Nurseries often prioritise early childhood education, but it’s important to keep in mind that nutrition is just as crucial in the success of a child’s development.
Childhood obesity is still an ongoing problem in the UK, and while some nurseries are doing the right thing to combat this with home cooked meals packed with nutrients, others have not quite caught on.
Studies show that nutrition in a child’s early years is directly linked to their performance and health as they continue to grow - so why isn’t this paramount for some nurseries?
The effects of childhood obesity in the UK
Obesity is one of the biggest threats facing the UK, boasting one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in Europe. Affecting around 1 in 10 children aged four to five and 1 in 5 children aged ten to eleven, obesity can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and some cancers.
The government has introduced recent implementations to combat the ongoing issues, such as the sugar levy and national guidelines to enforce nutrition, but is this enough?
How can nurseries make a difference?
A recent comparison of nurseries in England highlighted that, despite guidance that calls for improved nutrition in childcare, many nurseries were not meeting national guidelines for food and beverages served.
As a nursery, it’s important to consider the ways you can not only further a child’s education, but also how you can aid in healthy development all-around. Childcare providers play a key role in supporting nutrition from an early age - here’s how you can support early years nutrition.
Using guidelines and resources to your advantage
There are a range of resources and guides available for nurseries to use as menu checkers. You can also invite nutritionists to come to your centre, review your menu and provide suggestions on how you can promote healthy eating.
Work with parents, share recipes and encourage families to provide feedback on the menu, try what you're serving and offer ways they can further implement healthy eating at home.
Utilising nursery catering companies
Nursery catering companies, such as Zebedees develop menus with in-house nutritionists and create meals that provide children with the nutrients they need for development and learning. If you are pressed for time or don’t have the resources to create and make your own meals, a delivery service like this can make it much easier to provide healthy options for the children at your nursery.
Planning menus in advance
Consider planning your menu well in advance and take the time to examine whether or not the food you are offering meets the nutritional needs of growing children.
Base your menu on a range of food groups, including:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Beans and seeds
Steer clear of:
- Sugar-sweetened beverages
- Refined grains
- Other highly processed foods, like fast food
Improving your offering and prioritising nutrition in early childhood development can provide more opportunities for the children at your daycare to develop healthier lifestyle and educational habits.