Planning menus may sound easy, but it takes a lot of time and effort. The menu served to participants
without special nutrition needs is called the “regular diet.” There are seven basic steps to menu
planning for the regular diet served to CACFP adult day care participants.
Menu Planning and Sample Menus
National Food Service Management Institute
Cycle Menu Development
Step 1: Allow a block of time to work on the menu and gather together all the recipes and resources
Add new food items and new recipes, if possible. However, test all new recipes prior to
placing them on the menu.
Ask key food service employees to suggest new menu items.
Try to select foods that can be easily modified for special diets.
Have a complete copy of the minimum meal components available to consult to be sure the
menus are in compliance with the CACFP requirements under the Federal regulations and
with State requirements.
Step 2: Determine the length of the cycle.
The length of the cycle may be determined by your State Agency or funding source.
Keep in mind that adults usually eat a wider variety of foods than children and a longer cycle is
preferred by adults.
Step 3: Identify the main dish.
The main dish is usually the most expensive item and becomes the base for the menu.
Remember that the required CACFP meal components are different for breakfast, lunch,
supper, and snacks.
Be sure that all meal components are listed on the menu in the appropriate portions.
Step 4: Visualize what each meal will look and taste like to the participant.
Color, flavor, and food texture make food appealing, so ask yourself the following about the menu
Are the colors appealing?
Do the flavors blend?
Is there a variety of soft and crisp foods?
Step 5: Think about variety from day-to-day and week-to-week.
Popular menu items can be served more than once during the cycle. However, think of ways to
serve favorite foods in different forms, shapes, textures, and temperatures (hot vs. cold).
Include a variety of different food preparation methods such as baking, broiling, and steaming.
Step 6: Think about the participants’ ethnic and cultural preferences.
Honoring the participants’ ethnic and cultural food preferences is essential for food acceptance.