What’s in a Nursery Menu? The Importance of Healthy Eating for Children

As a parent, are you curious about which foods are contained in a nursery menu?

Are you anxious about what your child is eating at nursery and want to know more about their nutrition?

Depending on how much time your child spends at nursery, they could be eating a significant proportion of their meals there.

As a result, it’s important you understand exactly what food your child is consuming so you can be confident they’re receiving the nutrition they need.

Making sure your child eats the right foods from an early age is very important. In their early years, children start to build a relationship with food, and this will continue as they move through their life.

Therefore, encouraging positive eating habits in little ones can help make sure they are happy and healthy through nursery and beyond.

However, how do you know these healthy food habits are being maintained when you’re not present? You put a lot of faith in the nursery you choose, and you trust them to provide the right food for your child.

They have a responsibility to care for your child, and that includes providing healthy and nutritious meals. Now, we’re not trying to say your child can’t have a treat every now and then! It’s about balance, and making sure they’re consuming the right proportions of different food groups at the right times.

So, let’s dive into the importance of healthy eating for little ones.
two children eating food

Why Is a Nursery Menu Important?

We’ve briefly touched on this in the intro, but a nursery menu should contain all of the foods that your child needs to thrive.

Research has shown that a balanced, nutritious diet has a positive impact on a child’s ability to learn. During their early years, a child’s mind is absorbing a lot of information as they engage in new experiences for the very first time.

They’re discovering new ideas and concepts, and working out how different things work which takes a lot of energy. They’re also meeting a lot of new faces, and learning how to interact with others, which can be tiring in their early years of life.

Essentially, this is a period of rapid growth and their mind is like a sponge. Good nutrition is essential as it supports their well being and cognitive development.

At Nursery, you’re handing this responsibility over to the nursery practitioners. Lots of parents work full time jobs, and as such, your child might be at nursery for the majority of the week. Therefore, the nursery menu needs to provide children with the right food.

Any child care provider has a duty to introduce your child to a variety of foods and establish a pattern of regular meals and healthy snacks.

The arrangements of these meals will vary depending on the nursery you choose, so it’s important you do your research before choosing which setting is right for your child.

Do Nurseries Have a Responsibility to Provide a Healthy Nursery Menu?

Every nursery setting has a responsibility to provide a healthy and nutritious nursery menu for the children in their care.

The Government’s Department of Education’s Statutory Framework for The Early Years Foundation Stage defines standards that nurseries and other childcare providers must meet.

However, these are vague and are often misinterpreted as a result.

The guidelines simply refer to:

  • Healthy, balanced, and nutritious meals and snacks
  • Fresh drinking water at all times
  • An area adequately equipped to provide healthy meals

Because there is nothing that actually states what should be included in a nursery menu, nursery settings can often get this wrong.

Without having a qualified Dietitian or Nutritionist advising on what to include, nurseries use their own knowledge to decipher what foods to offer children.

As a result, this causes a great deal of variability between settings, which can be confusing for parents when deciding which nursery is right for their child.

However, there are more detailed voluntary guidelines that nursery settings can use to help them interpret the standards in the right way.
young child smiling

What are the Voluntary Guidelines for a Nursery Menu?

Whilst the voluntary guidelines have been available since 2012, nurseries can choose whether or not they listen to these guidelines when deciding what food to serve children.

As such, these guidelines are helpful, but they do not provide any guarantee that your chosen nursery will follow them when designing their own menu.

According to the guidelines, a healthy balanced diet for children aged one to five is based on the following four food groups:

  • Starchy foods such as bread, potatoes, rice, pasta and cereals (four portions per day)
  • Fruit and vegetables (five portions per day)
  • Meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy forms of proteins (two portions per day)
  • Milk and dairy foods (three portions per day)

These four food groups provide a range of essential nutrients that children need to develop.

