Are you overwhelmed about the new CACFP meal requirements for childcare? I have broken them down into easy to follow steps.

The New CACFP Meal Requirements for Childcare Made Simple

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Are you super overwhelmed by the new CACFP meal requirements for childcare that take effect October of 2017? If so, don’t fret, there is help for you. I have broken down the new rules into easy to follow steps for you. You can do this, and your kids will be better for it.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet to help you understand the main rules. See below for more detailed and complete explanation.

Editable CACFP Menus

Check out my menus with the link below. You can edit them and use them as your own. I hope that helps.

2017 menu for the blog

Cheat sheet for the new CACFP meal requirements for childcare:

Two veggies for lunch or supper, or one fruit and one veggie.

New infant age groups.

Fruits and veggies allowed for infants over 6 months at snack.

No juice for infants, no more than one serving of juice a day for 1 and up.

At least one serving of whole grains per day.

No grain-based desserts.

Meat or meat alternate can be served for breakfast instead of bread 3 days a week.

Tofu can count as meat alternate.

Serve plain yogurt or yogurt with less than 23 grams of sugar per 6 ounces.

Choose WIC approved, or under 6 grams of sugar per dry ounce cereals.

No flavored milk for under 6.

No deep fat frying on site.

Here are the new CACFP meal requirements for childcare measurements and the old ones.

The New CACFP Meal Requirements for Childcare Made Simple

New CACFP meal pattern, 2017

Infant Meals Patterns

There are new infant groups: 0-5 months and 6-11 months

Solid food does not have to be served before age one, but it is allowed after 6 months of age.

No juice is allowed for infants.

Breast milk is encouraged and creditable when mother feeds on site. (Breast milk brought by mom was always creditable and still will be, but if they feed on site that is now creditable as well)

Snack for infants 6-11 months old contains a fruit or vegetable when baby is ready for solid foods. (The servings state you can serve 0 Tablespoons. Now it is required to serve fruit or vegetable for snack for infants, but with the new rules it will be required when they are developmentally ready, so you have the option not to)

Ready to eat cereals such as Cheerios are creditable for baby’s snack.

Infant meat and meat alternatives include lean meats, fish, poultry, cooked dried beans or peas, cheese (no more cheese food or cheese spread), cottage cheese, yogurt and WHOLE eggs.

New age group for the new CACFP meal requirements

There is a new age group, 13-18 for at-risk after-school programs and emergency shelters. Meal pattern requirements are the same as those for 6-12-year-old.

fruits and vegetables from the garden laid out on the kitchen table

Vegetables and Fruits are separate components

Vegetables and fruit are divided now, so you may no longer serve two fruits for lunch or supper, it must be one of each or two veggies. A vegetable and a fruit are allowed as a snack.

Juice is limited in the new CACFP meal requirements

Juice is limited to one time daily for children 1 and up. No juice for infants.


Whole Grains are required in the new CACFP meal requirements for childcare

One whole-grain food must be served per day. This can be for breakfast, lunch, supper, or snack.

This could be in pasta, bread, buns, muffins, crackers, cereals, etc.

The New CACFP Meal Requirements for Childcare Made Simple

For whole grains, the ingredients must list a whole grain (whole wheat, oats, barley, rice, corn, etc.) as the first ingredient or must be 50% whole grain and 50% enriched grain. One example of this could be if a recipe contains 2 cups of whole wheat flour and 2 cups of enriched white flour.

The product could have an FDA whole-grain healthy claim on its packaging such as “diets rich in whole grain foods and other plant foods and low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers” Or “Diets rich in whole grain foods and other plant foods, and low in saturated fat and cholesterol may help reduce the risk of heart disease”.  

Whole grain requirements for childcare

You cannot use the whole grain stamp on a product, the criteria must be met as above and some stamped products do not meet it.

Providers must document their menu showing whole grains are served, such as whole wheat bread, whole grain-rich, etc.

If whole grains are not served, the meal with the lowest reimbursement rate will be disallowed and not reimbursed. All children do not have to be in attendance when the whole grain is served. The rules are once per day for the facility, not per child. If the facility has to close for extenuating circumstances and the planned whole grain meal is not served, the facility will not be penalized for the missed meal as long as it is demonstrated that the meal was planned.

