Carmelia Montgomery is a family childcare provider in Evanston. She joined the WeTHRIVE! Child Care Initiative this year and achieved the Ohio Healthy Program designation from the Ohio Department of Health.
Ohio Healthy Programs
The goal of Ohio Healthy Programs (OHP) is to help kids eat well and move more to improve learning and prevent childhood obesity. Only 27 child care providers in Hamilton County have earned OHP designation. To qualify, Carmelia completed 15+ hours of special training on healthy eating and physical activity with Andrea Liptak, RD, LD of Hamilton County Public Health.
“It’s worth every minute,” Carmelia said about the extra training, which exceeds licensing requirements. “Even though I thought I was feeding the kids pretty healthy food, as I went on with the training, I learned a lot. Now I know what to serve them, how much to serve them, and what to look for when I go to the grocery store.”
Healthy menu changes
Carmelia now serves more baked fish and chicken instead of chicken nuggets and other breaded meats. She reads labels to find 100 percent whole grains and low sugar cereals. Meals and snacks include more fruits and vegetables.
“Making these changes was very hard,” Carmelia said. “I’ve been doing daycare since 1999, and I was used to giving them a lot of stuff now I know they shouldn’t be getting. But the kids kind of adjusted.”
Carmelia changed more than the menu. She now sits down to eat meals with the children and talks about what they are eating. She’s found that this helps them try new foods, especially vegetables. “They love broccoli now,” she said. “I sit with them and they see me eating it with them and they will eat it.”
Changing what she serves to the children was only part of Carmelia’s challenge. Parents were used to sending snacks in with their children, and those tended to be things like cookies, chips, and pop. “I had to explain to them that the kids can eat it when they get home, but they can’t eat that stuff here,” she said.
Carmelia held a special family event to show parents the difference between healthy and unhealthy snacks. “We made healthy snacks, like vegetable pizza, ants on a log, and smoothies,” she said. “It turned out really well and the parents liked it. They saw the kids would eat foods they thought they wouldn’t have eaten.”
Parents are now sending in healthier snacks, like water, fruit, and ingredients for smoothies. “I see such improvement in the kids,” Carmelia said. “They are happy with an apple, they are happy with water. One child even asks for only water at home.”
Carmelia says she changed her own eating habits based what she learned in the OHP training. “Before this, I never went to the store and looked at the side of the package at the ingredients. My favorite cereal was frosted flakes. I was surprised to see how much sugar was in there. Now I eat Cheerios.”
Tips for child care providers:
- Leave healthy snacks out where children can see them. Carmelia puts water, apples, oranges, and bananas within reach of the kids.
- Set the example. Carmelia eats with the children, and talks with them about the food. If they’re having something she doesn’t like, she keeps that to herself and eats it anyway.
- Get parents engaged. Carmelia’s healthy snack event showed them that their children will eat healthy food.
Find out more about the WeTHRIVE! Child Care Initiative here.
Read about other WeTHRIVE! child care providers:
- WeTHRIVE! child care spotlight: Carmelia Montgomery
- WeTHRIVE! child care spotlight: Donna Turnbow-Williams
- WeTHRIVE! child care providers get parents involved
- Child care spotlight | Chris Bowman
- Child care spotlight | Arlene Morgan
- Child care spotlight | Monica McClain
- Crystal Howard Scott | Child Care Spotlight
- Corban Learning Center | Child Care Spotlight
- Kids Are Special People | Child Care Spotlight
- Blessed Christian Daycare | Child Care Spotlight