It’s important to offer a selection of food and drinks from the food groups above, as this helps to ensure that a good balance of nutrients is consumed. As well as detailed information about each food group, the guidelines also cover the areas below:

  • Drinks
  • Desserts, puddings and cakes
  • Fat
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • How to read food labels
  • Iron and zinc
  • Food additives
  • Ready-made meals and takeaways
  • Fortified foods
  • Portion sizes for different ages

The guidelines also provide information about how food should be balanced throughout the day.

It is important that children consume the right amount of food and drink at different times as this ensures a well-balanced, healthy diet.

The guidelines divide energy and nutritional requirements across meals and snacks in the following proportions:

  • Breakfast — 20%
  • Mid-morning snack — 10%
  • Lunch — 30% (assuming lunch is the main meal)
  • Mid-afternoon snack — 10%
  • Tea — 20%

Whilst this is a fantastic guide, there is nothing set in stone.

Nursery settings can still choose which parts of the guidelines they listen to, which explains the varied experiences parents have when looking through different nursery menus.
children healthy eating at nursery

How Nurseries can use the Voluntary Guidelines in their Nursery Menu

Nursery settings should be aware of the voluntary guidelines and should make a conscious effort to include this in the menu planning.

It’s important they ensure each day is balanced so that your child has enough variety. After all, it’s very boring eating the same thing over and over again (even if it is healthy), so they need to introduce children to new and exciting foods.

This includes a variety of textures, taste, and colour so that children can experience food from different cultures. It’s also important to have a menu cycle for several weeks, so that children attending on the same day each week are not always having the same meal.

New menu cycles should be introduced at least twice a year and where possible, seasonal foods should be used. At The Hunny Pot Nursery, we provide a summer and winter menu to provide your child with a mix of delicious meals. Within those seasons, menus are rotated to ensure children experience a variety of cuisines and flavours.

In addition to this, menus should be planned in advance as this helps ensure a good variety of food is maintained.

Meals and snacks should also be shared with parents so that they can plan meals at home.

Nursery Menu Example: The Hunny Pot Nursery

At The Hunny Pot Nursery, all meals are freshly prepared every day. Our own in-house, experienced cook ensures that the meals are well balanced and nutritious, through the provision of a variety of tasty foods.

We understand the growing problem with obesity, which is why we take healthy eating very seriously.

By encouraging positive food habits in early childhood, we can contribute to a healthier and happier society.

You’ll be reassured to know that our kitchen is inspected by Environmental Health Officers every single year. The inspection outcome is a score based on a star rating from 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest.

At The Hunny Pot, we have always achieved a score of 5 and have proudly maintained this for the last ten years.

Take a look at our sample menu below:

hunny pot sample menu screenshot

Our menu options always go down an absolute treat with the children in our care!

We’re not only committed to providing children with nutritious food, but also a fantastic learning experience. That’s why our staff will sit with your child, and will guide them through the importance of good table manners so that they can become independent and happy eaters.

Want to find out more? Get in touch with our friendly team or book a tour of the nursery today!

What Is the Current Health Status of Young Children in England?

When identifying the importance of a healthy nursery menu, it can be helpful to look at some facts about the health status of young children in England.

As we’ve discussed, instilling healthy eating habits from a young age is highly important as this influences the way they see food throughout their life.

Therefore, this can help mitigate problems in later life such as obesity which has huge negative implications on a child’s mental and physical wellbeing.

It can also lead to issues with their self-confidence and self-acceptance which can make it more difficult for them to integrate into a classroom environment.

With that said, let’s look at some statistics about children’s physical health:

  • 14.4% of reception age children (age 4-5) are obese
  • 13.3% of children between 4 and 5 overweight
  • At age 10-11 (year 6) 25.5% of children are obese
  • In years 6 15.4% of all children are overweight
  • Obesity prevalence is higher for boys than for girls

The data above is taken from 2020/21 and is gathered as part of the National Child Measurement Programme.

The report also found that these figures have rapidly increased compared to the previous year (2019/20), when 9.9% of children aged 4-5 and 21.0% of children aged 10-11 were obese.

