Nursery practitioners are being urged to have a “positive influence” and ensure their young diners toddle off with healthy eating habits.

With nearly a quarter of children classed as overweight or obese by the time they join reception class, the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) believes nursery staff have an important role to play in developing the attitudes children have towards food.

Jo Baranek, NDNA’s lead early years adviser,said: “Eating well is an important part of keeping healthy. Children who eat a healthy balanced diet tend to be ill less often, have more energy and a better attention span. Those that don’t consume sugary foods and drinks too often, also have better dental health.

“Young children are learning all the time from what they see as well as what they are told. Showing children where food comes from, serving regular meals, sitting down with children at mealtimes and acting as good role models is important. This can be a great time for children to learn to enjoy good food as well as table manners and social skills such as speaking and listening.”

Afternoon snack time in early years settings can be tricky, with providers wanting to give children something healthy and quick and not too filling as they will be eating at home with their families.

“Some settings may also have limited cooking facilities and may only offer sessional care. In these settings children may also need a healthy snack to sustain them until they go home to their families,” adds Jo.

The NDNA has produced a recipe booklet full of ideas for afternoon snacks, which are tried and tested favourites. They include:

  • Pasta and bean soup
  • Courgette and herb couscous
  • Tandoori chicken salad
  • Tomato feta bake
  • Cheesy hammy pancakes
  • Ham and tomato scones
  • Cauliflower berry muffins

The ‘Healthy snacks, Happy children’ booklet can be purchased online at

The Department for Education, the Department of Health and Public Health England have also produced a series of resources on nutrition aimed at early years providers with advice from a panel of early years and nutrition experts including the British Nutrition Foundation. For more details visit

Level 2 Nutrition Awareness for Early Years

The NDNA has teamed up with training provider The Safer Food Group to offer a Level 2 Award in Nutritional Awareness. This specific qualification in nutrition for early years covers the following topics:

  • Introduction to nutrition, important terms and definitions, the business benefits of a well-managed and nutritionally balanced menu
  • What a healthy diet contains and providing a balanced diet
  • Supporting staff and parents to be healthier
  • Allergies and intolerances
  • Menu planning including practical guidance on what (and how) to provide menus for 0-5s and tips for involving parents and carers

For more information, visit