Nurseries to put curries and risotto on the menu in shake-up to meet new nutrition guidelines
Forget fizzy pop – new list of approved drinks includes diluted apple or orange juice, whole milk or water
Fish fingers, chicken nuggets, chips and cheesy pasta will no longer have a place on the menus of the nation’s nurseries under new nutrition guidelines.
Lamb curry, mixed bean and root vegetable stew, lasagne, risotto, pilchards and tuna are the distinctly cordon bleu creations being recommended for toddlers.
The new voluntary guidelines have been backed by the Government and have been developed by the School Food Trust following concern about the poor meals offered by many private nurseries.
Spicy: Lamb curry, pictured is among the new range of dishes being recommended for toddlers under the guidelines
Evidence has emerged that some nurseries spend as little as 25p per child’s meal. Research suggests that only a third of parents are happy with the food at their child’s nursery.
Around one in six feel the standard is poor, with children being given junk food, too many convenience foods and not enough fruit and vegetables.
In some cases children are being given too much salty or sugary food, while others get adult portions.
A Trust report outlining the best diet for growing under-fives highlights the fact that more than one in five are overweight or obese when they join reception class.
At the same time, type 2 diabetes is appearing in very young children, while dental health is deteriorating.
Raw food: Suggested snacks including vegetable sticks rule out chocolate bars and crisps
The Trust, supported by nursery industry bodies, has developed a series of menu plans to help staff provide a healthy balanced diet.
There are no sugar-coated breakfast cereals on the list, rather porridge with raisins, Weetabix with yoghurt and dried apricots, toasted muffins with scrambled egg or rice cakes.
Daily vegetarian options are also included.
Forget fizzy pop, for the list of approved drinks includes diluted apple or orange juice, whole milk or water.
Lunch options include mixed bean and root vegetable stew with apricot and herb couscous; lamb curry with brown rice; fish pie with sweet potato topping; or beef lasagne.
While tea options include chicken or tofu risotto, scrambled egg on toast; and herby pilchard pasta.
There are also a number of suggested snacks which rule out chocolate bars and crisps in favour of oatcakes, satsumas, celery and cucumber sticks.
The Trust said: ‘Whilst many childcare providers are already doing good work in this area, research suggests that some are giving young children food which is more appropriate for older children and adults.
‘This can mean children eat too little
energy, carbohydrate and essential minerals such as iron and zinc, and
too much salt and sugar.’
Children’s Minister, the Lib-Dem MP Sarah Teather, has backed the new menu plans.
‘Healthy eating is at the heart of helping every child get the best start in life,’ she said.
All new menu: Nurseries are not required to stick to the guidelines, however those that sign up will be able to advertise the fact to parents
‘Nurseries play a vital role in
getting children from all backgrounds to develop good eating habits –
but many lack the expert knowledge of what is the best food to serve.
‘Parents rightly want their children to be eating healthy, nutritional food. Thanks to these voluntary guidelines drawn up by the School Food Trust, we will help nurseries and other childcare providers do just that.’
Nurseries are not required to stick to the guidelines, however those that sign up to them will be able to advertise the fact to parents.
Nutritionist at the Trust, Patricia Mucavele said: ‘There’s lots of support being put into place to help any early years provider start to use these guidelines. We are piloting training with five local authorities already and will be coming to more areas in the coming year.
‘This is just the beginning, and we hope that as many providers as possible will use these guidelines to help children get a healthy start in life.’
The scheme has the backing of the National Day Nurseries Association, the National Child-minding Association and the Pre-School Learning Alliance.