A healthy, balanced diet and regular physical activity are essential for children’s health and well-being. Good nutrition is important for children to:
- ensure they get the right amount of energy and nutrients needed to support growth, development, health and well-being
- ensure they do not consume too many calories, which may lead to overweight or obesity
- encourage children to eat a wide range of foods and develop healthy eating habits to take with them into later childhood and beyond.
A healthy balanced diet for children aged from one to five years is based on the four food groups listed below, which provide a range of essential nutrients that children need to grow and develop:
- potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates
- fruit and vegetables
- beans, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins
- dairy and alternatives
One of the basic principles of healthy eating is variety, as eating a wider range of different foods provides a better balance of nutrients.
Planning meals and snacks to include a variety of food and drinks from the four food groups listed above each day will provide children with a good balance of nutrients and help ensure their nutritional needs are met. Young children are growing quickly and have high energy and nutrient requirements for their size. They also eat smaller amounts of food than older children and adults, so it is important for them to eat regular meals and snacks that contain sufficient energy and nutrients to meet their needs. Between the ages of two and five years, children should make a gradual transition to follow the balance shown in the Eatwell Guide.
You can find a copy of the Eatwell Guide by clicking on the link below.
Eating well across the day It is important that the food and drink provided for children aged one to five years is balanced across each day and that children eat regularly, with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two or three snacks provided daily, either within an early years setting or at home. This also helps to ensure that the needs of children who move between different settings and home are met. The average daily energy and nutrient requirements for a child aged one to five years, divided across meals and snacks provided during full day care in the following proportions:
- breakfast 20%
- mid-morning snack 10%
- lunch 30%
- mid-afternoon snack 10%
- dinner 20%
These proportions are based on the assumption that lunch is a main meal, and tea is a light meal, but these can be reversed to fit with setting provision. This leaves 10% for an additional drink or snack at home (or in the setting if children are attending for extended hours), which is roughly equivalent to a small glass of milk and a portion of fruit.
Reception Classes visited Explora, Rome for the “I e il Cibo” workshop where we talked about food and the seasons and how important it is to eat a healthy diet.
The Children’s Food Trust for Public Health England, with input from the Department for Education and the Department of Health.
Diane holds the position of Early Years & Foundation stage Teacher and Food Technology coordinator during summer camp.