How to give your child a great diet from a young age.
What is healthy eating and why is it important?
Most of us all are aware that we should be eating healthily and that we also want this for our children but what does this term “healthy eating” really mean? How does this affect your child and how do you choose the best nursery for your child to ensure they get a balanced diet?
“Healthy eating is simply the process of making good choices about the food we consume in order to keep our bodies healthy”
Seems simple, right? Well the short answer is; yes! If we simply make good choices and eat a “balanced diet”, most of us can ensure we keep happy and healthy. At your child’s nursery school, this is especially important because you are entrusting us with the task of making sure your child eats a balanced and healthy diet that is full of all the right nutrients for their age group.
We have more detailed information further in the blog post but for now read further on how you can encourage healthy eating at home.
Later in the article, you will find detailed information relating to the following:
- Food and pregnancy
- General information on a balanced diet
- Food and religion
- What local and national help is there relating to healthy eating?
How can I encourage healthy eating at home for my child?
Children are naturally curious and always want to play and explore. For most children, especially those in their Early Years, every experience is new and has the potential to teach them something or aid in their development.
“Children naturally love to play”
The easiest way to encourage healthy eating is to make it about play; make it a game, make it fun or interesting for them!
Here are some simple bullet points that you can follow at home to help encourage your child to eat healthily:
- Colour, shape, sound and presentation – Make a face out of colourful fruit, show your child interesting shapes made by food such as broccoli, encourage children to explore the tastes of different fruits and talk to them about their colours. Listen to the noises made by certain fruits; the squish of a banana or the clip clop of a coconut!
- Choice and self-service – Children are encouraged to explore when they feel they are making their own choices and are able to choose which things they want to try. The choice doesn’t need to be between a bag of crisps or an apple; give your child multiple healthy options and get them to choose for themselves. Helping a child serve their own portion as well can help foster independence and trust.
- Involvement in preparation – Just like we mentioned above, giving children the freedom to explore and operate independently will allow them to feel that their own choices matter and that they have decided themselves to try something new. Getting children involved in the preparation of healthy food is a great way to give them this freedom and is a way to spend some wonderful time bonding with your child over food. What a lovely activity to do at home!
- Repetition – Children sometimes need a bit of time to acclimatise to new flavours and textures. Give your child time by slowly giving them the same ingredient. Instead of asking them over and over to eat the same thing; include the ingredient in something different, try mashing up a fruit instead of eating it whole. Try and make each experience different enough but so that the flavour comes across.
- Snacks and mini-meals – Children have much smaller stomachs than us adults and encouraging healthy snacking is a great way to ensure that your child gets good quality and healthy food more regularly. Swap out things and give healthy alternatives. Remember our advice above, give choices and make it fun!
These are all techniques that experienced nursery practitioners employ to ensure children are able to get eating healthy from an early age. Why not try some of these at home and let us know how you get on?
What should your nursery school be doing to ensure you child gets a healthy balanced diet?
Aside from following the techniques listed above, your nursery should be ensuring:
- That children are given a wide range of healthy foods.
- That parents and carers are listened to and that all dietary requirements and preferences are recorded and managed carefully.
- That all children with allergies are provided with suitable alternatives.
- That parents are given information and choice about what is available.
- That a diverse and changing seasonal menu (See a sample menu for winter 2018) is offered so that children get a wide range of different foods.
- Listening to parent/carer feedback and ideas about food / meals and working with them as partners.
- Planning fun activities on a regular basis for your children that encourage healthy eating.
Below is some more detailed information about nutrition and healthy eating:
Food and pregnancy:
The food choices we make as adults have knock-on effects both in the short term and in the long term. The foods we choose to eat before and during pregnancy can also have long and short term effects on the development of your child. The food choices we make have even been shown to have an effect on the likelihood of your getting pregnant to begin with! As a result, it is important to know what is best to eat before, during and post-pregnancy when you are breastfeeding.
Here are some useful bits of information on the subject:
- Eating a healthy balanced diet is shown to increase the likelihood one may become pregnant! If this is your goal, then making good food choices at this stage can help even the odds!
- Women should aim to be a healthy weight for their height (BMI link) as this has also been shown to aid in conception.
- Women who are thinking of becoming pregnant or who have just become pregnant are advised to take a supplement called folic acid. This is to prevent a disease developing in your child called “Spina Bifida”
- Women should avoid caffeine early in their pregnancies, as there is a growing base of evidence that shows this could be linked to miscarriage.
- Foods that are commonly associated
with food poisoning should be
avoided later in pregnancy. These include:
- Unpasteurised cheese
- Raw eggs
- Uncooked meats or fish
- Women should not over eat or under eat during pregnancy. Eating for two is a myth and a normal diet with a good range of nutrients is all that any expectant mother should need.
- Women should avoid alcohol while pregnant – this is to avoid foetal alcohol syndrome, which can cause irreversible damage to your child and their development.
- Women should drink plenty of fluid while breastfeeding so that this is translated to the milk produced.
- Eating calcium rich foods such as milk and cheese can help for healthy bone development.
- High-risk foods such as those listed above should be avoided. Raw/uncooked products etc.
What a balanced diet looks like:
Below is the “Eatwell Plate” – a pictographic image showing the best division of food you should be eating to form the basis of a “balanced diet”
The plate can be thought of as a “pie chart” showing the percentages of food needed. Or to make things simpler, just divide up your plate as shown!
Food and religion:
Many religions have practises that limit or restrict certain foods. This is a normal thing for billions of people all across the globe. At your child’s nursery, it is important that any religious practises you wish to adhere to are done so. You can speak to your nursery manager or to your child’s keyworker and they will be able to give you information on how we can help you achieve this. From simple things such as halal meats to vegetarian options the choices are really not limited! Please come and speak to your nursery manager today!
What local and national initiatives are there to encourage healthy eating?
There are a number of schemes available across the country, from things such as coupons for fresh fruit and veg, to entire websites that have amazing resources that can help your family make the best choices for them. Please see below for some links to healthy eating resources:
What Brighter Beginnings Day Nursery can do for you?
All of our nurseries are rated as some of the best in Manchester and Oldham. We encourage all our children to eat healthily through all of the elements listed above. If you want to discuss more with us then please get in touch via the link below.
Is there a Brighter Beginnings Nursery near me? Many of our settings deliver in sure start centres across Manchester and Oldham and these are the places we run our outstanding nurseries.
We have nurseries in Blackley, Burnage, Charlestown, Chadderton, Fallowfield, Fitton Hill, Higher Openshaw (Wetherby Street), New Moston (Hollinwood Avenue), Newton Heath and Rusholme.
Please go to our nurseries page for contact information for your local Brighter Beginnings Day Nursery.