4.9 Dietary Restrictions

Early years settings build culturally responsive spaces by collaborating with families to support nutritional practices for children engaging in learning spaces. Dietary restrictions are common in early years settings and are respected to ensure children and families feel a sense of belonging, one of the four foundations for learning. This connects to How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years (OME, 2014).

Families will be consulted upon enrollment around any dietary restrictions for religious, philosophical, or medical reasons. The dietary planner and educators are informed of these restrictions and plans are put in place to ensure a child doesn’t consume anything restricted in their nutritional plan. For example, a child may not eat pork for religious reasons. This will be posted in the kitchen as well as in the classroom to ensure anyone working with the child will be aware of their dietary restriction. An anaphylactic plan will be developed for a child with food allergies to include medical procedures necessary if a child is accidentally exposed to an allergen. All employees in licensed child care must read and sign off on anaphylactic plans and receive training to respond to an allergic reaction.

Early years settings may allow outside food to be provided for a child with dietary restrictions. Policies vary amongst early years settings. Some may require food to be in its original packaging with an ingredients listing to avoid cross contamination with another child’s food, resulting in an allergic reaction. Many organizations provide food alternatives to ensure the inclusion of children with dietary restrictions. Consultation around where to buy food alternatives and how to prepare food alternatives may take place between the family and the dietary planner. Food prepared for a specific child must be labeled by the dietary planner to ensure the child receives the correct food.

Allergies and Dietary Restrictions in Early Years Settings

Epinepherine Auto-Injectors with Teal Background.
Photo by Pixelumina Photography, Unsplash License.

Early years settings licensed by the Ministry of Education must comply with the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014 by posting menus in the food preparation area and an area visible to families and educators. As mentioned previously, menus with noted changes must be visible for parents. The menus for the current week and the following week must be posted. Menus must be retained on file for one month after being posted to track any allergies or food borne illnesses.


Posting of Menus and Allergies
43. (1) Every licensee of a child care centre shall post planned menus for the current and following week in a conspicuous place in each child care centre it operates with any substitutions noted on the posted menus. O. Reg. 137/15, s. 43 (1).
(2) A menu referred to in subsection (1) shall be kept by the licensee for thirty days after the last day for which it is applicable. O. Reg. 137/15, s. 43 (2).
(3) Every licensee of a child care centre shall ensure that, in each child care centre it operates, a list setting out the names of the children receiving child care in the child care centre who have allergies or food restrictions, and their respective allergens or restrictions,

(a) is posted in each cooking and serving area;

(b) is posted in each play area or play room; and

(c) is available and accessible in any other area in which children may be present. O. Reg. 51/18, s. 17.

(4) Every licensee of a home child care agency shall ensure that each home child care provider in each premises where the licensee oversees the provision of home child care plans menus in consultation with a parent of the child and a home child care visitor and that the menu, and the meals and snacks that it provides, meet the requirements set out in the most recent and relevant food guide published by Health Canada. O. Reg. 174/21, s. 25.

(Ontario Regulation 137/15, under the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014. © King’s Printer for Ontario, 2015)

Any food allergies or dietary restrictions must also be posted in the food preparation area, in the learning spaces, and in any area accessed by the children. Educators and dietary planners have access to this information typically in a chart format that can be easily reviewed during the day to ensure children are not served something that could cause an allergic reaction or contravene the child’s philosophical or religious beliefs. Educators working on a casual basis reference these charts as part of their ongoing practice as they often enter multiple classrooms for their daily work.

Anaphylactic plans will also be available, alongside life saving medication, in any area accessed by children including outdoor spaces. These plans and medications must be easily accessible in the event of an evacuation. The anaphylactic plan and medication is often stored in a small bag with the child’s name and photo for easy transport from one area to another. Training for the anaphylactic plans will be provided for all employees, volunteers, and students of an early years setting prior to embarking in work with children to ensure all are aware of what to do in an emergency.

Read (PDF)

Review the sample anaphylaxis emergency plan:



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Holistic Care and Wellness in Early Years Settings Copyright © 2023 by Barbara Jackson and Sheryl Third is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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