Our big message for this year’s Healthy Eating Week is, Eat well for you and the planet!
Each day of the Week has a different theme:
- Focus on fibre - for meals and snacks
- Get at least 5 A DAY - put plenty on your plate
- Vary your protein - be more creative
- Stay hydrated - fill up from the tap
- Reduce food waste - know your portions
Use the resources below to run activities for each theme in your Early years setting during the Week. There is a downloadable poster and icon for each theme.
Complete and display the What’s happening this week? sheet to let everyone know what your setting will be doing during Healthy Eating Week.
Remember to print some copies of the Healthy Eating Week certificate to award to children for getting involved in activities.
Share what you are doing during Healthy Eating Week on twitter @NutritionOrgUK #HEW22 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Focus on fibre - for meals and snacks
Foods that provide fibre include wholegrain varieties* of starchy foods (such as wholegrain bread, breakfast cereals, brown rice, and wholewheat pasta) and potatoes with their skin on, fruit and vegetables and pulses (such as red kidney beans or lentils). Fibre is important for keeping the digestive system healthy. Most of us need to increase our fibre intake. (You can visit our Fibre webpage for more information about fibre.)
The resources below for Early years have a particular focus on starchy foods (other themes in the Week cover fruit and vegetables and pulses).
- Set up a tasting activity to allow children to sample some different types of wholegrain breakfast cereals (aim for unsweetened varieties). Remember to check for allergies, intolerances or special dietary requirements before you do any tasting with children. Use the Tasting guide to help you set up the session. You could display the Sensory vocabulary cards to help children describe what they taste. The children could record their tasting experience on a print out of slide six from the My food book or the Tasting ingredients sheet.
- Use the Pleasing pasta session to explore different types of pasta and pasta dishes. If you are working with children over the age of 2 years*, talk about how different types of pasta could be swapped to wholewheat varieties to add more fibre. Fibre helps our digestive system to stay healthy.
- Use the Brilliant bread session to help children learn more about bread and that we should have a starchy food like bread with every meal. As above, if you are working with children over the age of 2 years*, talk about how different types of bread could be swapped to wholemeal varieties to add more fibre.
Try some of these simple recipes to support learning about different starchy foods.
- Brilliant bread - Wholemeal bread flour or a mix of white and wholemeal bread flour could be used in this recipe to add more fibre.
- Soda bread - This recipe is made partly with wholemeal flour, this is an opportunity to talk to children about how wholemeal flour increases the amount of fibre in the bread.
- Pleasing pasta - This recipe could be adapted to use wholewheat pasta.
- Potato salad - This recipe uses new potatoes with skins on, which adds more fibre to the dish compared with potatoes without skins.
*Wholegrain starchy foods should be introduced gradually from 2 years of age because children under 2 can fill up more easily on these bulky foods and may stop eating before they’ve eaten enough energy for their needs.
Get at least 5 A DAY - put plenty on your plate
Fruit and vegetables are an important part of the diet because they contain vitamins and minerals as well as fibre. We should all aim to have at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. As a general rule, one portion for children is roughly what fits into the palm of their hand.
To help with eating a variety of fruit and vegetables, it might be useful to think about ‘eating a rainbow’ of colours, for example, having fruit and vegetables that are red, purple/blue, orange/yellow, green and brown/white.
Encouraging young children to eat lots of fruits and vegetables will not only help them get the nutrients they need but will also train their palate to like these foods, which will mean that they will be more likely to eat lots of fruits and vegetables throughout childhood and into adulthood.
- Use the 5 A DAY notes and resources to teach children that we need to have at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day to help us stay healthy.
- Help children become more familiar with the wide variety of fruit and vegetables available by using the Find the fruit and vegetable resource. Make a colour copy of sheet showing the fruit and vegetables and use the questions provided to support discussion about the different fruit and vegetables that can be seen. You could display this resource for the children to use independently and they can make up their own questions to ask each other.
- Print a large copy of the Fruit and vegetable tracker to display in your setting. Allow the children (and adults!) to add a coloured dot to the salad bowl every time they have a portion of fruit or vegetables. You can use the tracker for a day or a week. Alternatively, you could give each child their own tracker to complete.
