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Free Healthy Nursery Meals

Eating environments and positive mealtimes 

A positive eating environment plays an important role in promoting healthy eating habits and successful meal times. Creating the right environment should be a collaboration with children, staff and parents to ensure everyone has a say in making mealtimes a positive experience.

Top tips for creating positive eating environments for young children:

  • Provide family style eating, set clear routines with hand washing and encourage children to set the table
  • Use size appropriate plates, cutlery and cups
  • Encourage positive role modelling, with adults and children eating together
  • Display age appropriate healthy eating resources

Positive meal times

Learning to eat a wide range of food is a gradual process for many young children, and some may need to be exposed to a new food up to 10 to 15 times before readily accepting it (please refer to the Eat Better, Start Better guide). Food refusal is a normal part of child development and will often peak at around 2 years of age (However parents are advised to seek support if a child has poor growth, low body weight, is eating less than ten foods and is not thriving. You can signpost to a Health Visitor or GP who will consider if referral for a nutritional assessment is needed)

Early years settings play a very important role in helping children to explore new foods during mealtimes and in the learning environment.
A number of factors can affect a child’s mealtime behaviour, including:

  • Negative feeding experiences during infancy and early childhood
  • Previously experiencing medical problems associated with feeding such as reflux or allergies
  • Chonic physical issues such as iron deficiency anaemia, constipation or dental problems.

Top tips for creating a positive mealtime:

  • Avoid pressurising a child to eat, it is always better for a child to eat because they want to
  • Avoid using food as a reward, as it makes some foods seem more desirable than others

These tips and more can be found in the Eat Better, Start Better guide