Foods Home Daycare Providers Should Never Serve Toddlers

Providing toddlers with appropriate nutrition can be a challenge, due in large part to the innate pickiness of small children when it comes to new foods. For home daycare providers who have both a responsibility to feed the children under their care properly and the risk of liability, it can be tempting to offer a picky eater a variety of foods in order to find one they’ll agree to eat.

Still, there are many food items which a home daycare provider may have on hand, but should never be given to toddlers for health and safety reasons.

Peanuts and Tree Nuts

While peanuts are technically legumes and in a separate family from tree nuts, these are two of the most common and potentially dangerous allergens. Toddlers should not be exposed to tree nuts like walnuts, almonds and pecans, or peanut-derived childhood staples like peanut butter under your care. Introducing high allergen-risk foods should be attempted when children are a bit older, and by their parents in a controlled environment.

Children with peanut allergies can face dangerous and even deadly reactions from not only ingesting peanuts, but even coming into physical contact with them. Peanut allergies are among the most common for young children, which makes them a particularly high-risk food item. The thick consistency can also present a choking risk for toddlers, even if they have no peanut allergies.

Kid Favorites Home Daycare Providers Should Avoid

There are certain food items which seem to be universally loved by children, which make them tempting choices for home daycare providers faced with a toddler who refuses all other offerings. Still, some of these choices can be dangerous for small children, and should be avoided. Risky foods for toddlers include:

  • Popcorn – Partially-popped kernels of popcorn can be very hard, which presents a risk to small teeth and a considerable choking hazard. Furthermore, many microwavable popcorn brands contain a number of potentially dangerous chemicals, and should be avoided by home daycare providers.
  • Hot Dogs – A staple item for many parents and caregivers, hot dogs are also among the most common causes of fatal choking incidents for small children. They contain highly processed meat and high levels of sodium, as well. If you do choose to serve hot dogs to the toddlers under your care, they should always be sliced lengthwise before serving. Coin-shaped slices are popular among many parents and daycare providers, but they’re the most dangerous choice in terms of choking risk. Never serve round hot dog slices to toddlers.
  • Hard Candy – Sugar and additives aside, hard candy is a dangerous choice for toddlers due to the choking risk they can also present.
  • Soft Drinks – Medical professionals and children’s health organizations like Keep Kids Healthy recommend toddlers only have for to six ounces of fruit juice over the course of a day, but never soft drinks or soda. Soft drinks can be damaging to newly developed teeth, and can discourage kids from developing good dietary habits.

Seemingly Healthy Foods to Avoid

It’s not uncommon for home daycare providers in search of healthy food options to choose some items which are actually dangerous for toddlers. While these foods seem like wholesome choices at first blush, they’re actually not ideally suited to toddler nutrition.

  • Fish – High in Omega-3 fatty acids and protein, fish is a healthy food which may not be so healthy for children. Some types can have very high mercury levels, which is toxic in large doses. Even types which are widely recognized as low-risk in terms of mercury can still be a dangerous choice for home daycare providers, as fish is also a common allergen. Instead of serving fish to toddlers, it’s best to introduce this potential allergen later in childhood in controlled conditions.
  • Eggs – Another common allergen, eggs should also be introduced carefully when children are past toddlerhood. Egg whites can cause skin irritation and upset stomachs in some toddlers as well, so it’s best not to serve eggs to toddler charges.
  • Honey – Known as a natural anti-microbial and healthier sweetener option than sugar, honey can be contaminated with a type of bacteria which is particularly dangerous for very young children. Toddlers can come into contact with the bacteria which causes botulism through eating honey, but the risk diminishes significantly after a child reaches two years of age.
  • Non-fat Milk – While the Seattle Children’s Hospital recommends never serving any type of cow’s milk to children under one year of age, but also avoiding low-fat, non-fat and reduced fat milk for toddlers. Some fat is crucial in a toddler’s diet for neurological development and nutritional reasons. Milk is also a common allergen, and should only be served to children who have shown a tolerance at home.

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