During a child’s early years it is essential to obtain a balanced diet due to their rapid growth, development, and activity levels. Children also begin to develop eating habits and patterns at this stage and therefore planning a good balanced meal, snack and drink will encourage them to continue a healthy eating pattern in the future. The government guidance on nutritional needs is extremely important and informative and can be easily accessed on line at www. food. gov. uk/nutguideuk. pdf.
Here we can source all the information required to provide the children with a healthy balanced diet which should include, plenty of starchy foods such as rice, bread, pasta and potatoes, plenty of fruit and vegetables (although it states 5 a day, this has recently increased to 7 a day). A moderate amounts of protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, eggs and alternatives such as nuts and pulses. A moderate amount of milk and dairy, choosing reduced fat versions or eating smaller amounts of full fat versions, and less saturated fat, salt and sugar.
They also recommend that children under the age of five who are not good eaters take a supplement containing vitamins A, D & C. Having planned the snacks at my setting I am aware that it is important to include foods that help children have essential vitamins, minerals and fibre in as these are only present in small quantities in most foods and will ensure healthy growth and development in children. It is also important to consider what time of day they are eating, variety, childrens preferences, offering children new and interesting foods.
Where possible we should try and allow the children to be involved in snack preparation as this will encourage them to try new foods and for careers to discuss healthy eating with them. At my setting we offer the children breadsticks, which are a starchy food and therefore a good source of energy, and various fruits apples, bananas, oranges, etc which are again high in energy by providing more essential vitamins. All of which also provide different levels of fibre which will add roughage to the diet and encourage healthier bowels.
Any snack or meal provided should only contain natural sugars, as those with sugar in not only give an energy rush that wears of quickly but can effect healthy tooth development, another essential area covered within the government guide lines. They advise drinks that are provided should be milk or water during snack time and diluted juice should only be offered with a main meal. During the childrens early years (2-5yrs) they should be encouraged to move their diet to lower in fat and higher in fibre. It is of course important to follow carer’s instructions in respect of their child’s food allergies and intolerances.
The more common allergies are with milk and nuts, however some children may need to eat at certain times of the day or have a medical condition such as diabetes or enzyme deficiency. Therefore it is extremely important that all members of staff at the setting are fully aware of all the childrens dietary requirements to ensure each childs needs are met without error. Some families also follow ethical or environmentally aware diets such as, vegetarian, vegan, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, or Hindu to name a few.
It is important to liaise with the families to ensure their particular dietary requirements are followed. Parents or carers should complete a full detailed form when registering their child, these requirements must then be communicated to all staff members with a list being displayed in the kitchen and eating areas at all times. As my setting is used by the public our forms are kept in an easily accessed locked cupboard and staff members are regularly updated on any changes. These are very important guidelines to follow as in the case of a child or adult with allergies or illness it can save a life.