Your service can make a big difference when it comes to creating a healthy eating environment. When children eat well they learn better, are more alert and are more likely to grow and develop to their full potential.
By providing foods and drinks that support health and wellbeing for children at your service, you can help them establish healthy eating habits from the earliest years in life! Plus, you’ll also be addressing the healthy eating requirements of the National Quality Standard, Quality Area 2- Children’s Health and Safety.
The steps below will help you to get started.
There’s a lot to do and you may face some challenges along the way. So, start wherever will be easiest for you. Many small changes can add up to big differences over time.
As you work through your plan to increase healthy eating, you’ll find lots of helpful resources and information on this website to support the changes you need to make.
Seek leadership and commitment from your organisation
Healthy eating is not a job for just one person! In fact, everyone has a role to play.
To bring about long lasting healthy changes, leadership and commitment from management is important. In fact, gaining this support should be one of your first steps.
When managers actively lead change it helps everyone in your organisation to feel supported and motivated to be involved.
To get the ball rolling, try starting with these ideas:
- coordinate a health and wellbeing team
- find champions or people that encourage and support everyone at the service
- create a health promotion charter which outlines your commitment to health and wellbeing. Contact the Achievement Program for assistance and more information.
- provide time, money, resourcing and support for healthy changes to take place (for example, give cooks extra time to source healthier recipes)
- find ways to involve the whole service (including staff and families)
- involve other groups like health professionals and local networks (for example, local food hubs).
Develop a healthy eating policy
Having an up-to-date healthy eating policy which is applied across your service will help you make successful, long term changes to the food and drinks you provide.
Make sure your policy is comprehensive and covers different areas of the service, not only the menu. For example, think about how your policy addresses the mealtime environment, curriculum activities and learning opportunities, special occasions and engaging with families and the wider community.
Using this approach will help your policy to be more effective.
For more information about developing a policy and to access a policy template which you can adapt, visit Developing a healthy eating policy.
Register with the Achievement Program
A great way to show your leadership and commitment to providing a healthy eating service is to join the Victorian Government’s Achievement Program and work through the healthy eating and oral health best-practice benchmarks.
The Achievement Program gives you an evidence-based framework to create a healthy environment that supports the health and wellbeing of everyone in your service. Once you register with the program, you can access their online portal for a range of tools, resources and to receive the support you need along the way.
For more information about the Achievement Program and to register visit http://www.achievementprogram.health.vic.gov.au/index.htm.
Note: Outside school hours care (OSHC) services cannot register with the Achievement Program independently of the school in which they provide a service. Family day care coordination units are encouraged to join the Achievement Program, though individual educators are unable to register.
Train your staff
The Healthy Eating Advisory Service offers free online training modules and face to face training workshops to help long day care and OSHC services learn about healthy eating for children in care. The sessions cover:
- the importance of healthy eating for children
- healthy eating in the National Quality Standard and the Achievement Program
- the role of services in promoting healthy eating
- healthy menu planning
- case studies
- overcoming challenges and barriers.
Training is for all staff members who are involved in providing foods and drinks to children in care (e.g. cooks, educators and directors). It is a good idea to include the online training modules in inductions for new staff at your service.
For more information visit Training.
Prioritise and make changes
Start making healthy changes to your menu, ideally after completing training. The best way to start is by making simple changes which will have a big impact.
To start, make sure that:
- all meals, snacks and drinks are written on the menu (including breakfast and late snack) and recipes are documented
- unhealthy ‘discretionary’ foods and drinks are not on the menu*
- a variety of fruit and vegetables is provided every day
- water is freely available throughout the day, and this is written on the menu
- for long day care and family day care services, babies under the age of one year are given a variety of healthy foods including iron rich foods every day and foods of different texture which are appropriate for their age. For more information about providing appropriate foods and drinks for babies visit Menu planning for babies.
Assess your menu
Long day care
Use online menu assessment tool, FoodChecker, to assess your menu and make sure it includes the right balance of food and drinks that children need each day for good health. You can also use FoodChecker to help plan future menus in your long day care centre.
Outside school hours care
If you work in or with an outside school hours care service (OSHC), you might like to have some support from HEAS to look at your menu.
Before having a menu assessment, make sure you have:
- demonstrated commitment and leadership from management
- a healthy eating policy which is applied across the service
- learned about the Food and drink guidelines for OSHC
- makde healthy changes to your menu in priority areas.
Once you have completed these steps above, you can submit your menu for an assessment.
* Discretionary foods and drinks includes: chocolate, confectionary, jelly, sweet biscuits, high fat/high salt savoury biscuits, chips, high sugar/high fat cakes and slices, cream, ice cream, deep fried foods (e.g. hot chips) and pastry based foods (e.g. pies, sausage rolls and pasties), most fast food and takeaway foods, some processed meats (e.g. sausages, frankfurts/hot dogs, salami, strasburg, devon, some commercial chicken nuggets and fish fingers), sweet drinks such as soft drinks, fruit juice and fruit drinks, cordial, sports drinks, sports waters, flavoured waters, flavoured mineral waters, iced teas and energy drinks.