As a result, childhood obesity rates are on the rise which is why a nutritious nursery menu is critical to ensure children lead happy and healthy lives.
child reaching for strawberries

What’s in a Nursery Menu? The Importance of Healthy Eating for Children

A nursery menu should contain all of the nutrients your child needs to grow and develop.

This is a crucial stage in a child’s life as this is when they first form their food preferences and eating behaviours. Therefore, this provides nursery practitioners with the perfect opportunity to shape a child’s eating for the better by introducing a range of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

Every parent wants to know that their child is eating well at nursery. When they’re not physically present, it’s the responsibility of their chosen nursery to look after their child and serve nutritious food.

As we’ve noted, nutritious doesn’t have to mean boring! It’s about serving delicious meals that are packed with good things that children enjoy eating.

This will encourage children to have a positive relationship with food which is vital for their mental and physical health. On top of providing a good nursery menu, early years settings should also provide ample opportunities for exercise and outdoor play.

At The Hunny Pot Nursery, we have a range of exciting outdoor classrooms that ​​expose children to a wide variety of physical activities. This means children can have a different adventure every day, whilst getting plenty of fresh air and exercise.

To find out more, book a free tour of our nursery today!

What Is Ofsted and How Can it Help Me Find the Right Nursery?

Perhaps you’re looking for a nursery and you’re wondering ‘What is Ofsted?’

You might have heard of Ofsted before, but are unsure what it means practically for your child.

When it comes to choosing the right nursery, you want to be confident that you’ve made the right decision.

After all, this environment sets the foundation for your child’s future learning, so it’s important you choose a nursery that supports their needs.

From educational skills, to social skills, nursery sets the base for your child and influences how they approach learning moving forward. From a young age, it’s important every child feels valued and supported regardless of their individual requirements.

This is where Ofsted comes in, as it ensures every nursery is providing a secure and stable learning environment for your child to thrive.

In this post, we’ll break down exactly what Ofsted is, and how it can help you choose the right nursery.

At The Hunny Pot, we want to make this process as straightforward as possible, as we know how stressful it can be for parents.

Hopefully after reading this post, you will be equipped with all of the knowledge you need when it comes to finding the right nursery setting.
Ofsted inspector and nursery practitioner

What Is Ofsted?

Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.

It’s a government body and it is Ofsted’s responsibility to inspect organisations providing education and skills for learners of all ages, to ensure they are delivering the best possible service.

Any learner, of any age, deserves to receive the highest standard of education and care, and Ofsted ensures this happens.

It carries out inspections and regulatory visits on a regular basis, and publishes reports online for full visibility.

Ofsted are independent and impartial, and they report directly to Parliament.

What Are Ofsted’s Responsibilities?

Ofsted are responsible for numerous jobs, including:

Inspecting

  • Maintain schools, academies, nurseries, and many other educational institutions and programmes outside of higher education
  • Maintain childcare, adoption, fostering agencies, and initial teacher training

Regulating

  • A range of early years and children’s social care services, making sure they’re suitable for children and potentially vulnerable young people

Reporting

  • Publishing reports of our findings so they can be used to improve the overall quality of education and training
  • Informing policymakers about the effectiveness of these services

Ofsted are committed to providing evidence-led information using evaluation tools that are fair and reliable.

By using a clear and concise Ofsted rating system, they can grade a nursery based on evidence found during an inspection. By publicising these reports and ratings online, it allows parents to make more informed decisions about their child’s education.

This leads us nicely onto our next section.
nursery practitioner observing children

What Is an Ofsted Rating?

An Ofsted rating is given to a nursery setting depending on the quality of their services and care.

This rating helps parents understand the level of service their child will be receiving, which gives them peace of mind that their child is being taken care of.

