Building a Strong Foundation: The Importance of Nutrition in the Early Years
Eating a healthy, balanced diet in the early year of a child’s life is an essential part to promote healthy teeth, bones, and muscle. Growing children need plenty of energy to facilitate their active lifestyles and to ensure their bodies are getting everything they need to support their rapid development. Good nutrition from a young age also protects against illness and disease as children grow and creates a positive relationship between them and food.
The key to a healthy diet is to offer balanced meals and snacks which include foods from the 5 main food groups.
1. Fruits and vegetables
5. Fats and oils
In general, by the time a child is one they should be eating 3 meals a day and 2 healthy snacks in between.
At Inkpots all food is freshly prepared onsite by our full-time chef who creates a new menu each week to offer the children a variety of foods and encourage them to try new things. Our chef has worked hard to create delicious well-balanced menus to promote healthy eating in our setting.
Every day starts with a healthy breakfast. We off our children a choice of at least four different cereals each morning. As the children get older, we encourage children to serve themselves and we teach them portion control.
At around ten o’clock children get their fruit snack which contains at least four different types of fruit for the children to choose from. Occasionally we offer new fruits for the children to try depending on what is in season. With their fruit they are also offered milk or water.
At around eleven thirty we serve a hot lunch. Our lunches vary from chicken dinners, frittatas, mince, carrot and onion, beef stew, Keema Bhuna, Caribbean curry, kedgeree, and lots more. After this, the children are offered a milk based dessert which can be a fruit yogurt, rice pudding, natural yogurt, custard, etc. Children are also served water. We pride ourselves on the variety of different meals offered at Inkpots as we feel it is very important to introduce a diverse range of foods from a young age to encourage children to try more foods and have variety in their diets.
In the afternoon, at around 3pm, the children have their afternoon snack. This consists of a variety of four or five different fruits and savoury snack such as, ham sandwiches, cheese and crackers, brioche, savoury muffins, Veda, etc. Children are offered the choice of milk or water.
At Inkpots mealtimes are social learning times where we can sit down with our friends and enjoy quality food and conversation. The staff join the children for their meals to show good examples of table manners and behaviours. Children are encouraged to try new things and take turns sharing stories around the table.
Water is available to all children through out the day in designated water areas. As the children get older they are encouraged to pour their own water to promote independence and encourage the children to stay hydrated.
We cater for all dietary requirements such as allergies, cultural diets, and parents’ preferences. We are a Nut Free Nursery, we keep care plans on all children with
allergies. For our babies who are just starting to eat solids, we offer meals blended or chopped and weaning programs are followed in line with parents wishes and the PHA guidelines.
A healthy diet isn’t just about what our children eat. It is about developing healthy eating habits and attitudes towards food. We encourage children to listen to their bodies and eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. We try to make mealtimes as enjoyable and stress free as possible by sitting down with the children, encouraging conversation, and participating in the meal. By providing our children with a balanced and nutritious diet, we are setting them up for a lifetime of good health.