New guidelines on preschool food

Published on Monday, 16 January 2012 09:15
Posted by Scott Buckler

Nurseries, childminders and other providers of early years services now have extra support on providing healthy meals for young children and to help reduce obesity in under-fives, thanks to new national, voluntary guidelines launched today

For the first time, childcare providers have a nationally-recognised source of information about the foods they should offer young children, portion sizes, sample menus and recipes, advice on tackling fussy eating and involving children in food and cooking activities.

It follows an independent report in 2010 which flagged demand for clearer guidance from childcare providers and parents. Whilst many childcare providers are already doing good work in this area, research suggests that some are giving young children food which is more appropriate for older children and adults. This can mean children eat too little energy, carbohydrate and essential minerals such as iron and zinc, and too much salt and sugar.

The report highlighted that with more than a fifth of children either overweight or obese when they join reception class; Type 2 diabetes appearing and dental health in young children deteriorating, healthy eating before the age of five is vital.

The National Day Nurseries Association, the National Childminding Association and the Pre-School Learning Alliance are among those supporting the guidelines, which are launched today by the School Food Trust.

Our nutritionist Patricia Mucavele said: “There’s lots of support being put into place to help any early years provider start to use these guidelines – we are piloting training with five local authorities already and will be coming to more areas in the coming year. This is just the beginning, and we hope that as many providers as possible will use these guidelines to help children get a healthy start in life.“

Childminder Julia Deakin (pictured), who was just one of the early years providers who tested the guidelines for us, said: “Perhaps the best part of the process has been learning and following the fantastic new healthy recipes. They are easy to follow and delicious, the children have loved them all. I even take them along to the supermarket with me, and you don’t have to be a superstar chef to get them right.”

Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said: “Healthy eating is at the heart of helping every child get the best start in life. Nurseries play a vital role in getting children from all backgrounds to develop good eating habits – but many lack the expert knowledge of what is the best food to serve.

“Parents rightly want their children to be eating healthy, nutritional food. Thanks to these voluntary guidelines drawn up by the School Food Trust, we will help nurseries and other childcare providers do just that.”

Neil Leitch, Chief Executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, “We warmly welcome the voluntary guidelines as this code of practice will assist childcare providers as they navigate through the maze of information about what food and drink is nutritionally appropriate and inappropriate for young children.”

Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said: “NDNA welcomes and is fully supportive of these new guidelines which will help children to get a healthy start in their early years and hopefully instil a healthy eating attitude which will last a lifetime.

“We will be working with our member nurseries to help them to understand and implement the guidelines well in their settings.”

A voluntary code of practice for childcare providers, also launched today, includes steps such as consulting with children and their families about the food they offer, planning menus which meet the dietary needs of all children and offering a good dining environment with chances for children to build social skills through food.


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