Information on proper nutrition is reaching a growing number of recipients. Parents, children and young people, teachers and kitchen staff are educated. Why is the dissemination of healthy eating principles so important, when is the best time for this type of education and who is responsible for it?
The best time to shape healthy habits
Passing on to children the right eating habits really begins when the first foods are introduced into the child’s diet, i.e. in the fourth or fifth month of life. From the point of view of the success of this venture and obtaining the best results, it is also the best time to teach proper eating habits. Between the third and the fourth month of life, the child shows the greatest desire to learn new flavors.
Then, between six and ten months of age, he is ready to learn new structures. This is dictated by the increase in his biting skills. The introduction of a healthy and adapted in terms of consistency food not only promotes the proper development of the toddler, but also affects what he will want to eat later in life.
The pre-school period, in turn, has a rather difficult time during which pupils have a tendency to neophobia, i.e. a lack of interest in new products and a reluctance to try and eat them. So if in the first period of life a parent or guardian does not use this time properly, in the following years, introducing healthy eating habits can be very difficult.
Absolutely, this does not mean, however, that nothing can be done and the more that the promotion of healthy eating is not necessary. It is just the opposite. Education in the field of healthy nutrition is a process that consists in the systematic transfer of valuable information. It also depends on the current state of knowledge and scientific research. Introducing it from an early age can bring the best results in the future.
What in particular should you pay attention to?
Encouraging the consumption of vegetables and fruit
According to data from the World Health Organization, quantitative recommendations on the consumption of fruit and vegetables meet only 15%. children. The recommended consumption of these products by preschool children is 500 g per day (excluding potatoes), of which vegetables should make up the majority. In practice, this means that fruit and vegetables should be included in every meal of the day.
Limiting sugar intake
High sugar intake in the diet is associated, among others with the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes or caries. Restricting him in the child’s diet should not therefore be considered in the category of taking the best and tastiest snacks from him, but taking care of his health now and in the future. The problem here is not so much sweetening of the tea or gentle sweetening of the compote, but ubiquitous sugar – from breakfast cereals, through flavored waters, to fruit yogurt. The effects of this can be seen in studies which showed that the consumption of sugar by the youngest children, aged 13-36 months, exceeds the permissible norms by almost half. Along with the age of the child, sugar consumption, unfortunately, does not decrease, but increases even more.
Limiting salt intake
As with sugar, salt consumption in society is at least twice as high as recommended. Salt intake at this level can have serious health consequences in the future, resulting in e.g. hypertension or stomach cancer. Therefore, it is worth developing children’s taste preferences from an early age by limiting the addition of salt and choosing unprocessed products.
Promotion of drinking water
Water as a natural and calorie-free drink should be particularly popularized for drinking among children.
Regularity of meals
Not only the selection of food products, but also the habit of eating regularly is an important element of healthy eating habits. Preschool age is a very good time in a child’s life to learn how to eat regularly.
The example goes down, i.e. the role of parent, director and teacher.
The child’s healthy eating education takes place both at home and at school. Parents and family have the greatest importance in shaping the eating behavior of the toddler. This is done directly – by giving the child specific dishes, and also indirectly – by shaping the attitude towards food. In turn, their healthy eating knowledge has an impact on parents’ choice. Therefore, it is extremely important to provide relevant information to parents of children attending kindergarten, including through posters, conversations, workshops and talks. If the family does not take care of forming proper eating habits, it will be much more difficult in the institution to convince the child to try new products, eat vegetables, etc.
It is also important to set a good example. If a parent does not like vegetables and never eats them until dinner, he should not be surprised that his child behaves in the same way. The child observes the parents’ behavior and imitates them. Another important factor is sharing food in the family. Research shows that children eating dinners with the whole family consumed on average more vegetables, fruit, fiber and trace elements, and less fried foods and sugared drinks.
Transferring proper eating habits can also take place thanks to the child’s involvement in the preparation of meals and their planning. Even the youngest children can perform simple kitchen tasks, such as mixing, adding, grinding soft products on a grater or mixing. Showing children that eating or preparing food can be fun will be another element in their healthy eating education.
Kindergarten and School
In addition to family, kindergarten or school also has a significant impact on children’s eating behavior. After all, the child spends five days a week in the facility, an average of eight hours a day, consuming about 75 percent. meals. Nutritional education is carried out by serving meals throughout the day, as well as educational activities, e.g. cooking workshops or healthy eating talks.
The director, who is responsible for the quality of nutrition in the institution he manages, plays an extremely important role in this process. Its task is to equip staff with appropriate knowledge, e.g. by organizing training, organizing educational classes for children, as well as exercising control over the quality of food products served to children.
Applying the current principles of healthy eating will allow you to offer good and nutritionally balanced meals. The director can also influence the parents of children attending the institution with his attitude. The basis is offering healthy and tasty meals that parents can learn about on the menu. In turn, boasting about educational activities, introduced changes in nutrition and engaging parents in some educational activities, e.g. health-related picnics, cooking together, organization of a healthy pre-school Christmas Eve can indirectly improve the nutrition of children, also outside the facility.
Teachers and kitchen staff
The management can’t do much without employee involvement. Not only kitchen staff who prepare delicious meals for them, but also teachers play an important role in children’s healthy eating education. Their attitude towards served meals, i.e. not criticizing what is served, in the presence of foster children and sharing meals with their charges is of great importance in encouraging children to eat. As with situations at home, they observe teachers who are their authority and imitate their behavior.
As part of healthy eating education, teachers can get involved in the organization of, e.g. buffet or cooking classes, during which children can be introduced to new products, show them in a different setting and in different ways. Sometimes the form of serving, encouraging the child to self-impose a meal or preparing a sandwich will be an impulse for him to try a previously disliked thing.
Why is this so important?
Health behaviors are shaped throughout life, but it is childhood that has the greatest impact on future. It is worth using this time, especially when the child attends kindergarten, where he has access to all meals. Nutritional education should be treated as a long-term task and an “investment” in the child’s future health, and its parents, management and staff should be involved in the process. Joint and coherent educational activities guarantee the greatest success and can affect the development of proper eating habits of the youngest children to the greatest extent.