Our Reggio-inspired food philosophy
Healthy food supports healthy minds, in turn supporting children's developmental needs.
As a Reggio-inspired centre, food plays a central part in our programme & philosophy. Our food is intentionally & thoughtfully presented. Mealtimes are a great opportunity for children and teachers to nourish minds and the soul, through communal eating, good manners and the opportunity to blend familiar favourites with new tastes and experiences.
Our New Summer Menu…
A month ago we implemented a new fortnightly summer menu. A copy of the menu is available in the foyer, and is posted in the Community section of the Kitchen ‘room’ on Storypark each week. A children’s eating habits survey was sent out to parents in July, with the information from this survey being an important part of our menu review.
Our food inquiry focused on reviewing our menu to ensure:
· A nutritionally balanced diet that meets children’s developmental needs;
· We support calm behaviour throughout that day;
· Sustainability, including use of seasonal fruit & vegetables and low waste;
· Food for the senses that looks appetizing, tastes great and smells delicious;
· Foods that reflect our diverse cultural community, both in terms of our regular offerings and festival food; and
· Food that can be easily served, consumed and cleaned up afterwards.
Our practise at Magic Garden is to be as low as possible in sugar and salt, to not use nuts, and to avoid processed foods wherever possible. Where sugar is necessary, we try to substitute naturally occurring sugar substitutes (fruit, dates, honey etc) where ever practical and safe. We encourage parents to use healthy options when bringing food to the centre (for example for Over 3’s lunchbox days) and ask that sweets, nuts and other processed foods are not brought to the centre. Our Over 3’s room will support parents bringing in birthday cakes, but we closely monitor portion sizes to keep sugar exposure under control.
We worked on understanding and quantifying portion sizes and food types required for the different developmental age groups, with the aim for a balance of nutritious foods and drinks from the five food groups:
1: Bread, rice potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods
2: Fruit and vegetables
3: Milk, cheese and yogurt
4: Meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and pulses
5: Foods high in fat and sugar
Regulations for Early Childcare Centres
Our menu was reviewed in line with the Food Act (2014); Ministry of Health and; Ministry of Education guidelines. We also reviewed recommendations from the World Health Organisation, 5+ a Day and the Australian Government’s Raising Children website.
We choose foods according to:
· cultural habits and traditions of families;
· food allergy and intolerance considerations;
· food preparation time, skills and equipment available;
· ease of serving, consuming and clean up;
· children’s preferences for how food is served to them; and
· accessibility of foods and budget
Infants & Toddlers (0-2 years)
For our infants & toddlers we provide foods that are developmentally appropriate, introducing a variety of foods depending on the age and stage of the learner, covering different textures & colours.
The 5+ A Day food texture chart and Every Bite Counts chart inform the food we offer and both are a great resource if you are looking for inspiration at home.
Quantities and Food Types
Our summer menu uses the following daily dietary guidelines for 2-8 year olds taken from Raising Children:
Daily dietary guidelines for children 2-3 years
With this age group appetites can vary from day to day. Suggested daily serves are:
1 serve of fruit;
2½ serves of vegies;
1½ serves of dairy;
4 serves of grains; and
1 serve of lean meats, eggs, seed pastes (like tahini), or legumes.
Daily dietary guidelines for children 4-8 years (O3 Room)
Children aged 4-8 years should aim for:
1½ serves of fruit;
4½ serves of vegies;
1½-2 serves of dairy;
4 serves of grains; and
1½ serves of lean meats, eggs, nuts (these are not used in our cooking at MG), seed pastes (like tahini), or legumes.
In broad terms, this means about 50-60% carbohydrates and 10-20% protein is optimal for balanced energy and development for pre-school children, remembering that carbs and protein can also be found in fruit, veges and dairy.
What did we learn?
Our review of nutritional requirements versus our old menu identified that our previous menu was too high in protein and fruit and too low in carbohydrates.
Younger children’s brain development needs the easier access to energy that carbohydrates provide, while proteins take longer to absorb (better for adult bodies). Too much fruit can overbalance sugar intake, even though it’s a naturally occurring sugar.
The food groups in our new menu have been rebalanced to reflect the optimal balance from across the food groups suggested by our literature review.
A survey was sent out via email & Storypark to all Magic Garden families, inviting them to share their children’s eating habits. 45 parents participated in our Food survey.
We looked at each child's intake (frequency & quantity) of the different food groups at home to help inform our menu revision, and ensure we are covering nutritional requirements the children may need.
Summary results included:
96% of children surveyed eat breakfast before coming to MG;
75% of children consume an afternoon snack on the days they come to MG (45% always and 30% sometimes);
96% of children surveyed consume dinner on the days they come to MG; and
MG covers approximately 40% of the daily nutritional intake for our learners.
How will we monitor the impact of these changes?
A well-planned menu provides meals and snacks with foods from all the food groups. Our teaching team have been observing the children’s reaction to the menu and it has been working well, with our objectives (see page 1) being met most of the time. A key indicator is learners partaking in relaxed and happy mealtimes, where learners are provided an opportunity to experience a wide range of healthy foods, feel full and have energy to partake in their day.
We cater for food allergies and do our best to accommodate individual preferences, however our menu needs to work well overall for a large and diverse group, so we continually review our approach to balance these competing priorities. Thank you to parents for your feedback to date – we are always open to further feedback.
Reviewed: 5+ a day resources
Reviewed: Children’s Dietary Habits Survey NZ Oct 2022ChildrenCh’s Dietary
Reviewed: Raising Children
Reviewed Healthy Heart website: https://www.heartfoundation.org.nz/resources/els-sample-menus