Children often spend long and regular hours in childcare, and habits developed here are likely to become long-lasting behavior patterns later in life. While parents may make the effort to foster healthy eating habits for children at home, it is important that child carers encourage child healthy eating at the daycare center too. Lessons learned with other children as well as important concepts like hygiene, sharing, serving and correct eating habits can be taught through well-planned meal-times.
Healthy Eating Habits for Children
Children’s healthy eating habits are reinforced when practiced both at home and in childcare centers. As a childcare professional, some factors to ensure are:
- Meal-times at the center must be supervised, informative and relaxed
- Children should be taught the importance of hand-washing before and after eating, as well as being encouraged to brush their teeth
- Table etiquette such as serving, seating, sharing, good manners, use of cutlery and utensils, correct handling and eating of food should be taught
- Serve 5-6 small meals a day if possible. This prevents overeating and allows you to add variety to meal-times.
Developing Children’s Healthy Eating Habits
Children learn from observation as well and will follow examples set by parents, childcarers and family members. Follow these tips to encourage child healthy eating habits:
- Making learning fun or allowing children to participate in planning their own healthy meals and snacks is a fun way for them to learn and absorb healthy eating habits for a lifetime.
- Restrict unhealthy snacks and food items such as chocolates, candies, fizzy drinks and fast food, and replace with fruit platters, frozen ice candies made of natural juice, fresh juice and milk, and crispy fresh veggies.
- Discuss healthy and unhealthy foods and teach children to differentiate between the two
- Older children can be taught to read labels and understand how ingredients make food healthy and unhealthy
- Avoid storing unhealthy snacks and rewarding good behavior with candies
Health and Child Healthy Eating Habits
Along with teaching children healthy eating habits, child carers can introduce other informative topics related to good health and healthy eating habits for children.
- A trip to a supermarket, farmer’s market or strawberry-picking day will allow for fun and learning
- Call in a child dietitian to discuss healthy eating habits for children and issues like obesity in a simple, engaging way
- Fitness goes together with child healthy eating – encourage outdoor activity and exercise as often as possible
- Parent-child sessions are usually good opportunities for you to interact with parents and discuss nutritional and dietary plans for children
Childcarer’s Guide for Healthy Eating Habits for Children
In addition to teaching child healthy eating habits, childcare centers have to follow safety and health precautions for storing, heating and serving. Safety guidelines and regulatory acts are in place for registered centers, and professionals should be aware of this. In addition, childcare workers should be taught basic first-aid procedures in case of food allergies, anaphylaxis, and choking and upset stomachs. It is important to talk to parents of children to understand the dietary requirements, cultural specifications and possible allergies of each child.
1. Childcare and Healthy Eating. Better Health Channel
2. Healthy Eating and Child Care. Child Care Aware