- Use the Vegetable activity pack to help children explore different types of vegetables.
- Use some of the Food journey cards (e.g. tomatoes, strawberries) to talk about the journey of different fruit and vegetables from growing to eating.
Try these simple recipes to support learning about fruit and vegetables.
Vary your protein - be more creative
Young children need protein in their diet to help them grow and develop, for example, for muscle and bone growth. Protein foods can include pulses (such as beans, lentils or chickpeas), foods made from pulses (such as tofu, dahl or soya mince), fish, eggs, nuts and seeds (if no allergies, and only ground or as a nut or seed butter to avoid choking), lean meat and poultry. These foods also provide iron which is essential for a growing child. Oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, trout, and sardines) are also an important source of omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D.
We are all encouraged to eat a wider variety of protein foods and choose plant protein sources more often, to improve not only our health but also the health of the planet.
Use these ideas to help children explore the variety of different protein foods available, with a particular focus on protein foods from plants, such as beans, lentils and chickpeas.
- Print the Protein foods cards and separate the images from the name labels. Show the children the different foods and ask them what they are called. Can they match the name labels to the images? Question them about the foods. Have you eaten this before? Did you have it with other foods? What was it like? Explain that we get protein from these foods and protein helps muscles and bones to grow.
- Hand out the Protein foods cards to the children (it may be useful to use the cards with their labels for this activity). Task them to group themselves in different ways, for example: sort themselves into plant or animal sources of protein; sort themselves into the following groups – beans, lentils, peas, nuts and seeds, fish, meat and other; order the cards alphabetically.
- Show the Protein meal cards. Ask the children to identify the protein food in each meal. Which of these meals have they eaten? Which of these meals would they like to try? You could challenge the children to try matching some of the Protein foods cards to the different meals. You may like to remove some of the cards to make the activity more manageable for younger children. Make sure you keep examples of different types of protein, e.g. pulses, fish, eggs, meat and alternatives.
- Show the slides (printed or on a screen) from the Pulse images presentation. Question the children about each food. What is this called? Have you eaten this before? What is it like? Have you seen it at home or in the shops? Explain that these protein foods are called pulses and they come from plants.
- Hide, or display, the Pulse images around your setting. Provide children with a copy of the Perfect pulses sheet. Explain that they need to find each pulse image to help them complete their sheet. Instead of using the Pulses images, for this activity, you could provide the pulses shown on the sheet in sealed packages or cans. You can also do this activity using the Colourful pulses sheet. This involves the children finding images of the three pulses on the sheet to identify their colour. They then need to draw other foods that are the same colour as each pulse.
- Children could draw or paint their favourite protein meal or a protein meal or food they’d like to try.
Try these recipes to explore different types of protein.
- Royal rice - This recipe is a rice salad with red kidney beans. You could experiment with swapping the red kidney beans for other types of canned beans (in water).
- Crunchy chickpea sandwich - Try this tasty alternative to coronation chicken.
- Tantalising tuna wraps - Try using wholemeal wraps for added fibre.
Learn about the range of pulses available with these colourful images.
Find each pulse and colour it correctly. Fill in the missing letter in the name of each pulse.
Colour each pulse correctly. Draw some other foods that are the same colour.
Water plays many different roles in the body including helping to control body temperature and removing waste products in the urine. Our bodies lose water throughout the day in urine and sweat as well as small amounts through breathing. If we do not drink enough fluids, over time we can become dehydrated, which can cause symptoms like headaches and poor concentration. Young children are more at risk of dehydration than older children and adults.
We are all recommended to have about 6-8 drinks (glasses or cups of fluid) a day and more if the weather is hot or we are being physically active. There aren’t specific recommendations in the UK for how much fluid children should get in a day, but based on guidance from the EU, younger children need relatively smaller drinks (about 120–150ml per drink).
Water and milk are the best drinks for children as they do not contain free sugars. For children between the ages of one and two years, whole milk is recommended. From two years onwards semi-skimmed milk can be introduced gradually.
