Nutritious food

Childcare providers play a key role in supporting children to develop healthy eating habits, working in partnership with parents to provide a balanced diet for children. Providers need to ensure that there is a hygienic area and suitable facilities for preparing food, including sterilisation equipment for babies’ food if needed.

We all know that a healthy diet for children now can help to combat ill-health later in life. The Early years foundation stage statutory frameworks say that “Where children are provided with meals, snacks and drinks, they must be healthy, balanced and nutritious. Before a child is admitted to the setting the childminder/provider must also obtain information about any special dietary requirements, preferences and food allergies that the child has, and any special health requirements. Fresh drinking water must be available and accessible at all times. Childminders/Providers must record and act on information from parents and carers about a child's dietary needs.”

According to the National Minimum Standards for Regulated Childcare in Wales, any meals or snacks provided for children must also be “appropriate in quantity following recommendations in Welsh Government Food and Health Guidelines for Early Years and Childcare Settings.”

Read the Food and Health Guidelines for Early Years and Childcare Settings in Wales 

Find out about the government’s plans to tackle childhood obesity in the UK

Childcare providers must follow food hygiene regulations, and register with Environmental Health. They must also provide allergen information about any snacks or meals they provide, so don’t be afraid to ask about their food hygiene practice and if they have a food safety and hygiene certificate.

Many childcare providers will go above and beyond the nutrition and food safety requirements by teaching the children about food hygiene, providing new foods for the children to try and using mealtimes to create fun learning opportunities. Here are some of the things that they’re likely to do:

  • encourage the children to help safely with food preparation
  • support children to count out, measure and weigh ingredients
  • teach the children about where their food comes from
  • encourage children’s independence with the use of cups and cutlery at the appropriate age
  • introduce foods from other countries a way to learn about the world and different cultures. 

Providers will also establish a routine for regularly providing children with food, to ensure that they’re not hungry and to help them develop good eating habits.

Read about eating well for under 5s in childcare.

Read the Example menus and useful guidance for early years settings to help meet the Early Yeas Foundation Stage requirements for food and drink.