The food we eat directly impacts our health. A healthy diet reduces our risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. A healthy diet in childhood can help protect against these in later life. There is growing evidence that nutrition also impacts on behaviour, concentration and achievement.
In 2017/18, 22.4% of Reception-aged children in Hampshire were overweight or obese. This means almost a quarter of children are arriving at school already overweight or obese. This is higher than the South East regional average and represents a worsening trend. Being overweight or obese as a child can be harmful for both physical and mental health, body image and self-esteem. Obesity in childhood is very likely to continue into adolescence and adulthood, becoming a life-long issue.
It is important that settings create a positive food environment. Early years settings can support children and families to make healthy food choices, help children to develop positive eating habits and food preferences, promote correct portion sizes for tiny tummies and teach where food comes from.
Healthy Weight Conversations
Child Weight Management: Short conversations with families Public Health England’s practical advice and tools to support health and care professionals to have conversations about supporting child healthy weight with their families
Promoting a healthier weight for children, young people and families: consistent messaging a guide from Public Health England’s All Our Health resources. Contains a section specifically for under 5s to help staff raise awareness and motivate children and families to achieve or maintain a healthier weight.
Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative The Health Visiting service is BFI accredited. Ensure your setting is breastfeeding friendly too!
Early Years Food Environment
Eat Better, Start Better Food and drink guidelines for early years settings
Public Health England Example Menus for Early Years Settings
Advice and resources
Hampshire programmes to support parents
HENRY (Health, Exercise, Nutrition for the Really Young) has helpful tips to encourage healthy eating. Training courses for parents are offered across Hampshire. Click on your area to discover what courses are being run locally to you.
Healthy Start vouchers for free vitamins and healthy food are available for low-income pregnant women and families with young children. NB a health professional such as a midwife or health visitor must sign the application form.
Start4Life NHS advice to support parents during pregnancy, and with babies and toddlers including advice on introduction to solid foods
Change4Life food swaps, food scanner app, healthy snacks and tips from NHS
Sugar Smart ideas and resources to become a Sugar Smart setting
First Steps Nutrition Eating Well in the Early Years includes guides on healthy snacks, food choices and portion sizes, packed lunches, vegan infants, recipes. They also have an Eating Well for Infants and New Mums section.
Healthy packed lunches for early years: A practical guide for parents and carers by Eat better, start better
Hydration factsheet for children in early years
5 a day and Your Family NHS Choices advice on incorporating fruits and veggies every day