NHS launches nutritional standards for early years childcare

15 January 2015

NHS launches nutritional standards for early years childcare

'Setting the Table', a revised nutritional guidance and food standards for early years childcare providers in Scotland has been launched by NHS Health Scotland.

The guidance has been developed to help ‘Early Years’ childcare providers meet the ‘Scottish Government National Care Standards: Early Education and Childcare up to the age of 16 (2009)’. It also highlights the importance of nutrition in the early years and the role that childcare providers have in shaping both current and future eating patterns in young children.  

Dr Julie Armstrong, Senior Lecturer in Public Health Nutrition at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), was on the development group for the new standards.

Childcare providers, including local authority and private nurseries, family centres, child minders and caterers, who provide food and drinks for children under the age of five years will be responsible for implementing the guidance. It will also be a useful resource for parents and foster carers to help them understand what to expect from their childcare provider and for parents who provide food for their child when they are being cared for.

The new guide has been expanded to include the needs of infants from birth to one year. It offers helpful advice on topics such as breastfeeding, formula feeding, weaning, and menu planning for babies. It also includes food, snack and drink guidance for children aged one to five years including the importance of good nutrition, food standards, providing breakfast, pack lunches, snack guidance, sample menus and recipes. It offers useful advice on putting the guidance into practice; meeting the needs of all children including those with special diets, religious faiths and beliefs, children with additional needs and developing a holistic approach. 

Fiona Bayne, Senior Health Improvement Programme Officer (Maternal and Infant Nutrition) at NHS Health Scotland said: “Providing food that meets the nutritional needs of young children is crucial to their development. Early years is identified as an important time to reduce health inequalities. Providing healthy and nutritionally balanced meals and snacks in childcare settings is hugely important in meeting the needs of vulnerable families. Some children in full-time care will receive as much as 90% of their daily food within a childcare setting and up to 40% for those who attend part-time. 

“We have worked with a range of partners to produce a guide that is practical in nature and will build good foundations in providing every child with the best start.”

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