Nutrition in the early years – What parents can do – Lippe Nutrition
Nutrition in the early years – what can parents do?
Catherine Lippe, registered nutritionist (RNutr), works locally to support families in supporting their children to establish good eating habits right from the start.
Here Catherine tells us why nutrition in the early years is so important and the way she is supporting local nurseries to make good nutrition a priority in their setting.
Nutrition in the early years
Research tells us that the nutrition a child receives in their early years can affect the way they grow, develop and learn, not just at that moment in time, but actually across their entire life span.
This means there is a crucial window of opportunity when those of us who care for young children must try and set them out on the right nutritional path.
Currently, one in five children in the UK starts school overweight or obese.1
Overweight and obese children are also more likely to become obese adults, and have a higher risk of morbidity, disability and premature mortality in adulthood.
Obese children are more likely to be ill, be absent from school due to illness, experience health-related limitations and require more medical care than normal weight children.2
Nutrition in nurseries
Many children spend at least part of their week in some kind of formalised childcare setting (the last data I saw suggested 96% of 3 and 4 year olds)3.
That means that children are having many meals and snacks in their childcare setting. Lots of children have three meals a day and two snacks at nursery. So it follows that nursery leaders have a significant responsibility to get things right. But we know that lots of nurseries don’t have expert advice.
A recent survey found that the majority of nurseries and pre-schools (79 per cent)4 do not receive any support of external nutrition advice.
So what can be done?
What parents can do
Of course, while what children eat in nursery is massively important, it’s also important that we try and get it right at home. I’m a mum to two boys, and even though I am a nutritionist I do have moments myself when I face challenges getting them to eat well! My message to all the mums and dads out there is to do your best with nutrition at home, even small changes can make a really big difference!
There are lots of tips and tricks on my website and also on the blog page of the EYN Partnership website, including articles I’ve written about how to pack the perfect pre-schooler’s lunch box, and how to make toast healthy and exciting.
And as well as making changes to the food you offer your children, it’s worth thinking about how you can help them build a more positive attitude towards healthy eating, try playing games that reference food and chatting more about food. Messy play, gardening activities including learning where our food comes from and art activities using food items are all great ways of exposing children to food without having to focus on actually eating it.
And my final top tip for parents is to keep trying!
It can seem soul destroying at times but research shows that children may need to be ‘exposed’ to a new or unfamiliar food up to 17 times before they’ll actually try it.
So don’t give up, you’ll get there in the end!
The EYN Partnership
I work for the Early Years Nutrition Partnership (EYNP) in Surrey and am now working in the Hersham area. In my work as a registered nutritionist I have a lot of experience of working with young children in the baby, toddler and pre-school years and in my role with the EYNP I am working directly with nurseries who want to improve and enhance their approach to nutrition.
I work with nurseries, helping them look at the food they put on the table, and also how they talk about and relate to food across their whole practice. I am doing lots of different things with the nurseries I work with; staff training, looking at menus, helping practitioners with challenges around fussy eaters and specific dietary requirements, and helping the teams think about how to build good mealtime habits. There are lots of ways we can work together, and the way the scheme works is brilliant as we can tailor it to the needs of each individual nursery and the families it serves. That flexibility means that if nurseries want to, we can organise parent workshops, and other nutrition focused activities that help build relationships and get everybody focused on the same nutrition aims.
In Hersham I work with The Nest Day Nursery and we’ve built up a lovely relationship which has paid real dividends already.
The staff at The Nest Day Nursery are truly committed to promoting and achieving standards of excellence for nutrition in their setting. Everyone from the manager to the room staff, the chef and the parents have got on board and it’s great to see that whole setting approach working and making differences t the future health of those children.
I’m hopeful that the other nurseries and pre-schools in and around Hersham will join and register with the EYN Partnership soon.
Once they sign-up, they can declare that they are committed to the scheme, and then in due course they will receive their accreditation, a real signpost to parents that they care about healthy eating.
- Health and Social Care Information Centre. National Child Measurement Programme – England, 2014-15 report. Available at: https://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB19109
- Department of Education Childcare and Early Years Survey of Parents 2014-2015
- National Survey on Early Years Nutrition. April 2016. Pre-school Learning Alliance and London Early Years Foundation for the Early Years Nutrition Partnership. Results presented in the EYN Partnership: A Collection of Views from Partners: Bringing Young Children Brighter Futures Through Better Nutrition, May 2016. Available at: http://www.eynpartnership.org/sites/default/files/eyn_partnership_-_a_collection_of_views_from_partners_may_2016_online.pdf
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