New voluntary guidelines have been published for early years providers to plan healthy meals for young children.
The example menus and recipes have been developed by the Department for Education, Department of Health and Public Health England, with advice from a panel of early years and nutrition experts, including the British Nutrition Foundation.
Minister for children and families Robert Goodwill said: “Providers can use these menus to create appealing meals for young eaters – which any parent with small children knows can be a challenge. I have seen for myself what an important role caterers and kitchen staff have in the settings I’ve been able to visit, so I’m pleased that these new resources can now help them in their work.”
The menus and resources set out recommendations for providing meals and snacks throughout the day. They are also accessible for parents to help them prepare healthy meals at home and introduce their child to new foods.
The example menus are the result of the government’s Childhood Obesity Plan and aims to help early years settings meet the government’s dietary recommendations, which unlike in schools, is voluntary.
“This is an important milestone in introducing healthy balanced meals from a young age. With far too many children entering school already overweight or obese, early years settings play an important role in helping children to develop good habits and avoid poor health later in life,” said Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England.
“We hope early years providers embrace this guidance and play their role in supporting the health of future generations.”
The Children’s Food Trust created Eat Better, Start Better, a programme designed to help improve children’s food in early years settings. This has now been handed over to the charity Action for Children, which will also be the guardians of the Voluntary Food and Drink Guidelines for Early Years Settings in England.
Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Action for Children, said: “Action for Children supports parents, carers and practitioners by providing tools and guidance to ensure that children receive the very best start in life.
“We are seeing too many starting school overweight, which often leads to long-term health issues. This is avoidable, and by using this essential, practical guide, early years practitioners can support young children to learn good food habits, laying the foundations for a healthy future.”
The new example menus and recipes can be viewed here.