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Support healthy eating for children

What is meant by healthy eating?

A healthy eating is a diet that supports or improves general health. According Tassoni, "Healthy eating is about making food choices that will provide the body with what it needs to keep"

National and local initiatives which promote healthy eating

There are many organisations funded or partly funded by the government that has aim to help families and early years settings provide healthy food for children.

Providing information for families is challenging, because some families don’t have internet access or can’t get leaflets, some parents don’t have literacy to read and understand the information, some recipes can’t be affording for the families budget or can’t find the item in their local shops.

The Department of Health created 5 a day campaign. " That's five portions of fruit and veg in total, not five portions of each. The 5 A Day campaign is based on advice from the World Health Organization, which recommends eating a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables a day to lower the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and some cancers”.

As part of the 5 a day scheme, children from 4 to 6 years old are allowed to a free piece of fruit or vegetable when they are at school. It can be lunch time, snack time, it doesn’t matter when.

National Health Service organized a campaign called Start4Life, it provides advice during pregnancy, birth, and parenthood. There are a lot of information on the website

The initiative Change4Life encourages adults to think about their healthy choices. Helping customers to have health choices, supermarket and manufacturers have introduced the food labelling system. These labels include information on energy, it usually referred to as calories. They also include information on fat, carbohydrate, sugars, protein and salt. All this information make you have a better idea what are you eating and do a healthier choice.

In some areas, there are opportunities for families to buy fruit and vegetables at a reduced price and other areas, residents are being encouraged to grow their own food.

Food and drink requirements in relation to current framework

EYFS is divided in 2 parts. The first part is educational, and it aims to teach early children make healthy choices. The second part oriented early years settings to provide nutritional food appropriate to the age of the children and make fresh water available all the time.

In key stage 1 “the national standards include the need for schools to provide fruit and vegetables at mealtimes and also to restrict foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt.”

The impact on health and development of choices during:


NHS advice to improve your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy by following the steps in a healthy diet (women and men). According Tassoni, health diet seems to make difference not just for the baby health but also to become a health pregnant. The right weight for their height helps to have an easier delivery.


It is advice to woman thinking of pregnancy take folic acid supplement and also eat plenty of vegetables, especially green vegetables as cabbage, sprouts and spinach. “Your baby relies on you to provide the right balance of nutrients to help them grow and develop properly (even after they're born)”.

Healthy eating in a pregnancy time, it is not just what is advised eat, but also what is not advised to eat. The woman shouldn’t drink energy drinks and caffeine, especially in the first months because it can occur miscarriage.

In any stage of pregnancy is advised to eat uncooked eggs or meats and unpasteurised cheese. Alcohol is not permitted either.


“You do have a higher need for calories and most nutrients while breastfeeding. If you're not getting enough from your diet, then this can negatively affect the quality of your breast milk. It can also be bad for your own health. Therefore, it's more important than ever to eat a variety of healthy, nutritious foods.”

As with pregnancy, women should avoid energy drinks, caffeine, uncooked eggs or meats, unpasteurised cheese, and alcohol.

The nutritional value of the main food groups

Health diet involves of a wide variety of foods. Foods are divided in several groups and each group has a nutritional benefit. According Tassoni, page 7:

Fruit and vegetables: contain vitamins and mineral and help digestion.

Bread, pasta, rice, potatoes: contain carbohydrates, vitamin B and some minerals.

Milk and dairy foods: contain protein, vitamin, and calcium.

Meat, eggs, fish, poultry, beans, and pulses: contain protein, mineral and some also contain carbohydrates.

Foods high fat, salt, or sugar: foods with high fat, salt, and sugar and low in protein, vitamins should be avoided.

Government guidance to identify the nutritional needs of babies until they are fully weaned

According to the government guidance, babies need protein for their growth from birth to six months, then they can double their birth weight. From birth to 4 months, the best way to het the nutrients to grow health is breast milk, formula-feed, or a combination of both. The ideal will be, if possible, breastfeed from birth to six months.

Early weaning is not advised to babies before they complete six months. The reason is their digestive systems is not ready for this yet.

Vitamin D drops is advised to babies until five years old.

Some food should be avoided until 12 months: honey, salt, liver, uncooked eggs, fruit juice or sugary drinks and sugary foods.

Planning a weaning programme

Weaning is the process to introduce solid foods to babies. NHS recommends starting around 6 months.

