It is important for child care centres to provide nutritious food for children as a healthy diet is crucial to their overall holistic development and growth. “We are what we eat” – this has definite truth to it. According to research, the foods and beverages adults consume have a direct impact on both their physical and mental health. What they consume affects how their cell membranes, bone marrow, blood, hormones, tissue, organs, skin, and hair are made up. Every day, their bodies replace billions of cells, drawing their energy from the food consumed. This applies more so for children.
Children’s bodies are preoccupied with working to grow, develop, and mature all the different organs and systems that will eventually transform them into adults. As they go through various growth stages in life, children have increasing needs for energy, water, and oxygen. Additionally, young bodies absorb nutrients from food more quickly than older bodies do. A nutritious diet not only helps to feed their young bodies but also regulates their energy, sharpens their minds and soothes their moods.
As children are in child care centres for most of the day, it is important to find one that provides nutritious food for your child so they can grow well. The energy and nutrient needs change from birth to pre-school and school-going years so there are specific serving recommendations for each food group for different age groups. Eg. A child of 6-12 months of age will need to consume 1 to 2 servings of brown rice and wholemeal bread a day whereas a child of 3-6 years of age will require 3 to 4 servings instead.
Your child will receive all the nutrients they need if their daily meals contain the appropriate number of servings and it would be great that the child care centre they are enrolled in is able to provide most of the nutrition as they are in school for the whole day. In this article, we will talk about the benefits of eating nutritious food for children and ways to encourage healthy eating habits.
3 Great Benefits Of Eating Nutritious Food
1. Healthy Body Development
Nutritious food can aid in ensuring appropriate and healthy development as your child grows. For example, children need enough calcium and vitamin D for strong, healthy bones. Children of 1 to 3 years old will need 700mg of calcium a day but for children aged 4 to 8, this rises to 1,000 mg of calcium required per day.
The majority of children can get all the nutrients they need from meals like low-fat or reduced-fat dairy products, which are fortified with both. Salmon, dark leafy greens, and fortified cereals are great sources of calcium. You may check with the child care centre regarding the type of food they provide so you know whether your child’s nutrition needs are well taken care of.
2. Stronger Immunity
A stronger immune system will result in fewer illnesses like the flu and the common cold. Children are able to build better immunity through eating fruits and vegetables. A 2017 study that appeared in the journal Lung, examined children’s diets and respiratory health in 11 different Latin American countries.
The results have demonstrated that high fruit and vegetable intake was connected to a lower incidence of eczema and rhinoconjunctivitis, a common skin ailment that produces nasal symptoms, congestion, and red eyes. Regular fast food consumption has been associated with an increased risk for flu and the common cold.
3. Enhanced Brain Function
Children who eat well are better able to concentrate and perform well in school because a balanced diet fuels the brain. There are foods that are particularly good for children’s brain development and you should check whether these foods are part of the meals provided in child care centres where your child is enrolled in.
They include omega-3 rich seafood like salmon, eggs for the choline-rich yolk, which helps with memory, and peanut or almond butter for vitamin E. Vitamin E is rich in antioxidants and aids in the brain’s ability to use glucose as fuel. Whole grains are another type of nutritious brain food because they contain vitamin B and fibre.
Ways To Encourage Healthy Eating Habits
Focus on having a well-balanced diet
Instead of focusing on specific foods, children should consume less packaged and processed food and more of whole, minimally processed food that is as close to its natural form as possible. This should be practised inside and outside the child care centre environment.
Get the children involved
When you allow your child to participate in grocery shopping and dinner preparation, they can learn about various foods and how to read food labels so they can make better choices in their diet. It would also be great if the child care centre gets them involved in food preparation so they can learn better.
Improve the taste of healthier foods
For instance, you may add vegetables to a beef stew, mash carrots with potatoes, or serve apple slices with a sweet dip.
Eat more home-cooked meals
Cooking at home can have a significant impact on your child’s health because restaurant and takeaway food has more added sugar and unhealthy fat. Batch prepping will allow you to feed your family for an entire week with just a few cooking sessions.
Be a role model
Children often emulate their parents so set a good example by eating healthy food because studies have confirmed that imitation plays an important role in a child’s development. So it is critical that they learn about eating healthy food be it inside or outside the child care centre environment.
Eat healthy snacks
To prevent children from eating unhealthy snacks like soda, chips and cookies, keep lots of fruit, crunchy vegetable sticks and pure fruit juice available. You may also check with the child care centre on the type of snacks they provide to check whether the overall diet is healthy in school as snack times are common for children.
Limit portion sizes
Stick to healthy portions by using My Healthy Plate method. It consists of a quarter plate with whole grains, a quarter plate with good protein and half a plate with fruits and vegetables.
Tots & Teddies Preschool And Child Care Centre
Tots & Teddies is a multi-award winning preschool and child care centre. We have also been featured in The Straits Times, Sassy Mama, The Business Times, and ParentsWorld. Caring for children from 2 months old to 7 years old, we believe that providing nutritious food for children is crucial to their growth.
When they eat well, their concentration is enhanced, they do not fall sick as easily, have higher energy levels and are more likely to grow and develop to their full potential.
Our child care centre is immersive bilingual and we are a mixed school with 50% locals, 50% international. To cater and support the health and well being of children under our care, we provide a 4-week cycle diverse menu (with local and international flavours) that meets the majority of children’s nutrition requirements.
Adhering to national and international guidelines, our child care centre’s menu has been designed and created by Vanessa McNamara, The Travelling Dietitian, who has over 20 years of experience working as a dietitian around the world. Vanessa earned her Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Sydney. She is particularly passionate about assisting families in leading healthy lifestyles without giving up their enjoyment of food.
We believe that a well-balanced diet plays a critical role in the child’s holistic development and have a relentless focus on sourcing quality ingredients. They include cage free eggs and antibiotic-free chicken through to fresh Barramundi, Salmon and greek yoghurt.
The meals in our child care centre comprise whole grain carbohydrates, fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, dairy products and healthy fats with the minimal use of added sugar, salt, saturated fats and processed foods. Water and fresh milk are our drinks of choice along with the occasional inclusion of freshly prepared fruit smoothies.
These menus provide approximately 75% of your child’s recommended daily intake of nutrients when they are enrolled into our full-day care. Meals are prepared fresh on site daily, with special dietary needs being accommodated by our chefs and dietician.
Our child care centre also places a strong emphasis on helping them to develop healthy eating habits from a young age by getting them involved in food preparation and nurturing their enjoyment of food as soon as they begin their eating journey.
In summary, it is important to ensure that the childcare centre you are enrolling your child in is providing a well-balanced diet so they can grow and develop physically, mentally and emotionally in a healthy manner. Children emulate the people around them when they are young and these habits follow them through into adulthood. Hence it is recommended to start them on developing healthy eating habits from young so they can learn and understand the benefits of eating a well-balanced diet without having to sacrifice their enjoyment of food.