Council regulators say a lack of clear guidance about a good diet for the under fives is the reason why even the best-intentioned nursery schools sometimes give children the wrong proportions of food and nutrients. A two-year study by LACORS, part of the Local Government Association Group, found none of the nurseries which volunteered to be involved were managing to meet all of the current guidelines although many were putting a lot of effort into providing healthy menus.
Twenty-nine councils took part in the research working with more than 100 nurseries. The findings showed that food standards were improved when those caring for children had better information from dieticians. LACORS is now urging government to establish a single source of practical guidance for nurseries in association with councils and health professionals.
The study found problems varied from nursery to nursery but they included excessive levels of salt, portions that were too large or too small and shortages of carbohydrates to give children energy because some were being given too much fruit. One common problem was the use of healthy eating principles which work for adults and older children to the under fives.
The chairman of LACORS, Councillor Paul Bettison, said: “ Knowledge is the missing ingredient when it comes to making sure our children start their lives in the best possible health. This is why it is now necessary to provide simple, practical guidance so childcare workers can be more successful in offering the right mix of food, and to help parents understand what a good diet for a small child will look like.”