Fresh tap water should be available and accessible to children throughout the day. Children should be encouraged to drink water as their main drink. Water and plain milk should be the only drinks offered at and between mealtimes. Take a look at the Healthy hydration for children aged 1-4 poster for guidance on drinks for young children.
We should choose reusable (cups, glasses, water bottles) or recyclable containers for our drinks to help reduce single-use packaging. The Drinks container activity below encourages children to explore recycling instructions on drinks containers.
- Use the Hydration station guide (EY) and Hydration station sign to set up a hydration station in your setting. Show the children how they can create their own water infusion and encourage them to help themselves throughout the day.
- Play the Drink pairs game with small groups of children. You could also use the cards for other activities. For example, asking children to sort the cards according to whether they are water, milk or made with fruit, or sorting them by the container the are in.
- Print a large copy of the Water tracker to display in your setting. Allow the children (and adults!) to add a blue dot to the water jug every time they have a drink of tap water. You can use the tracker for a day or the whole week. (Alternatively, you could give each child their own tracker to complete.)
- Provide a selection of different drink containers (empty and clean, or sealed). For example, a milk carton, orange juice carton, plastic water bottle, squash bottle. Show the Recycling signs sheet and explain that we can find these signs on packaging to tell us if it can be recycled. Get the children to find the recycling information on each drink container. Talk about the information, e.g. can the container (or part of the container) be recycled? Give children a copy of the Drinks container sheet to complete.
Hydration station set up guide (EY)
Why not try setting up a hydration station to encourage everyone to drink more water?
Colour in the recycling bin. Draw three drink containers that can be recycled.
Play this matching game - the player with the most pairs of drinks at the end is the winner!
Add a blue dot to the water jug every time you have a cup of tap water.
Reduce food waste
In the UK, households are responsible for 70% of UK food waste. According to Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP)**, three commonly wasted food and drink items in UK households include fresh potatoes, bread and milk.
So much goes into producing our food - water, energy, land, and transport. Reducing the amount of food we waste is therefore important to make our diets more sustainable, not only to help save money but also to save wasting the planet's resources.
To help children get the right amount of food and reduce food waste, take a look at the 5532 a-day resource to find out more about portion sizes for children aged 1-4 years.
The activities below are design to get children thinking about food waste and how it can be reduced.
- Print the Food waste or food wasted? sheet. Cut out the images on the first sheet and display sheets showing the plate and food waste bin. Show the images one at a time and talk to the children about what they are and whether they could have been eaten, or if they should be in the food waste bin. Attach the images to the appropriate sheet. Explain to children that lots of food is wasted which means all the things (e.g. water, energy, land, transport) used to make the food are wasted too. Talk about ways we can reduce food waste, e.g. only taking food we will eat, sharing a large portion of a food with others (e.g. halving a large apple or banana), putting food we cannot eat in the fridge (covered) and eating it later or the next day (e.g. a sandwich). Food safety and hygiene should also be discussed when talking about ideas for reducing food waste with the children.
- To reinforce the activity above, provide each child with a copy of the Where should it go? sheet. Task them to cut and stick the images in the correct place – either on the plate or in the food waste bin.
- To help children be more aware of food waste, print and display the Food saver tracker. Allow the children (and adults!) to add a green dot to the bowl every time they save a food from being wasted. There is space on the tracker to make a note of the food that has been saved.
- You could talk to the children about charities such as UK Harvest that rescue and redistribute food.
Try these simple recipes that can be adapted to use up ingredients and save food from being wasted.
- Picturesque pizza – This simple recipe provides lots of opportunities to use up ingredients such as vegetables, cheese and herbs.
- Fruit salad – This recipe is idea for using up fruit that may be becoming a bit soft.
- Vegetable soup – This versatile soup recipe can be adapted to include any leftover vegetables.
**WRAP - Food surplus and waste in the UK
Food waste or food wasted?
Cut out the images. Sort them into those that could be eaten and those that go into food waste.
Food saver tracker
Add a green dot to the dish each time you save some food from being wasted.
Signs like these tell us what packaging can be recycled.
Where should it go?
Colour the pictures. Cut them out and stick them where they belong.
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