During a visit, an inspector will do several things:

  • Observe the children at play
  • Talk to the nursery practitioner and the children
  • Observe how the nursery practitioner interacts with the children
  • Check the children’s levels of understanding and if they take part in learning
  • Talk to the nursery practitioner about the children’s knowledge, skills, and abilities
  • Observe care routines and how they’re used to support children’s personal development
  • Evaluate a nursery practitioners’ knowledge of the Early Years Foundation Stage

As you can see, the inspection process is robust, so you can be confident the Ofsted rating is accurate and based on real findings.

With that said, let’s explore the 4 different types of Ofsted ratings and what each of them mean.

Inadequate

This is the lowest rating Ofsted hand out and should be a concern for any parent looking for a nursery for their child.

This rating states that the setting does not provide an acceptable quality of education and care for children. As such, serious improvements will have to be made immediately (or at the very least, in time for the next inspection in the following 3 years).

Requires Improvement

If a nursery receives a ‘Requires Improvement’ Ofsted rating, it means they provide an acceptable quality of education and care for children, however, there are still improvements to be made.

These areas of improvement will be identified by the Ofsted inspector and will need implementing as soon as possible.

Good

An Ofsted rating of ‘Good’ is where most nursery settings are most likely sitting. To achieve this rating it means the quality of education is good and all other key judgments are likely to be good or outstanding.

In rare circumstances, one of the key judgement areas may require improvement, as long as there is convincing evidence that the setting is improving this and striving towards good.

Outstanding

And finally, there is ‘Outstanding.’ In order to receive this rating, a nursery setting needs to be exceeding expectations on every level and ‘stand out’ from the average.

This takes everyone into account from nursery practitioners, to administrators, to children. At an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ nursery, staff are fantastic role models who put the needs of every child first. In these settings, children are also well-behaved and happy.
children playing on the carpet

What Are the Four Ofsted Categories?

The four categories covered in an Ofsted inspection are outlined below:

Quality of education

This refers to how well the nursery provides the teaching children need at their specific stage of learning. At The Hunny Pot Nursery, we have 4 bright, attractive floors which are age-related to cater for the needs of the child.

Behaviour and attitudes

This refers to how children, nursery practitioners, parents, and governors feel about the nursery, and how children behave in and out of the nursery setting.

Personal development of children

This refers to how well the nursery setting provides services such as pastoral care to prepare children for the future.

Leadership and management

This refers to how well the Senior Leadership Team manages the nursery.

Under the new Education Inspection Framework 2019 (EIF), Ofsted will focus less on paperwork and results, and more on the development of the child as a whole.

This includes an emphasis on how children can build resilience and become better citizens.

And as we’ve covered, nursery is an integral part of a child’s life as it sets the base for their future.

The lessons and skills they learn at nursery, will shape their path moving forward and will influence the person they become.

What Does the New Education Inspection Framework Mean for EYFS?

As we’ve touched on, the Ofsted framework was updated in 2019 following much discussion and consultation in the sector.

The new framework involves some considerable changes and is more focused on the child as a whole, including their health and wellbeing.

Whilst the changes are detailed and comprehensive, we’ve compiled a list of key takeaways below.

For any parents, this allows you to see how the framework has changed, and which areas Ofsted inspectors will concentrate on:

  • Paperwork is no longer a focus during the inspection as inspectors want to know more about the child is managing, which includes their wellbeing.
  • There will be more direct interactions with nursery practitioners and children as this is the most effective way to assess a child’s progress.
  • The EYFS should be viewed as the basis of curriculum, and then nursery practitioners can decide how to build on this to ensure each child gets the support and attention they need. At The Hunny Pot Nursery, every child is assigned a key person to ensure that daily needs are met so that every child feels special.
  • Inspections will remain consistent as Ofsted implements the new framework changes. The new framework also comes complete with quality assurance procedures and an accessible approach to collected findings and keep everything transparent.
  • A tick-list approach might have been useful in the past, but Ofsted wants to know how providers support nursery practitioners in developing their own judgement through CPD.

Under the new framework, Ofsted wants nursery practitioners to focus more on what they do best – helping children to learn.

