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Why Prioritise Nutrition in your Early Years Setting?

Here at Early Start Nutrition our role is to advocate good nutrition for children under 5 and their families. We do this by supporting early years settings to provide healthy balanced meals for children, create positive eating environments, provide opportunities to learn about food and promote key nutrition messages to families. However, we understand that early years settings have extremely busy workloads and a number of competing priorities. As a result, it can sometimes be difficult to make nutrition a priority. In this months blog we’ll therefore take a look at why and how your setting can put nutrition at the heart of your practice!  

Why is nutrition important?

Good nutrition is important for all of us, however it’s especially important for children in the early years. Young children have very specific energy and nutrient requirements and it’s important these are met to help support their growth, development and learning.

Developing healthy habits is fundamental to children’s future health. Research tells us there’s a strong relationship between eating habits in our early years and our eating habits in our adult years. Therefore, children offered a varied nutritious diet in their early years are more likely to carry this on into their adult years.

You’ve probably seen childhood obesity discussed in the news recently. It’s making the headlines as a shocking 1 in 5 children start school overweight or obese, which worryingly increases to 1 in 3 children starting secondary school. We know that obese children are much more likely to become obese adults which significantly increases the risk of conditions such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and some cancers.

A staggering proportion of young children are also experiencing tooth decay in the UK. Around 25% of 5 year olds have tooth decay with an average of three to four teeth effected. In 2015 there were 7,926 episodes of children under 5 having teeth extracted in hospital because of tooth decay.

Current Requirements and Guidelines

Early Years settings have a responsibility to provide children with nutritious food and support them to learn how to live healthy lives. As part of Ofsted’s Common inspection Framework, inspectors will make a judgement on how your setting is promoting and supporting children’s knowledge of how to keep themselves healthy, both emotionally and physically, including through exercising and healthy eating.

Ofsted also consider the quality of your menus and the food on offer to children during their inspection. Settings recognised as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted are frequently cited as offering ‘highly nutritious and varied meals and engaging children in food preparation and conversations about healthy eating’. The lack of provision for nutritious food is often seen in those settings ‘requiring improvement’.

The Eat Better Start Better (EBSB) guidelines will support your setting to achieve best nutrition practice and provides information on a range of topics including  menu planning, positive mealtimes, allergy management and more!

The Early Years Foundations Stage (EYFS) Framework also recognises the importance of early years settings promoting healthy eating and providing nutritious food.

Health and self-care: Children know the importance for good health of physical exercise, and a healthy diet, and talk about ways to keep healthy and safe.

Food and drink: Where children are provided with meals, snacks and drinks, they must be healthy, balanced and nutritious. Before a child is admitted to the setting the provider must also obtain information about any special dietary requirements, preferences and food allergies that the child has, and any special health requirements.

The role of early years settings

It’s essential that your setting is providing children with nutritious food to help support their growth and development. Some children will get up to 90% of their food and energy intake while in your care so it’s important you develop menus in- line wit the EBSB guidelines. However, we know from our work with nurseries that while early years professionals are really keen to provide healthy food, they don’t always have the confidence and training to develop healthy menus. Our Menu Planning training can help support you in developing new and improved menus that meet the EBSB guidelines. Click here for more information!

Early years setting also play an important role in supporting families to establish healthy eating habits. The fantastic relationships you build with families gives parents the confidence to ask practitioner questions about food and nutrition. To help give your staff the confidence and knowledge to discuss nutrition with families, it’s vital they understand the key healthy eating principles for young children, which resources are suitable to pass to families and where to signpost them to for more information. Our range of online and classroom nutrition training, will support you to do this. Choose from:

  • Food and Nutrition for Infants
  • Food and Nutrition for Toddlers
  • Physical Activity
  • Fussy Eating
  • Menu Planning
  • Food Policy
  • Cooking and Learning about Food
  • Bin the Bottle

Click here to find out more!

Benefits for your nursery

  • Demonstrate to families that you put nutrition at the heart of your practice
  • Stand out from your business competitors (particularly if you achieve one of our Health Awards (link to health award here) as you’ll get to display a plaque and certificate!)
  • Menus that meet the Eat Better Start Better Guideline
  • Demonstrate to Ofsted that you’re serious about supporting children’s health and well-being
  • Demonstrate you meet the welfare and nutrition requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage framework
  • Training in nutrition results in more knowledgeable and confident members of staff.

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