How can I help address inequalities and support nutrition in 5-8s?

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Key messages for parents, grandparents and other care-givers

Parents and other care givers can be encouraged to support good nutrition in 5-8s by promoting the following key messages:

  • Young people who see their parents, grandparents and carers following a healthy lifestyle tend to develop the same good habits.
  • Encourage children to help prepare snacks and meals.
  • Grill, steam, bake or boil foods instead of frying them.
  • Avoid fast foods and takeaways that are high in fat and salt.
  • Use smaller plates for smaller portions and smaller tummies.
  • Have regular sit-down meals together as often as possible.
  • Change sugary drinks to water or milk.
  • Change playtime snacks from biscuits, sweets and crisps to healthier options, such as fruit.
  • Encourage children to make healthy choices by explaining what makes one choice better than another.
  • Involve children and young people with food shopping to give them responsibility for making healthy choices.
  • Avoid using food as a reward. Stickers, colouring-in and fun ‘active’ games can be used as a reward for children.

For advice and tips, download a copy of Happy Healthy Kids (external link).

Parents who are worried about their child's weight or growth and development should seek help early - speak to their midwife, health visitor or GP.

For information and details of local support, parents can visit Parenting Across Scotland (external link) or call ParentLine Scotland on 0800 028 2233.

Teachers, pre-school staff, childminders

In addition to promoting the messages for parents and carers given above:

  • If you are providing childcare, ensure your facility meets National Care Standards (external link) in relation to early years food and nutrition, in particular:
    • National Care Standard 3.3 - Children and young people have opportunities to learn about healthy lifestyles and relationships, hygiene, diet and personal safety.
    • National Care Standard 3.4 - Children and young people have access to a well-balanced and healthy diet (where food is provided) - which takes account of ethnic, cultural and dietary requirements, including food allergies.
  • Organise timetabled, sit-down snack and mealtimes to ensure all children get a chance eat and drink, to see other children eating, to try new foods and develop good table habits and social skills.
  • Discuss any issues encountered around foods you have offered or any problematic behaviours around food and eating with parents.
  • Inform parents and carers of the foods children have tried while in your care.
  • Inform parents of any food-related activities you have undertaken with their child - research shows that teacher-led classroom based activities supported by parent-led activities in the home are most effective in supporting healthy eating knowledge and habits among children.

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Health visitors, GPs, practice nurses and social workers

Health visitors, GPs, practice nurses and social workers are ideally placed to develop trusting, respectful communicative relationships with parents of the type research has shown they most value.

  • Focus on interventions that maximise household income, for example by giving support to help parents and carers access benefits advice.
  • Observe good 'Inclusive Communication Practice' as set out in Principles of Inclusive Communication - A self-assessment tool for public authorities.
  • Use the 'Teach-Back Technique' to help ensure important information has been adequately understood: Teach-Back Technique Postcard (Download PDF - 360kb).
  • Ensure that fathers are equally consulted and informed in matters concerning the health, development and wellbeing of their children (except where precluded by child protection concerns).

In addition, local health board health promotion departments should be able to identify local opportunities for parents to improve their food skills and access to healthy foodstuffs, for example cookery classes.

Service managers and commissioners

Service managers and commissioners can help by:

  • ensuring childcare facilities adhere to National Care Standards (external link) in relation to early years food and nutrition, in particular:
    • National Care Standard 3.3 - Children and young people have opportunities to learn about healthy lifestyles and relationships, hygiene, diet and personal safety.
    • National Care Standard 3.4 - Children and young people have access to a well-balanced and healthy diet (where food is provided) - which takes account of ethnic, cultural and dietary requirements, including food allergies.
  • ensuring staff who work with parents and carers are appropriately trained to promote healthy eating for the early years
  • ensuring staff who work with parents and carers have the time and resources to explain any advice given
  • ensuring that only healthy snacks, meals and drinks are offered in facilities where children eat
  • ensuring healthy lifestyle information is available to all
  • displaying and distributing resources such as Happy Healthy Kids (external link).

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Voluntary sector workers and managers

Voluntary sector agencies and workers can:

  • emphasise the benefits of a healthy diet in the early years to all parents
  • only offer healthy snacks, meals and drinks
  • ensure staff are appropriately trained and have the time to explain healthy eating advice
  • where possible, provide opportunities for children and parents to taste new foods and prepare foods.

Local health board health promotion departments should be able to identify local opportunities for parents to improve their food skills and access to healthy foodstuffs, for example cookery classes.

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