Nutrition in the Early Years

Nutrition in the Early Years

Health and Nutrition play an integral part of every child’s life. It is in their early years that children develop their tastes and attitudes about food and nutrition; hence, it is an essential time to educate and promote the importance of healthy eating. Ensuring children have access to nutritious meals will improve their overall health, behaviour and learning outcomes.

A key part of learning about adopting a healthy lifestyle and eating a well-balanced and nutritious meal involves children seeing their parents, family, teachers and other important people in their lives role model these positively. Research suggest that 70% of our food preferences are established by age 3. (Birch, L. Development of food preferences – Annual review).

Therefore, developing a preference for a wider variety of foods at an early age, particularly vegetables and fruit, can positively influence children’s long term health. Poor food choices and unhealthy eating habits can affect children later on in life. It’s important we get it right from an early age.

The National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC) recommends children maintain a varied diet which includes the five main food groups.

According to the NHMRC, children and adolescents need to be encouraged to eat plenty of:

      • Vegetables, fruit and legumes
      • Cereals (including breads, rice, pasta and noodles) preferably wholegrain

The Council also states that a healthy diet includes:

      • Lean meat, fish, poultry
      • Milks, yoghurts, cheeses
      • Limited servings of saturated fats, margarine, butter and oils.

The balance of these food groups is essential for maintaining your child’s health and wellbeing. The NHMRC also advises that children be encouraged to drink plenty of water throughout the day and to choose wafer as a preferred drink or refreshment. (Starting

Educators at your child’s Early Learning Service also play an important role, with ensuring children are provided with opportunities to learn about eating nutritious foods and helping them to understand how this contributes to good health. Healthy eating habits that begin from an early age can have a lasting effect.

Positive mealtimes offer immense opportunity for each child’s learning and development to be enhanced and extended.

At our Kidz Magic Services our Educators will implement the following activities and experiences around Healthy Eating –

                      • Plan and implement activities around healthy eating – e.g sometimes foods
                      • Display posters about healthy eating
                      • Promote a friendly and calm environment where we all sit together to have our meals
                      • To provide relaxed, social mealtime environments where children are supported to try new foods and learn about healthy eating habits.
                      • Staff model healthy eating practices
                      • Read books about healthy eating
                      • Allow children the opportunity to try new flavours
                      • Cooking activities with children – when children prepare food together with an adult, rich opportunities arise for exploration and investigation leading to conversation, vocabulary development and the practising of social skills.

How to encourage healthy eating habits at home      

                      • Make meal time family time, without any screens
                      • Cook meals with the help of your children
                      • Keep a bowl of fruit available for snacks
                      • Let them help you buy the food for dinner from the grocery store
                      • Encourage children to sit with you at the table
                      • Eat a healthy breakfast everyday
                      • Cook and try new recipes together
                      • Don’t keep junk food in the house

Role modelling this in the home will not only support children’s ability to make informed healthy choices but it will also set them up for later on in life.

Healthy snacks can also help your child to meet their daily nutrition requirements.

Always keep a variety of healthy snacks in the home, such as fruit, veggie sticks with healthy dips such as hummus, natural yoghurt with chopped fruit, and healthy homemade muffins or muesli bars that are low in refined sugars.

Avoid giving your child sometimes food as snacks, as they are a poor source of nutrients. This can then lead to difficulty at meal times with your children not wanting to eat a healthy meal.

Our Kidz Magic Services ensure children’s nutritional requirements are met. For more information you can contact one of our services to read the Healthy Eating policy outlining how this will be achieved.

We believe in providing a positive eating environment that reflects the dietary requirements, cultural and family values, and promotes lifelong learning for children. We are committed to implementing and embedding healthy eating which supports the National Healthy Eating Guidelines for Early Childhood settings.



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