If a program only serves snack, that meal must contain a whole grain food.

Examples of whole-grain foods

Some examples of whole-grain foods include:

King Arthur Muffin Mix

Bob’s Red Mill 10 grain hot cereal

Bob’s Red Mill 10 grain pancake mix

Mission 100% whole wheat flour tortillas

Good Food Made Simple oatmeal

Earth Grains 100% wheat berry bread

Orowheat 100% whole wheat bread

Roman Meal 100% whole grain bread

Barilla 100% whole wheat pasta

Mueller’s 100% whole grain pasta

Nature’s Own 100% whole wheat bread

Heartland 100% whole grain pasta

Lender’s 100% whole wheat bagels

Sara Lee 100% whole wheat bread




Bulgar Wheat

Mixed whole grain cereals

Plain Cheerios or Multi-Grain


Frosted Mini Wheats

Grape Nuts

Shredded Wheats

Whole wheat goldfish crackers

Wild rice, use in soups, hot dishes and in meatloaf and meatballs, serve as breakfast cereal

Add oatmeal to meatballs and meatloaf instead of breadcrumbs (or use whole wheat breadcrumbs)

There are many more, this is just an example of some. If you have more ideas, comment below and I’ll add them! For a printable list you can take shopping with you by brand, click here. 

No grain-based desserts are allowed in the new CACFP meal requirements for childcare

No grain-based desserts are allowed. As well as no cookies, sweet crackers, sweet pie crusts, doughnuts, cereal bars, breakfast bars, granola bars, sweet rolls, pop tarts, cake or brownies. Providers may serve them to kids as an occasional treat, but they are not creditable on the food program.

**The original requirements stated that graham crackers and animal crackers would not be allowed for reimbursement, however, they have reversed that decision and graham crackers and animal crackers WILL be allowed.

Providers can, however, make a dessert such as a pie or turnover and count the fruit in that dessert as a creditable fruit for the CACFP.

Grain-based desserts that are homemade are also not allowed either. No homemade granola bars, cookies, nothing.

CACFP approved bread

Muffins and sweet breads, however, are allowed to be served including store-bought and homemade. Pancakes and waffles, store-bought and homemade are still allowed and you can add sweet toppings such as syrup. You are encouraged to find healthier alternatives to those, but they are allowed.

Need snack ideas for the new rules? Click here for breakfast ideas and here for lunch ideas. You can even click here for help in planning your new menu. (Plus there are pictures of my menus there. 

Any post on this blog may contain affiliate links that pay me a very small commission for items you purchase using the links but costs you nothing extra.

Serving size of bread is in ounces in the new CACFP meal requirements for childcare

Bread will be measured in ounces rather than servings for less confusion.

CACFP sugar calculator

Breakfast cereals must contain no more than 6 grams of sugar per dry ounce (21.2 grams per 100 grams of cereal) There is a formula for figuring ounces available, but any WIC approved cereals are allowed because they must follow that rule as well.

The formula is: find the serving size in grams at the top of the label and the sugars toward the middle. Divide the total sugars by the serving size in grams. If the answer is equal to or less than 0.212, the cereal is allowed.

Some CACFP approved cereals include:

Best choice: Bran Flakes, Corn Crisps, Frosted Shredded Wheat, Happy O’s, Nutty Nuggets, Rice Crisps and Wheat Crisps.

Great Value: Bran Flakes, Corn Flakes, Crunchy Oat Squares, Shredded Wheat, Toasted Corn, Toasted Rice, Toasted Wheat and Toasted Whole Grain Oats

Plain Mini Wheats

Plain Cheerios, Multi Grain Cheerios

Complete All-Bran

Fiber One

Shredded Wheat

Grape Nuts, Grape Nuts Flakes

Alpha Bits

Whole Grain Honey Bunches of Oats plain, almond and vanilla



Plain Life

Wheat Chex, Rice Chex, Corn Chex


This is not an all-inclusive list, but just an idea to get you started. If you find more that meet the requirements, comment below and I’ll add them!

You can click here for a calculator to help you figure out if your cereal will qualify.

