At LEYF, we take children’s nutrition very seriously. We know we have a unique opportunity to influence the daily health and ongoing eating habits of our children by providing them with up to three meals and two snacks per day.
Our in-house chefs prepare fresh, well-balanced meals at each of our nurseries, and healthy eating and nutrition have always been central to the ‘Safe Fit and Healthy’ strand in our pedagogy.
Our chefs develop LEYF’s seasonal menus collaboratively, allowing them to respond to the preferences of the children. The menus are developed to expand the children’s palates, offering the best mix of nutrients, flavours, textures, and food groups every week. We serve fish at least twice weekly, fresh fruit and vegetables every day, milk with meals and snacks, and provide continual access to drinking water. Our nurseries also run ‘children’s choice days’ to give children a regular say in what they eat.
We teach our children about food holistically. As well as the importance of a balanced diet, our pedagogy highlights how crucial it is to provide children with experiences throughout the day to develop their understanding and enjoyment of food. For example, our menus include recipes from around the world to help broaden children’s cultural experiences.
We also educate children about where our food comes from and how it impacts the planet. Many of our nurseries have herb gardens and vegetable patches where the children learn about the journey food makes before it reaches our plate. Our chefs and teachers regularly take children out on food-related outings – to local farmers’ markets or even the fishmonger. This helps children to familiarise themselves with raw ingredients, rather than processed products.
Our chefs and teachers run cooking and baking activities with the children, which can help with their counting, weighing, and motor skills. None of our nurseries have any plastic fruits or vegetables. Instead, to help with their sensory education, we encourage children to handle, smell, break apart and taste a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Mealtimes are a great opportunity to develop children’s social skills.
Our meals are served ‘family style’, which means children help themselves from communal serving dishes and sit together with the teachers.
Babies get used to this too by sitting in low-level seats rather than high chairs. We also help children to practice good table manners. Older children learn to set tables with tablecloths and napkins, and particular attention is paid to how food is presented to make it as appealing as possible. We ensure alternative foods are presented in a similar way so that children with allergies or dietary requirements feel included.
Early Years Chef Academy
We are so committed to ensuring children have access to nutritious food that we have established the very first Early Years Chef Academy.
This will train nursery chefs inside and outside LEYF in how to make delicious, appealing, and healthy meals for children. We hope such training will become a minimum for all chefs working in the Early Years.