KIDS COLLEGE SUPPORTS THE IMPORTANCE OF HEALTHY EATING DURING EARLY CHILDHOOD
Our children’s early years are arguably their most important and establishing healthy behaviours from birth, will lay the foundation for lifelong health and wellbeing. Nutritious food and regular physical activity supports the normal growth and development of children and reduces the risk of developing chronic lifestyle related diseases later in life. As more children spend time in care, early childhood settings can play an important part in supporting healthy choices around nutrition and physical activity.
There are two main guidelines we adhere to. The Healthy Eating Guidelines and Australian Dietary Guidelines are provided to us by the Australian Government to enable us to ensure that children have healthy nutritional choices. These guidelines have been designed so that they can be applied in a variety of early childhood settings including centre-based care, family day care and preschools. The goal of the healthy eating guidelines is to promote offering healthy food choices to children, while also encouraging children to eat to their own appetites, develop positive attitudes toward selecting food and enjoy eating.
This collection of resources has also been developed in recognition of the rich cultural and religious diversity in Australia. To ensure that a range of needs were considered in the development, early childhood staff and carers, associated professionals, and parents from around Australia were consulted through surveys and focus groups. This consultation included a diverse range of people: some from urban, regional and remote locations, some with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, some from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, and some who care for children with a disability.
In Australia, we presently face an increasing problem with overweight and obese children. The intention of these resources is not to specifically target overweight and obesity, but to establish healthy lifestyle habits in children, in particular healthy habits for eating and physical activity. In turn, this will contribute to the prevention of weight problems in children, while promoting optimum growth, addressing other health issues such as dental health, and allowing children to thrive through social, physical and intellectual development.
The Healthy Eating Guidelines focusses on the different eating phases that children have ranging from breastfeeding through to solids, they are also guides to the right mealtime settings, quantities and food safety.
Breastfeeding is the first food experience for most babies. Breastmilk has all the nutrients a baby needs, and is the only food required until around six months. Ideally, babies will continue to enjoy and benefit from breastfeeding until at least 12 months, or longer if the mother and baby wish. If you are able to express, it will be given to your baby as needed through the day.
The benefits of breastfeeding for babies: • Breastmilk contains the appropriate nutrients for babies during each stage of their development. • Breastmilk helps to protect young babies from diseases, particularly gastro-intestinal, respiratory and middle-ear infections. • The sucking actions of breastfeeding help shape and prepare the jaw for teeth and speech.
Infant formula is the only safe alternative to breastmilk during the first 12 months. If a baby is not breastfeeding, or is partially breastfeeding, an infant formula appropriate for the baby’s age should be the only other food consumed until solids are introduced. Breastmilk or infant formula should be continued while introducing solids, with other drinks avoided until the infant is 12 months of age. If you have decided on a formula that is suitable, please also send it to school and we will ensure that your child drinks his/her own formula as needed.
Breastmilk or formula provides all the nutrients babies need from birth to six months. When babies reach around six months of age, breastmilk and formula can no longer meet their nutritional requirements, and so other foods should be added to their diet. At this age, babies are also ready to start learning the skills needed for eating solid foods, and to experience new tastes and textures.
Good nutrition is necessary for the active growth and development that takes place in early childhood. Good eating habits and a well-balanced diet support children’s health and wellbeing, and minimise the risk of illness. Eating habits developed in the early years are likely to have a lifelong influence. Healthy eating in childhood minimises health risks and improves health throughout life. On the other hand, poor nutrition in childhood can contribute to lifestyle diseases such as obesity, cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
The five basic food groups provide the nutrients essential for life and growth. Each group of basic foods provides a range of nutrients, and plays a role in helping the body function. Foods from the five basic food groups should be eaten every day, and can also be called ‘everyday foods’.
The basic food groups are:
- Vegetables and legumes/beans
- Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, oats, quinoa and barley
- Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans
• Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives, mostly reduced-fat (reduced-fat milks are not suitable for children under the age of two years)
Fig 1: Taken from Get Up & Grow Healthy Eating for Early Childhood.
A balanced diet includes a variety of foods from each of the food groups, and offers different tastes and textures. A variety of these foods should be provided for children each day, either by parents or the early childhood setting.
