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How Food Shapes Your Child – what you need to know about early years nutrition

Early Years Nutrition

Early Years nutrition goes much deeper than simply ensuring a child is full.

Nutrition is a complex, multi-faceted subject yet the guidance given to early years professionals is vague and ambiguous leaving it very much open to interpretation and a lot of work required by settings to figure out the nutritional needs for their setting.

Existing Guidance for Early Years Settings

Within the documents set out to support you with a child’s growth, there is very little to support you on the nutritional influences with formative development.

Extract from EYFS

3.48. Where children are provided with meals, snacks and drinks, they must be healthy, balanced and nutritious

3.74 Providers must make the following information available to parents and/or carers- food and drinks provided for children

Extract from DfE Development Matters

Page 58

Narrate your own decisions about healthy foods, highlighting the importance of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables

Page 64

At meal and snack times, encourage children to try a range of foods as they become more independent eaters

What is the real role that nutrition plays in early childhood development?

According to UNICEF

What, when and how children eat is more important before age 2 than at any other time in life. Yet, today, many infants and young children are not receiving the nutrition they need to survive and thrive. Children’s first foods too often lack diversity and are low in energy and nutrients. Globally, one in three children aged 6–23 months is eating the minimum diverse diet needed for healthy growth and development.

Biological growth of the brain – particularly in the 0-3 age range – the right food is vital to feed the rapid pace of development required by the brain at this stage.

Skeletal foundations – childhood is the time we lay down the foundations for our peak bone-mass. Something which we will rely heavily on in later life – the nutritional considerations here are perhaps more complex than you may think.

Pathways, habits and behaviours – this is of particular relevance within the early years when all food experiences are new. When we are responsible for feeding a child, we are also responsible for shaping their food preferences. Our role is incredibly influential here and a deeper awareness of the emotional and biological food connections is vital to help children shape healthy food relationships.

Within this course there's lots of animations on our amazing bodies such as this one on our brains.

Formative nutrition fuels the astonishing pace of growth which the human body goes through in early childhood. The pace of development is unique to childhood and so are their nutritional needs. Leaving the understanding of these complex nutritional needs to settings is a very big ask which is why I have designed this course to take away the guess work of exactly what’s needed and why it is so imperative at this point in time.

Global Health Crisis - early years are not exempt

Globally we are facing a health crisis, facts from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Each year, 17 million people die from a NCD (Noncommunicable disease) before age 70. Unhealthy diets and the resulting malnutrition are major drivers of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) around the world. Malnutrition includes undernutrition, overweight and obesity, and other diet-related NCDs like type 2 diabetes.

We shouldn’t assume this doesn’t apply to us in the early years sector. It does. We currently are seeing obesity and malnutrition present within the same populations in all age groups in the UK. We have over 3000 children with Type 2 Diabetes (there were no cases of children with this condition just over 20 years ago). We have poor Oral Health, in fact the most common reason for hospital admission for children aged 6-10 is to have a tooth extracted and we have alarmingly high obesity rates.

Health is changing. Children are not exempt and we need to understand the true role that food has on health. Here’s an example of how changes to our food and lifestyle are impacting on the predicted life span of a generation: -

YOU can help to change this

YOU can help to change this prediction, by truly understanding what impact food has and your role in influencing that.

Nutrition in the formative years is not only of vital importance of the biological growth and development but it is at this time in our lives when many of our food habits, preferences, food behaviours and even food addictions can start. Your role in feeding children is incredibly influential, you have the power to literally shape their future relationship with food which is why understanding the nature of this food journey is so vital.

Take a look at the video overview for a taste of the course.

Course information and learning outcomes

This course gives you over 20 hours of CPD on early childhood nutrition and development. Firstly, looking at WHY it is so important that we focus on nutrition. We do this by focusing on three areas all looking at how Food Shapes a Child

1. How Food Shapes Your Child – Building a Brain

2. How Food Shapes Your Child – Building a Skeleton

3. How Food Shapes Your Child – Shaping Food Relationships

Each of these courses gives you 2.5 CPD hours and the background knowledge on the links between nutrition, early childhood development and future health outcomes for a generation of children.

Background information is great but what use is information if you are unsure how to implement it? The next stage gives you a load of practical information to help you implement a fully integrated nutrition approach. There are 12 lessons in this section including:

· Exclusion diets

· Macro & micro nutrient calculation guides

· Essential Fatty Acids

· Proteins & amino acids

· Eating a rainbow

· Antioxidants

These documents are great CPD tools for your staff but also can be shared with parents or used in your marketing message to show how much you are about early years nutrition.

Finally, to help you with some recipe inspiration we’ve included;

· Breakfast ideas & recipes

· Lunch ideas & recipes

· Tea ideas & recipes

Who is it for?

Anyone working with children in the 0-5 window primarily as we discuss this ‘early window of opportunity’ for laying down nutritional foundations.

· Nursery Owners

· Nursery Managers

· Nursery Chefs

· Childminders

· Teachers

· Catering providers

Many aspects will be relevant for older children too as the development window for brain and peak bone mass takes us up to late teens/early 20’s.

Remember, YOU can help to change this prediction, by truly understanding what impact food has and your role in influencing that.

Click on the image to be taken to the course page

I really hope to see you there and help to differentiate your early years setting by showing how seriously you take this message for the health of the children in your care, and ultimately the health of the next generation.

Louise Mercieca

Nutritional Therapist

Podcast Host

Personal Trainer

Early Years Nutrition Consultant

Award-winning Author

Food & Health Writer

Presenter on Early Years TV Food

Keynote speaker

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