Guest Blogger Shelley Martin from Toad Hall Nursery Group tells us all about the importance of establishing healthy eating practices at nursery and what they’ve been doing to get their kids on board!
How Childcare Providers Can Support Early Years Nutrition
Healthy eating and nutrition for young children is a hot topic. Reports show that child obesity levels in Britain continue to rise and over 20% of 4-5 year olds are overweight or obese. Children adopt lifelong eating habits in their early years, so their earliest experiences of food are absolutely critical for them to lead healthy lives as adults. Childcare providers can play a key role in supporting early years nutrition. We take a look at some practical tips to help childcare settings promote healthy eating and find out more about one nursery group that’s serving up an award-winning menu for their children.
The importance of healthy eating in childcare settings
Over the last 20 years there’s been a huge increase in the number of children using early years settings. Many thousands of Britain’s children eat all three of their daily meals at nurseries or childminder’s own homes, so these settings play a critical role in promoting healthy eating and nutrition. Parents need to know that their children are getting high quality, nutritious food while they are at nursery or with a childminder. If good eating habits are instilled in these settings by teaching young children about food, there’s a much better chance that the children will go on to eat a balanced, healthy diet as adults.
Practical tips for supporting Early Years nutrition
Early years settings are prioritising nutrition and healthy eating more than ever before, but there is still plenty of work to do. These practical tips are a useful starting point for nurseries and childminders:
- In 2012, the Children’s Food Trust launched a set of voluntary guidelines known as “Eat Better, Start Better.” There are plenty of downloadable resources for nurseries and childminders as well as useful menu checkers. By joining this programme, early years settings can check that they are meeting the nutritional requirements of both the Early Years Foundation Stage and the Ofsted Common Inspection Framework.
- Early Years settings should plan menus well in advance, taking time to consider that the food on offer meets the nutritional needs of young children.
- Meals should be based on a wide range of foods from the following food groups: starchy foods, fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, eggs and beans and milk and dairy.
- Invite nutritionists to come into your setting, comment on the menus and make any suggestions on how they can be improved.
- Work in partnership with parents – share recipes and encourage parents to comment on the menus, try the food and promote healthy eating at home.
Serving up top quality food: Toad Hall Nursery Group
Toad Hall Nursery Group has fifteen nurseries across the South East of England. They are committed to healthy eating and are leading the market with their nutritious menus and award-winning focus on healthy food. Toad Hall were the first nursery group to be awarded the Children’s Food Trust seal of approval and received the Silver Food for Life Catering Mark by the Soil Association. To help encourage children to eat healthily at home too, Toad Hall have created a recipe book for parents.
It’s clear that early years providers have a key role to play in supporting the nutritional development of young children. Promoting healthy food will protect the health and wellbeing of our youngest generations, reassure parents and help children to create a lifelong love of healthy eating.
See more information on Child Nutrition