Some families follow vegetarian eating practices. Usually, this means they do not consume any animal products such as meat, poultry, fish etc. Many vegetarians still consume animal-related products, such as eggs, milk, cheese and yoghurt. It is especially important for vegetarians to consume a variety of legumes, nuts, seeds and grain-based foods, to provide the nutrients that would otherwise be provided by meat, poultry and fish
Water is essential for many important bodily functions including digestion, absorption of nutrients and elimination of waste products. Water accounts for between 50 and 80 per cent of body weight. Young children in particular can become dehydrated quickly and should have access to drinking water at all times.
Mealtimes provide an opportunity for children to develop good eating behaviours and learn about nutrition and food variety. They are also an important time for social interaction with other children and adults. Sit with children at meal and snack times and talk with them in a friendly, relaxed way. Establishing good mealtime routines in childhood helps with maintaining a regular meal pattern throughout adolescence and adulthood. A regular meal pattern forms the foundation for a healthy balanced diet.
Children have small stomachs, and their energy and nutrient requirements are best met through small and frequent nutritious meals and snacks therefore we offer morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea.
We also refer to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, we make sure that food offered to children is appropriate to the child’s age and development, and includes a wide variety of nutritious foods consistent with the Australian Dietary Guidelines (see below).
Guideline 1: To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, be physically active and choose amounts of nutritious food and drinks to meet your energy needs.
- Children and adolescents should eat sufficient nutritious foods to grow and develop normally. They should be physically active every day and their growth should be checked regularly.
Guideline 2: Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from these five groups every day:
- plenty of vegetables, including different types and colours, and legumes/beans; • fruit, • grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties, such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, oats, quinoa and barley ; • lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans; • milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives, mostly reduced fat (reduced fat milks are not suitable for children under the age of two years).
And drink plenty of water.
Guideline 3: Limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol.
- Limit intake of foods high in saturated fat such as many biscuits, cakes, pastries, pies, processed meats, commercial burgers, pizza, fried foods, potato chips, crisps and other savoury snacks.
- Replace high fat foods which contain predominantly saturated fats such as butter, cream, cooking margarine, coconut and palm oil with foods which contain predominantly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats such as oils, spreads, nut butters/pastes and avocado.
- Low fat diets are not suitable for children under the age of two years.
2. Limit intake of foods and drinks containing added salt.
- Read labels to choose lower sodium options among similar foods.
- Do not add salt to foods in cooking or at the table.
3. Limit intake of foods and drinks containing added sugars such as confectionary, sugar-sweetened soft drinks and cordials, fruit drinks, vitamin waters, energy and sports drinks.
Guideline 4: Encourage, support and promote breastfeeding.
Guideline 5: Care for your food; prepare and store it safely.
In planning our children’s menu at Kids College there are many aspects to take into account. As discussed we are guided by the Dietary Guidelines and Healthy Eating Guidelines from the Australian Government.
We are also guided by our families at the school in terms of any food intolerances and allergies their children might have. It is of utmost importance to have updated information regarding your children’s allergies and intolerances, this can be done by having the necessary forms filled in and this is kept on file and in the kitchen for quick reference.
At Kids College we do our best to ensure that all our children develop healthy nutritional habits to support normal growth and development.
MENUS AT KIDS COLLEGE
Kids College promotes healthy food and drink choices to children, while also encouraging children to eat to their own appetites, develop positive attitudes toward selecting food, and enjoy eating. We are proud to provide freshly cooked meals every day by our two qualified childcare chefs. Our menus are based on nutritional content and are balanced carefully to ensure our children get the very best food. We serve morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea with a six -rotation of menu’s so our children enjoy a good variety of tasty healthy food. Not just a lot of joy goes into our menu’s, but science too and we were very proud when our Kids College menu’s nutritional value was analysed by a group of last year Dietetics students at 98% perfect.
In our kitchen our Chef’s cook our children good wholesome food every day. Here are a few examples. We have oats with berries and bananas for morning tea. Spaghetti Bolognese with hidden veggies for lunch. Orange infused slice for afternoon tea. We even use the veggies we grow in our centre too. Here we have mini tomatoes full of lovely flavour and a mini capsicum. These healthy eating messages are so important to teach children in the hopes of setting up lifetime healthy eating habits.
Kids College family
At Kids College we work each day embedding our values and philosophy into each facet of what we do. We continually improve our practices by critically reflecting and engaging in meaningful relationships with our community and for this we need your support and input. Please let us know if you have any comments, queries or recommendations.
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QA 2.1.3 Healthy eating and physical activity are promoted and appropriate for each child.
Quote from Kids College Philosophy
‘We have stringent hygiene, health, nutrition, maintenance, safety and protection standards’.