Dec 06, 2023

Bite-sized Nutrition: Fostering Healthy Eating Habits in Early Childhood

Two children trying to taste food in the kitchen

In the world of Early Years, the wellbeing of our little ones is our top priority, and our dedicated nursery team is committed to fostering a wholesome and joyful environment for the children. Through engaging activities, both indoors and outdoors, we strive to create a setting that nurtures their physical and emotional growth. This blog will delve into our approach to promoting healthy eating habits across all our nurseries, shedding light on the strategies and initiatives we employ. Moreover, we'll share valuable insights on how parents can seamlessly align with these practices at home, ensuring a holistic and consistent approach to the child's well-rounded development.

Healthy Eating in Early Years

Early Years are a critical time for shaping food preferences and habits that stay with children throughout their lives.

Good nutrition serves as the cornerstone of a child’s health and happiness. At our nurseries, we are dedicated to serving nutritious meals prepared from scratch, featuring fresh ingredients and organic vegetables whenever feasible. Our Nursery Cooks are trained according to Schools Food Trust guidelines to make mealtimes not just nutritious but also enjoyable for children.

When talking about healthy eating for children, nutritionists will always advise to eat five fruits and vegetables a day. This can be as simple as, cucumber with hummus for a morning snack. That’s two of your five a day done already! For lunch, it could be a vegetable curry and you could experiment with using sweet potato, lentils or even courgettes and peppers. Perhaps swapping the sweet potato for pumpkin when the Halloween season depends. That’s another two vegetables done! For an afternoon snack, it could be a bowl of mixed fruit; strawberries, pineapple, banana and apple. Creating a bowl of sour, sharp and sweet tastes. For dinner, you could explore a simple spaghetti Bolognese, but with some added tomatoes, mushrooms and kidney beans; blending all of those exciting flavours and textures together. Without these key nutrients, under nutrition causes children to have less energy and less interest for learning, which negatively influences cognitive development. Under nutrition can also affect physical growth and maturation thus affecting growth rate, body weight and height.

All of these recipes can be altered to suit any diet and to suit a baby at any stage of weaning. If your child doesn’t like that fruit or vegetable that day, make a note and the next time you recreate the meal, ask them which vegetables or fruit they would like to include. It can be a great conversation starter and an amazing moment for some ‘wow’ words and language enrichment with any age child.

Fostering Healthy Eating Patterns in Early Childhood

Early childhood is an important time to establish healthy eating patterns. A balanced diet is key to healthy eating habits because it provides children with the nutrients they need to grow. At all of our nurseries, we will continue to work in partnership with all of our families to help establish these healthy eating patterns. If you have any questions or concerns, reach out to your nursery team.

To help encourage healthy eating at home, the Eatwell Guide’ by the NHS gives a detailed guide on what we eat overall should come from what food group to achieve a healthy, well balanced meal. It also includes some recipes and tips. Without good nutrition, poor nutrition can lead to poor health; developing into some illnesses and other health problems such as being overweight or obese, tooth decay or high blood pressure.

Overall, it is important that the idea of “looking after yourself” is introduced to a younger setting early on in life; whether this is through learning about healthy eating habits, or helping overall wellness, so that it can help to shape the child’s emotions and mind.

The Importance of Wellness

Wellness is incredibly important- you can read more about why that is in articles such as Foundation Years by the National Children’s Bureau, or by the NDNA and their different articles on wellness and healthy eating in young children.  As well as throughout nursery, there are a variety of activities that the children can take part in at home, to help their wellness improve:

  • Encouraging outdoor play to combine fun with natural surroundings and promote physical activity, even through activities like walking or playing sports.
  • Engaging in mental activities like colouring to foster mindfulness and relaxation.
  • Exploring creativity through activities like singing, dancing, and simply having fun to improve wellness.

For more information about healthy eating and how we promote it across our nurseries, visit here. 

Related pages/links:

Healthy Lifestyles

Outdoor Play & Lifestyles

Related blogs:

The Importance of Mental Health in the Early Years

My Happy and Healthy Self | Encouraging Children’s Social and Emotional Development

Blog checked by Kat Learner (Training & Professional Development Manager)

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