“The term weaning is now often referred to as 'complementary feeding', to promote the continued use of breastfeeding beyond 6 months, so you might see this term used on some websites and information leaflets. In addition, many of the latest guides on weaning no longer use the idea of 'stages'; current information often refers to the introduction of different tastes and textures over time and developing eating and chewing at the baby's own pace so that by the age of 12 months your baby is having a variety of foods from all the major food groups and is eating three meals a day, in addition to healthy snacks”

Babies need a lot of energy to grow, especially in their first year. The health babies will double their weight and their length will increase fifty percent.

According Tassoni, baby-led weaning should be incentive, however the adults should pay attention because sometimes the babies may not eat properly, and they will not have nutrients enough and there is more possibility to babies have choke. The babies also play with food, then the meal will take longer.

According to NHS website, “baby's first foods can include mashed or soft cooked fruit and vegetables – such as parsnip, potato, yam, sweet potato, carrot, apple or pear – all cooled before eating.

Soft fruits, like peach or melon, or baby rice or baby cereal mixed with your baby's usual milk are good as well”.

According to NHS website, as soon as your baby starts solid foods, you can encourage them to have finger foods.

It is always advised be together with babies because they can choke.

Babies should gradually start eating three meals a day (mix between soft finger foods, mashed or chopped foods). From 12 months, babies will be eating three meals a day.

The nutritional requirements of children aged:

According Tassoni:

1-2 years old: they need 3 meals a day (plus nutritional snacks), full-fat milk and dairy products (no more than 400ml a day), vitamin D as a complement, 5 portions of vegetables and fruits daily. About 1000 calories a day.

2-3 years old: they need 3 meals a day (plus nutritional snacks), semi-skimmed milk and low-fat products (if not underweight) – no more than 350ml a day, vitamin D as a complement, 5 portions of vegetables and fruits daily. About 1230 calories a day.

3-5 years old: they need 3 meals a day (plus nutritional snacks), milk consumption no more than 400ml a day, vitamin D as a complement, salt products between 2-3g a day, 5 portions of vegetables and fruits daily. About 1480 calories a day.

5-7 years old: they need 3 meals a day (plus nutritional snacks), 5 portions of vegetables and fruits daily, salt products maximum 3g a day. About 1600 calories a day.

Strategies to encourage healthy eating

According Tassoni shows the same in her book (page 11-12), the best strategies are:

During weaning process, the babies should have a wide range of fruit and vegetable.

Children have attraction by colour, give a wide range of fruit and vegetables with different colours could be more interested by children. The good/beautiful presentation is important.

Let children choose what they want to eat (if healthy) and involved children in the preparation, it is also a great strategy. The repetition of the same food is good because over time children can learn to enjoy them.

The snack time should contain health choices and portions of fruits and vegetables.

The impact of poor diet on children’s health and development in the:

Short term: a poor diet can affect the body’s ability to fight off infection and the body is more vulnerable to infection because the immune system is weak. It is often children with poor diet suffer with anemia and digestive problems.

A poor diet can incline children to be less active and if the children are not active enough, their fine and gross motor skills can be affected. Poor diet includes children that don’t have all the meals in the right time.

Long term: a poor diet, in long term, can affect seriously children development and health. Diet lacking can make bones and teeth weak, teeth lost, obesity and affect brain development.

According, poor diet also can cause diabetes type II, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure.

Reasons for:

Special dietary requirements: there are some reasons what special dietary requirements are necessary:

Allergies, a child with a food allergy will have a rapid and possibly serious reaction if they come into contact with certain food.

Intolerance, reactions often come a few hours after eating the food. The most common symptoms are skin reaction and digestives problems.

Medical conditions, most common are diabetes and coeliac disease.

Religious requirements or social and cultural requirements are when the families have a restriction food for religious or social/cultural reasons. Example, they are vegetarians.

Keeping and sharing coherent records regarding special dietary requirements: “All early settings are required to keep records about children’s dietary needs and share these with people involved in their care”. It is important keep the records updates and accurate because it prevents to give the wrong food to a child with allergies or requirements. It also helps the parents know how much feed their child was.

The role of the early years practitioner in meeting children’s individual dietary requirements and preferences

Early year educator should talk with parents to be alert about allergies and other specific food requirements. The practitioners should guarantee that they have respect for these requirements when they are providing snacks and planning activity involving food. Some food allergies just the skin contact is enough to have serious consequences.

It is important when making up feeds providing the correct amount for babies. It usually the manufacturer instruction is enough to guarantee it. It is also important record everything the children eat during the day in the setting. The parents should be allowed to know what they ate and the quantity.

The benefits of working in partnership with parents/carers in relation to special dietary requirements

Building a partnership between educators and parents is always suggested as it helps the child to develop healthy.

“It is important for everyone who works with children develop a strong partnership with child’s parents”. The parents are the proficient in their own child, for this reason it is important create a partnership.



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