Jan 03, 2022

Healthy Eating in an Early Years Setting: How it improves a child's mind-body wellness

Child eating watermelon

January the 3rd is International Mind-Body Wellness Day, which is celebrating how a healthy mind, and healthy emotions mean a healthy body. Within an Early Years setting, the children’s wellbeing is always incredibly important, and our nursery team practitioners aim to help create a healthy, and happy environment for the children through a variety of different activities, like outside play, and focuses, such as healthy diets.

Firstly, a child’s emotions and mind can be aided by healthy eating, and eating a well balanced diet. Children’s food preferences and eating habits are formed early in life, and the time that they spend in early years settings provides an ideal opportunity to shape healthy behaviours. Furthermore, the experience of a variety of different foods at an early age increases acceptance of new foods, and provides a more diverse diet with the range of nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed for health.

Good nutrition is, therefore, the building block of a healthy, happy child. At our nurseries, we serve nutritious meals where every dish is cooked from scratch, using fresh ingredients and organic vegetables, whenever possible. Our Nursery Cooks are trained using Schools Food Trust guidelines to ensure mealtimes are delicious, packed with good things and enjoyable for children to eat.

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.

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. If you’d like some ideas on recipes and things to cook with your child at home, take a look at our ‘Cooking and Baking with Children’ activities page and even try out some of our nursery recipes!

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.

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:

  • Encouragement to play outside is very beneficial to a child- combining elements of fun with being in a natural environment, as well as promoting physical activity- even elements like walking, or playing sports are great for improving wellness
  • Mental activities, such as colouring in is great for helping mindfulness, and allowing the mind to relax
  • Being creative- activities such as singing, dancing, and having fun, are great ways to improve wellness
  • Read this article, for different activities to take part in at home, to help improve wellness

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