Sideline the snacks
THE eating habits developed by young children can follow them into adolescence and adulthood.
The environment in which they learn these eating habits plays a significant role in their future health and wellbeing.
It is vital then that the more than 1.2 million Australian children who attend early learning services have access to healthy foods from the five core food groups – vegetables, cereals/grains, dairy, meat and fruit, and that discretionary, or “junk” foods are not served.
However, data from the Supporting Nutrition for Australian Childcare (SNAC) study found that discretionary foods – typically processed foods high in saturated fat and/or added sugars or salt, such as processed meats (e.g., sausages, salami), sweet biscuits, some cakes and crackers, are served far too often.
Opinions about how often lack of nutritious food and over-provision of discretionary foods can hinder children’s physical, social and emotional development.
We also know that the one in four children who are currently overweight or obese face a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease as adults.
Early learning services are therefore a perfect setting to encourage good eating habits in children which will help them lead healthier lives as adults.
It may seem a daunting task for early years’ educators to tackle the sometimes sensitive issue of providing discretionary foods, but help is available at www.snacwa.com.au .
This is a free resource, offering recipes, nutrition activities and support to early years’ educators.