What is nutrition?
The term nutrition describes how the food you eat meets your body’s dietary needs. If children have good nutrition, they are eating the right type of foods and the right amount of them so that they stay healthy. If children’s nutrition is poor, then the foods they are eating are not providing their body with the right nutrients. Some foods contain more nutrients than others so a varied diet is essential to ensure healthy eating and adequate nutritional intake. Good nutrition as the foundation for good health requires an adequate, well balanced diet combined with regular physical activity. Poor nutrition can lead to reduced immunity, increased susceptibility to disease, childhood obesity, impaired physical and mental development, and reduced productivity.
Why do children need good nutrition?
Good nutrition is essential for:
• growth and physical development
• healthy brain functioning
• prevention of illness
• repair of cells / recovery from illness
• good concentration
• maintaining energy
• overall wellbeing
Most children attending a play school / pre-school setting sit down together and share food, either a small snack or a meal, provided by the pre-school or coming from the child’s own home. Whilst meal times provide a break from play, they are not a break from learning. It is important for parents to understand the learning potential for children during snack/ meal times and recognise that this activity deserves as much attention to detail as any other school activity. Young children are acquiring new skills and learning about the world around them and this includes establishing healthy eating habits. The eating habits formed in early childhood significantly influence our eating habits as adults. Good nutrition underpins children’s holistic development. Research on children’s brain development show that good nutrition, health, and exercise are critical to brain development and learning.