Meal Pattern Requirements

What You Need to Know

The USDA has revised the CACFP meal patterns to ensure children and infants have access to healthy, balanced meals. We have the resources you need to implement the changes.

The changes align CACFP meal patterns with the most up-to-date nutrition requirements from USDA. Meals served will include a greater variety of vegetables and fruit, more whole grains, and less added sugar and saturated fat. The changes to the infant meal pattern support breastfeeding and the consumption of vegetables and fruit without added sugars. CACFP programs must comply with the updated meal patterns by October 1, 2017.

We have created an overview of the changes to simplify them and help you implement them in your child care program.  If you want to know more details about the changes and ideas on what to serve, check out our resource page.


Greater Variety of Vegetables and Fruits

The combined fruit/vegetable component will now be a separate vegetable and a separate fruit component.

Juice is limited to once per day.


More Whole Grains

At least one serving of grains per day must be whole-grain rich.

Sweet grain items can no longer be claimed as a grain/bread component; to include pop tarts, cookies, cereal bars, toaster pastries, doughnuts, and granola bars.


More Protein Options

Meat and meat alternates may be served in place of the grain component at breakfast a maximum of 3 times per week.

Tofu counts as a meat alternate.


Less Added Sugar

Breakfast cereals must contain no more than 6 grams of sugar per dry ounce.

Yogurts must contain no more than 23 grams of sugar per 6 ounces.


Serving Milk

For newborn through 11 months old, serve breastmilk or iron-fortified formula.

For 12 months through 23 months, serve unflavored whole milk.

For 2 years through 5 years, serve unflavored low-fat or fat-free milk.

For 6 years and older, serve unflavored fat-free, flavored fat-free, or unflavored low-fat milk.

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More Nutritious Older Infant Meals

Solid foods are gradually introduced around 6 months of age, as developmentally appropriate.

A vegetable or fruit, or both, must be served at snack for infants 6 through 11 months.

Whole eggs and yogurt can be claimed. Ready-to-eat cereals are allowed at snack.

Juice, cheese food or cheese spread are no longer allowed to be served.


New Age Groups

For infants, there are now two age groups instead of three: 0 through 5 month olds and 6 through 11 month olds.

A new age group has been added to address the needs of older children 13 through 18 years old.


Parent Provided Nutrition

Providers will receive reimbursement for meals when a breastfeeding mother comes to the child care center or home and directly breastfeeds her infant.

Providers can be reimbursed when parents provide one component per meal as long as it meets the meal pattern requirements; example: child with a special dietary need.


Other Changes

Frying is not allowed as a way of preparing foods on-site.

Extends offer versus serve to at-risk after-school programs.