Meat/Meat Alternate Requirements in the new CACFP meal requirements for childcare

A meat or meat alternate may be served in place of the entire bread serving at breakfast up to 3 times per week. Also, tofu can count as a meat alternate.

CACFP yogurt calculator for childcare

Yogurt can contain no more than 23 grams of sugar per 6 oz. serving.

Any plain yogurt is creditable. Consider buying plain and adding your own sweeteners. You can use jams, jellies, honey, sugar, maple syrup, fruit, or whatever you have on hand to sweeten the yogurt and you’ll know your plain yogurt is creditable.

This means:

4 oz. yogurt must have less than 15 grams of sugar

5.3 oz. yogurt must have less than 20 grams of sugar

6 oz. yogurt must have less than 23 grams of sugar

8 oz. yogurt must have less than 30 grams of sugar

Click here to see if your yogurt qualifies.

Milk requirements in the new CACFP meal requirements for childcare

Children age 1 still must receive whole milk. Ages 2-6 still must receive low fat or fat-free milk.

No flavored milk allowed for children under 6.

Frying rules for the new CACFP rules

No deep fat frying food on site. Purchased fried foods may be served. Foods prepared on site can be pan-fried, sautéed and stir-fried.

CACFP meal requirements

Water must be available to children.

Food must not be used as a reward or punishment.

Providers must encourage moms to supply breast milk.

There are also best practices recommended which include: Serving a fruit and a vegetable for snack, providing 2 whole grains per day, serve lean meats, nuts and beans and limit processed meats to once per week, and serve only natural cheese.

The new CACFP rules are a big change for providers, but anything that is good for the health of the kids in care is a good change. Take each change and think about how simply it could be implemented and you’ll get there one step at a time.

For more help on how to get your kids to eat healthy food, click here. 

If you have any suggestions to add, please comment below and I’ll be glad to add it!

For more tips for daycare providers, click here. 

If you’re looking for premade newsletters to communicate with parents monthly that you can edit for your own, these might help!

Don’t forget to pin for later!

The New CACFP Meal Requirements for Childcare Made Simple

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  1. Hi Christina!! Just found your site!! I am so excited as you are offering up some terrific advise and helpful tips for those of us running our daycares! I do have a question. Have you ever done a post about what fruits and veggies are in season at the proper time of year?? I would love to see something like that as I struggle with finding fresh fruits and veggies for my older babies and young toddlers in the fall and wintertime. (11mon-2.5y, usually not many teeth). The old standbys of applesauce, canned peaches, pears, mandarin oranges etc….gets old REALLY fast!! I’d be interested in a post to help. Thanks

  2. I have ditched my deep fryer and have purchased a Chefman “Air Fryer” . There is no frying involved only heat that is surrounding the food just as a convection oven works. I was told by my monitor that it is not allowed as it has the word Fryer in the name.

    1. According to the USDA the only thing that is not allowed is deep frying on site. You can serve deep fried foods that you buy frozen, you can pan fry foods and you can use an air fryer. On the other hand, your food program is allowed to have their own additional rules, so if they say no, then it’s no, unfortunately. 🙁 I might call the food program itself and ask if she is interpreting their rules correctly because that sounds like a really good way to cook food.

  3. My paperwork says pie crust in a savory dish counts as a grain ( such as pot pie) but pie crust in a sweet dish such as apple pie does not count.

  4. I am a bit confused on breast fed infants. The minimum requirement is 6 is for 6no infant lunch but I have never had a Breastfed child or mother drink/produce that much for meals. In an older version it States BF infants accustomed to smaller servings can take small servings if more is available on infant will consume it. The latest edition,does not mentioned,and requires a,of 6 ounces at lunch still. What do we do? I don’t want to stress .oms,asking for larger amounts and most do not want their child or formula either.

    1. I just had my training on Sept. 16th and this question was asked. We cannot force a child to eat/drink and therefore if an infant only drinks 4oz at a meal it would not be considered reimbursable on its own. However if the infant drinks 4oz at 10am and another 2oz at 12pm you can combine those two feedings into one and claim it for the meal. You just need to write down on the infant menu that they drank 4oz at 10am and 2oz at 12pm.

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