Ever since nutrient-based standards were introduced for school food in 2006, the food served to children in nursery settings has been a hot topic. Momentum has grown behind campaigns to introduce legal standards within the early years sector, attracting significant media attention and causing many parents to demand greater information regarding the food served to their children at nursery.
Until such requirements are brought in, Action for Children and the Early Years Nutrition Partnership offer simple, voluntary guidelines for early years settings, to help early years providers meet the EYFS welfare requirement for the provision of nutritious food.
So what should a healthy, balanced meal for toddlers actually look like?
Checklist for nursery lunches
Nursery lunches for children aged 1-5 should specifically:
Additional guidelines are also provided regarding appropriate portions and ingredient choices – limiting products containing added salt and sugars (such as tinned foods and condiments), reducing meat products (such as meatballs and burgers) to once a week and banning fried starchy foods, pastries, crisps and others highly processed convenience foods.
Sugary foods and confectionery should be avoided between meals, but are not banned altogether. In fact, a sweet pudding after lunch is encouraged, in order to provide a sufficient intake of calories, fat and nutrients to meet the relatively high needs of this age group.
Many parents will request just fruit as a dessert option for their child, believing this to be the most balanced choice. However, by supplying fruit alone, children often don’t receive enough calories, carbohydrate or nutrients (such as iron and calcium), which a variety of different dessert options can help to provide. It is therefore suggested that additional desserts (such as jellies, homemade cakes with calcium-rich custard, flapjacks or fruit crumble) are also offered to children over 1 year as part of a balanced lunch menu.
I know you're busy, but let's take some time to talk about what you'd like to be eating. Everyone's dietary needs and styles are unique. Drop us a line, and we can figure out what sort of a meal plan works for your goals and lifestyle!