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What we eat can play a critical role in determining our health, whatever our age and Public Health Agency
has some useful tips for every family to know. The eating patterns established in the first few years of life influence our health during childhood and adulthood. Encouraging good nutrition during the early years of life is therefore an investment in the health of your child for years to come.
With more parents working, increasing numbers of children are spending time in childcare outside their own homes. This has implications for their dietary intake, as a large proportion of meals and snacks is now eaten away from home. Childminders and the staff in nurseries and playgroups therefore have a crucial role to play in promoting healthy nutrition among young children. Here at Happitots Nursery Bishopbriggs
we have our qualified nursery chef who creates nutritionally balanced menu
from organic and locally sourced ingredients which are essential for your children development.
Why good nutrition is important?
Good nutrition is essential during childhood, as it is a time of rapid growth, development and activity. This is also a vital time for healthy tooth development and prevention of decay. General eating habits and patterns are formed in the first few years of life. Poor nutrition during these years is associated with an increased risk of obesity, hypertension, diabetes and coronary heart disease. Childcare providers therefore have a key role to play in introducing children to a wide variety of foods and establishing a pattern of regular meals and healthy snacks.
When providing food for young children, consideration must be given to the following points:
- Children’s appetites may vary, not only from day to day, but also from one meal to the next.
- Young children are very active and have high energy (calorie) and nutrient needs in proportion to their small body size.
- Children have smaller stomachs than adults so it is important to consider portion size when plating food. • Every day, children need three meals plus snacks. Use the ideas given in this document to provide nutritious meals and snacks.
- Children should be encouraged to drink adequate amounts of fluids.
- A frequent intake of sugar and sugary foods and drinks between meals causes tooth decay. Snacks and drinks taken between meals should be sugar-free.
- Foods and drinks containing sugar should only be given occasionally and should be limited to mealtimes. Sugar may also appear on labels as sucrose, glucose, syrup, fructose or dextrose.
- Puddings should be nutritious and based on milk and/or fruit (fresh, stewed or tinned).
- Avoid low fat or diet products, as young children need the extra calories from fat to grow and develop properly. Full fat spreads and whole milk dairy products are recommended.
- A diet high in fibre is not suitable for young children. It can fill them up without providing all the nutrients they require. Foods of varying fibre content should be offered, e.g. both white and wholemeal breads and pasta; a variety of breakfast cereals, e.g. Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies, Weetabix, porridge, etc. Children between the ages of two and five should gradually be encouraged to increase their intake of higher fibre foods.
- Dry, unprocessed bran should never be used as it can reduce the absorption of important nutrients and can cause bloating, wind and loss of appetite.
- Do not add salt to food either in cooking or at the table, as babies’ kidneys are not fully developed. Too much salt is linked with high blood pressure later in life and may encourage a preference for salty food, which is difficult to change. Salty snacks such as crisps should be avoided for babies and young children, and given only very occasionally for older children.
- Whole nuts are unsuitable for children under the age of five years because of the risk of choking. It is recommended that peanuts and products containing them, e.g. peanut butter, are not provided within the childcare setting. This is to protect children who may be at risk of nut allergy.
- It is recommended that grapes and cherry tomatoes are sliced or halved lengthways or prevent choking.
Physical activity for children
It has been shown that children who develop an active lifestyle when they are young are more likely to maintain a healthy active lifestyle as they get older. They should be encouraged to be active all year round and not just in the summer months. Visits to parks and play areas, going for walks and playing games both outdoors and indoors should all be encouraged. Outdoor play provides great opportunities for learning, for example children can learn about the environment around them. Playing with other children can develop their social skills and help build their confidence. Childcare providers should ensure that children have access to outdoor play every day. Exposure to summer sunlight in outdoor play helps to ensure an adequate supply of vitamin D, which is essential for healthy bone development.
We love to get outside at Happitots where we have a large outdoor area divided
into age appropriate gardens. Our children make full use of their outdoor area as well as regular trips out in their local community.