It's the super-nanny state! 80-page guide on how to feed toddlers includes actual-size diagram o

Staff - - 01/18/2012
Food Knowledge

We were told by David Cameron that the end of the nanny state was here and people would be trusted to use a bit of common sense.

However, that appears to have been forgotten by the Department for Education and School Fund Trust which has produced an 80-page guide for people who look after pre-school children such as nursery workers on how to feed toddlers - including an actual-size diagrams of the perfect plate.

While some of the ideas suggested in the booklet Eat Better, Start Better are useful, such as how to cater for youngsters of different religions, other information is extraordinarily basic such as the fact that sugar rots teeth and fruit is full of vitamins.

It even tells nursery workers, who have already had two years' training in looking after children, what the definition of meat is and how best to define a week (Monday to Friday).

Perhaps jarring with parents' own rules for their children, the guide says that they 'should be allowed to have dessert even if they have not finished their main course'.

One of the reasons the guide has been produced is to give childcare providers a single source of information about what children should eat. The new voluntary guidelines have been backed by the Government following concern about the poor meals offered by many private nurseries.

With more than a fifth of children considered overweight or obese by the time they start primary school, the School Food Trust says it is vital that healthy eating is instilled in children before they reach the age of five.

At the same time, type 2 diabetes is appearing in very young children, while dental health is deteriorating.

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.

Nutritionist 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.'

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. 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.

Forget fizzy pop, 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.

'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.

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