Healthy = Happy. Whether you send your child to daycare with a nutritious lunch and snacks, or the centre provides the food, it’s imperative your child is exposed to a variety of foods every day. Centres have different policies when it comes to the food they provide, or allow, however you’ll find all centres encourage and provide or recommend healthy meals and snacks.
Australian Dietary Guidelines
Many childcare centres across Australia follow the Australian Dietary Guidelines. The guidelines include:
- Children should eat the right food to grow and develop normally, and they should be active every day.
- Children should enjoy a range of nutritious food within five food groups: vegetables or different colours and types, fruit, grains, lean meat and poultry, and dairy (milk, yoghurt, cheese or alternatives). They also need plenty of water.
- Limit the number of processed foods and those high in saturated fat, such as cakes and chips. Limit salty or sugary drinks.
- Encourage and promote breastfeeding (many centres offer mother’s a space where they can come throughout the day to breastfeed, if they want to)
- Proper storage and preparation of food.
Why Children Need Good Food
Good nutrition is essential right through our lives, but it’s even more crucial during the early years as it can have a huge impact on a child’s growth and development. Between birth and 6 years old, children grow at a rapid rate, though they have spurts where their growth (and eating) slows, and their eating may also decrease. During this period, it’s not only their body that grows, but also their brain and organs – and having the right nutrition can have a huge impact on their development. Healthy food at this age can contribute to their psychiatric development, language and memory development, physical development (height and weight), much more.
Other considerations include:
- Poor nutrition has been found to impact brain growth and IQ levels in children
- Good nutrition gives children energy, essentially for growth of bones and organs
- Quality food reduces the risk of childhood obesity
- Providing healthy choices helps children make better decisions about food as they grow
Exceptions To The Rule
Although in general, childcare centres provide healthy and nutritious food, there may be exceptions made for special occasions. For example, the Easter Bunny may arrive to hand out chocolates, or a child may be having a birthday, where parents send in a cake or ice blocks. It’s also important to keep in mind that most centres are mindful of allergies and other special dietary requirements, including cultural or religious preferences.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask
If you’re not sure whether your chosen centre has healthy food policies in place, ask. Most centres follow the Australian guidelines to ensure children are fed nutritious meals. They also have their own internal policies in place to provide children with happy mealtime experiences. This includes providing plenty of variety, shared eating spaces, and fun activities while they eat. A centre’s healthy eating policies should be accessible to families, and you should also get to have a say in the policy’s formulation and revision. Check with your centre to find out more, whether they are a Newport childcare centre, or elsewhere in Australia.