. He grew up in Corner Brook, N.L.