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CACFP Resource: Best Practices for Menu Planning

May 17, 2022

Menu Planning (4 × 3 in)

An art and a science

For many, menu planning comes down to the nuts and bolts of fitting together ingredients into meals and slotting them into days. It’s an exercise in logistics. While this is certainly a critical and necessary component of meal planning, there’s an artful side of the task that demands equal attention in order to provide CACFP participants with healthy, balanced and nutritious meals.  

To that end, the USDA has outlined the five basic steps of careful menu planning: 

  • Strive for balance 
  • Create contrast 
  • Think about color 
  • Emphasize variety 
  • Consider eye appeal 

Easy in theory, but what does all that really mean in practice in a CACFP kitchen? Download this free resource to help you put these menu planning best practices to use.  

More CACFP menu planning resources

Do you need more information along the lines of the technical side of meal planning? We’ve got a trove of meal pattern resources, from calculating ounce equivalents to identifying whole grain-rich foods. If you’ve got the basics down, but you need regular support, our CACFP Training Program & Nutrition Calendar may be what you’re looking for. Each month highlights CACFP meal patterns, best practices, snack suggestions as well as healthy recipes, nutrition tips, and physical activities. In addition to this valuable nutrition education resource, each month's calendar page has oversized squares for recording important events. The Nutrition Calendar & Record-Keeping System has additional pages each month for business recordkeeping.  

Do you need menu planning support that we don’t have covered amongst these resources? Let us know! Reach out on social media @NationalCACFP or email us at