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Call for under-fives diet guidance

Childminders and nurseries should be given clear guidance on what to feed young children, a report has recommended.

Some childcare providers remain confused about how to make sure under-fives are eating and drinking in a healthy way, a panel of independent experts concluded.

Consultant paediatrician Dr Anthony Williams, who chaired the advisory panel, said: "The message from childcare providers is clear. They want to feed children well and know that it's vital to start healthy eating habits early, but at the moment they have no clear advice on how to achieve this in practice."

Dr Williams continued: "In this report we show how providers could be more certain that they're meeting their children's nutritional needs. It would save staff time on researching and developing menus, and would help parents know what to look for if they want to be sure their children are well-fed in childcare."

He said all childcare providers should follow the same guidelines as to what kind of foods to prepare for meals and snacks, and added: "Unless all childcare providers get a better steer on what they should be offering, children in different settings will continue to have very different food experiences - and a very different start to learning about what foods are good for them."

The report, commissioned by the Government and supported by the School Food Trust, comes after the National Child Measurement Programme revealed that almost a quarter of children are obese or overweight by the time they start school at the age of five.

The panel, made up of nutritionists, policy advisers and organisations representing childcare centres and childminders, found some under-fives were given food more suitable for older children or adults, which was too high in salt and sugar and too low in essential minerals.

They said providing healthy food for children was key to their learning and development, and said anyone working with children should be offered training in nutrition.

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