Aim:

To ensure children are consuming healthy food and drinks based on the Australian Dietary Guidelines for Children and to promote knowledge and understanding of a healthy diet for life. http://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines

Background:

Children in their first five years of life are developing rapidly and require a nutritious and safe diet for their intellectual, behavioural and physical development. These early years are also the time when a child’s eating habits and food preferences are formed.

Alstonville Community Preschool recognises how important it’s role is in promoting healthy eating habits and has developed it’s Nutrition Policy with the aim of promoting the safe and healthy eating practices of all preschool aged children enrolled. Healthy eating practices can help prevent overweight and obesity later in life (and associated diseases such as heart disease, cancers, type 2 diabetes, liver disease, osteoarthritis) as well as improve the health of children now.

What is healthy food?

The Australian Dietary Guidelines for Children promotes the following foods for everyday eating:

  • Vegetables, fruits and legumes (baked beans, lentils etc). Includes canned, fresh and frozen but excludes fruit bars and leathers.
  • Bread, rice, pasta, noodles and breakfast cereals, (preferably wholegrain).
  • Lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, tofu.
  • Milk, yoghurt, cheese (reduced fat dairy products are recommended for children over two years of age).
  • Water

At our preschool we teach that food and drinks high in fat, salt and or sugar and low in essential nutrients are “Sometimes foods” which are only consumed on special occasions and are not suitable for preschool. These food and drinks include:

  • Foods high in fat and salt such as chips, oven baked crackers, corn chips, cheesy snacks,
  • Foods high in sugar such as lollies, chocolates, sweet biscuits, muesli bars, breakfast bars, fruit filled bars and iced cakes,
  • Cordial, fruit juice, fruit juice drinks, soft drinks and sport drinks.

For more detail see the “Foods for Preschool Lunchboxes” parent handout.

Relevant Legislation: Work Health and Safety Act 2011; Food Act 2003 (NSW) and Food Regulation 2004; Education and Care Services National Regulations 2011.

Key Resources: Caring for Children: Food, Nutrition and Fun Activities, Bunney & Williams, 4th edition, 2005;  Get Up and Grow – Healthy Eating and Physical Activity for Early Childhood – Directors Handbook; Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia , NHMRC, 2003 can be found at www.nhmrc.gov.au/publications/ ;  Education and Care Services National Regulation 2011

Preschool Practices to Promote Healthy Eating

      Objectives:

  1. To supervise and assist children in consuming healthy food and drinks
  2. To provide a positive eating environment reflecting family and cultural values
  3. To teach children about food and nutrition
  4. To communicate with families and staff regarding nutrition and eating
  5. To ensure children are provided with safe food and that hygiene practices are promoted

     Objective 1: To supervise and assist children in consuming healthy food and drinks

     Practices:    Activities involving food will encourage children to develop a range of skills as well as their  knowledge of food. Such activities can help children learn that good food choices will promote health.

  • The preschool will provide parents with information on suitable and unsuitable food to pack for their children at orientation and throughout the year
  • Water will be available at all times
  • Emergency food will be available for children who have brought insufficient food
  • Staff will encourage children to eat fruit or vegies at morning tea
  • Staff will encourage children to eat their sandwich, salad, yoghurt (etc) before other snacks
  • Parents will be advised when their child is not eating
  • Food and drinks, which are not suitable, will be returned to the child’s bag where this leaves sufficient other food for the child to eat
  • When a child’s lunch contains a food or drink, which is not suitable, a reminder will be included and an alternative suggested by staff. See “Slips for lunchboxes”
  • Display ‘Foods for Preschool lunches’ at preschool and distribute to all families
  • Celebrations involving food should include healthy choices from “Food Ideas for Preschool Parties”.

        Objective 2: To provide a positive eating environment reflecting family and cultural values

        Practices:

  • A staff member will sit with children at meal times to role model healthy food and drink choices and actively engage children in conversations about the food and drinks in lunchboxes;
  • Creating a relaxed atmosphere at mealtimes where children have enough time to eat and enjoy their food as well as enjoying the social interactions with educators and other children;
  • Respect each child’s appetite. If a child is not hungry or is satisfied, educators do not insist he/she eats;
  • Be patient with messy or slow eaters;
  • Food will not be used as a reward or withheld from children for disciplinary purposes;
  • Cultural differences will be recognised, nurtured and celebrated
  • Special occasions may be celebrated with culturally appropriate foods
  • Parents will be invited to at least one food occasion per year.
  • To encourage and support breastfeeding by providing a space where mothers can breastfeed their babies if necessary.

        Objective 3: To teach children about food and nutrition

        Practices:

  • Food awareness activities will be included in the program
  • Children will be encouraged to prepare healthy foods and get practical experience in food preparation
  • The foods being eaten by the children will be discussed with them
  • Staff will be positive role models in all aspects of nutrition and hygiene
  • Recipes and food awareness activities will be chosen from a variety of culture

         Objective 4: To communicate with families and staff regarding nutrition and eating

          Practices:

  • In the case of a returned food or drink an information slip will be put in the child’s bag/ lunchbox
  • The nutrition policy and attachments will be displayed at the centre
  • Parents will receive information about food and nutrition in newsletters and as part of the preschool orientation package, including “Food Ideas for Preschool Parties” and “What is Better Food”.
  • All families and staff members will receive a copy of the nutrition policy and will be invited to contribute to its development and periodic review
  • Regular communication will be had with families about food and nutrition experiences that children have within the preschool and to share any related information to support healthy food choices at home;

        Objective 5: To ensure children are provided with safe food and that hygiene practices are promoted.

       Practices:

  • Children and staff will wash their hands  (using soap, running water and disposable towel) before handling food or eating meals or snacks
  • Gloves will be worn by any staff directly handling ready to eat foods
  • Parents will be encouraged to keep food cool while transporting it to the centre
  • Food will be stored and served at safe temperatures
  • Children will be discouraged from handling other children’s food
  • Communal food will be prepared using proper food handling procedures (i.e. hands are washed and gloves worn, benches, chopping boards and utensils are clean)
  • Children will be encouraged to drink water after each meal
  • Staff should be aware of any child with a food allergy and the appropriate management of it.  Parents must provide details of their child’s food allergies on the enrolment form and provide a medically endorsed management plan for their child.  See “Emergency Health Care Plan” and the information sheet titled “Food Allergy and Intolerance”.
  • Where a child has a severe allergic reaction to a particular food (e.g. peanuts), parents of other children will be asked to avoid packing the offending food in their child’s lunch box.