Instead of being bogged down by paper work, inspectors want to see what it’s truly like to be a child in a nursery setting. This allows for a much more natural inspection, which in turn, leads to a more accurate Ofsted rating.

As such, you can feel confident that the Ofsted report is reflective of the nursery setting, and not only takes the quality of teaching into account, but also the level of care.

It’s vital every child feels valued and included at nursery, which the new EIF supports.
parent reading an Ofsted report

Top Tips for Parents When Reading an Ofsted Report

Whilst you’ll never be able to know everything from an Ofsted report, it’s still a good indication of quality when it comes to choosing the right nursery.

Following an Ofsted inspection, the inspectors will write up their report and include the rating the nursery will receive.

The full report will be published within 28 days of the inspection taking place, and is available for anyone to read. Ofsted reports can be found here: https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/

Perhaps you’re interested in a nursery and you’ve found their Ofsted report but you’re struggling to make sense of it?

Under the new EIF, reports are designed to be shorter and easy to understand so you can see key points at a glance. This is music to any parents’ ears!

With that said, we’ve put together some top tips to help you understand an Ofsted report:

Number on roll

This tells you how many children are at the nursery. Whether or not this is important is based on individual preferences, as you might want your child going to a nursery with a smaller capacity.

Inspection judgements

When a nursery is inspected, they are given a rating of Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement or Inadequate.

These ratings can then be broken down into the four categories which are Quality of education, Behavior and attitudes, Personal development of pupils and Leadership and management.

Again, this falls down to personal preference, as some parents might be able to overlook ‘needs improvement’ in leadership and management, if they’ve been awarded ‘outstanding’ for personal development.

Which areas needed to be improved

Reading this section gives you an insight into what areas need to be improved so that you can decide what you can overlook and what is too important to ignore.

Bear in mind that even nurseries rated ‘Good’ and ‘Outstanding’ are likely to have action points to make them better.

Next steps for the Nursery

Pay attention to what has been identified as the nursery’s ‘next steps’ as this gives you an insight into what areas require more effort moving forward.

For example, has it been outlined that staff need further training? If so, what areas do they need training in? This helps you decide whether a particular nursery is right for you and your child.

How Important Is Ofsted for Parents?

By understanding what each of the Ofsted ratings mean, and how inspectors have arrived at their judgement, it will inform your decision when choosing which nursery is right for your child.

It’s important you feel comfortable and at ease when leaving your child in the care of a nursery practitioner, as you are putting them in control.

According to the Ofsted Parents Annual Survey 2021, seven in ten parents have read an Ofsted report at some point, which shows how important Ofsted is for parents.

Whether you’re only leaving your child for a few hours or for the whole day, you’re putting the nursery in a position of trust.

You need to understand exactly what services they offer, and how this will benefit your child’s learning. For example, at The Hunny Pot, we provide a range of indoor and outdoor classrooms which allow your child to explore.

We understand how important it is to ignite their curiosity and imagination from a young age, which is why we provide children with a range of interactive learning experiences.

Knowing what services are available is just one piece of the puzzle. As a parent, you need to feel sure that your child’s needs are being met, both from an educational and well being perspective which is why an Ofsted report is so important.
nursery nurse showing children some work

What Is Ofsted and How Can it Help Me Find the Right Nursery?

Hopefully after reading this post, you’re not still pondering ‘what is Ofsted?’

Whilst you can never know the exact ins and outs of every single nursery, an Ofsted report remains a good insight into the quality of a nursery setting.

Aside from the educational value, it also focuses on the needs of the child to ensure their individual requirements are met. Every child has the right to good education, and they should feel fully supported throughout their learning journey.

At The Hunny Pot Nursery, this is something we’re passionate about.

Our team of experts are committed to providing a home-from-home environment for your child, where their needs are consistently met.

We’re very proud to have been awarded a ‘Good’ Ofsted rating, and we continuously strive to provide the best possible care for all children. You can read our Ofsted report here.

To find out more about the nursery or to book a tour, simply get in touch.