We recognise that a nutritious and balanced diet also helps set the foundations for lifelong food preferences - making it vital that children eat well during this period.

Despite this, evidence suggests that the diets of under 5s in the UK are often low in fibre and key vitamins and minerals (such as vitamin D and iron) and too high in added sugars and salt. As a result, one in five children in the UK currently start school overweight or obese.

Children in full childcare can receive up to 90% of their daily food intake from nursery food, so parents need to be assured that their children are being provided with healthy, balanced food that fulfils all of their nutrient requirements.

 Meet our Nutrition Consultant - Charlotte Stirling-Reed - The Baby & Child Nutritionist 

After obtaining a first class degree in Human Biology and Nutrition and a Masters in Nutrition and Public Health, Charlotte started her career working for the NHS where she trained alongside a Nutrition and Dietetic team in Maternal, Infant and Child Nutrition. Charlotte has had many roles, including working with nurseries and after school clubs, working on projects with older adults in care homes and community outreach centres and has also worked in Brighton running weight loss groups and clinics for adults. The whole time however Charlotte has always continued to work with children and families, supporting them with raising little foodies & helping them to confidently feed their children a balanced diet.  

As founder of her hugely successful consultancy practice - SR Nutrition - Charlotte works with a variety of clients including global brands and celebrities. Charlotte recently supported Joe Wicks on his Wean in 15 book and campaign and Charlotte is now also a bestselling author with her own book “How to Wean Your Baby”.  

As part of her work supporting parents, Charlotte provides free resources and regularly runs webinars on Weaning & Fussy Eating to support parents with feeding their children with confidence. You can find out more about her Weaning Workshops here.  

Charlotte is very excited to be working with Zebedees and says “I’ve always wanted to team up with a nursery meal provider as I feel that I can be a helpful influence on what is going onto hundreds of little one’s plates this way. I’m so pleased to be on board working with the team at Zebedees, I think they do a fantastic job as it is and I’m excited to get stuck in with Zebedees, supporting their menus and raising awareness of the importance of nursery food for young children. Watch this space for lots of exciting work that will hopefully help us change the status quo when it comes to nursery food provision!” 


The good food guarantee

Here at Zebedees we take our nursery food responsibility seriously.

Combining the knowledge, passion and expertise of over 20 years and over 70 members of staff, we have perfected the art of preparing fresh, home cooked nursery food that is appealing to young children, while keeping variety and nutrition at the forefront. Our vans are delivering nursery food every day across Sussex, Kent, London, Brighton, Surrey and Essex.

We work with a Nutritionist to ensure that our nursery food is low in salt and added sugars, as well as containing the right amount of nutrients to support the high energy requirements of pre-school children.

We follow the Government Guidance for Menus for Early Years Settings when formulating our standard nursery food menus, to ensure that we meet all Early Years Foundation Stage food requirements. Our Nutritionist assesses our menus to ensure we are not only meeting these guidelines but that we are going above and beyond to achieve a standard of excellence in early years nutrition.

Our menus are analysed using specialist software to ensure they meet minimum standards for iron, zinc, carbohydrate, protein, fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate and calcium and maximum levels for sodium, NME sugars, fat and energy as per the Caroline Walker Trust guidelines.

We endeavour to include a range of wholesome ingredients and flavours in the nursery food we provide. We incorporate food that children might not normally encounter outside of nursery to help reduce sensitivity to trying different foods later in life.

Our menus cover a range of dietary requirements to ensure all children are receiving a well balanced meal, regardless of cultural diversities or medical requirements.

Our mission is to make sure that mealtimes are a much loved part of the day. To help encourage healthy eating, we supply reward stickers designed to motivate young children to make healthy decisions.

What does nutritionally balanced actually mean?

We are always looking at ways to improve the quality and nutrition of our menus. That’s why we seek expert advice from specialist baby and child nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed. Charlotte assesses our menus to ensure we are not only meeting the recommended government guidelines but that we are going above and beyond these guidelines to achieve a standard of excellence in early years nutrition. The table below demonstrates how we meet the government guidelines and how we go the extra mile to ensure children are provided with excellent nutrition.
What the Government Guidance Recommends
How Zebedees go the Extra Mile

Starchy Foods

♥ 1 portion of starchy foods at each main meal

♥ 3 different types of starchy foods provided across each week

♥ Wholegrains (i.e. brown rice/wholemeal pasta/wholemeal bread) provided at least once a week

♥ Wholegrains (i.e. brown rice/wholemeal pasta/wholemeal bread) are provided at least 3 times each week

♥ At least 8 different types of starchy food provided across the week

♥ No tinned pasta or flavoured rice products are used

♥ No carbohydrate foods are fried

Fruits and Vegetables

♥ Provide at least 1 portion of vegetables and/or fruits as part of each main meal

♥ Provide a variety of vegetables and fruit across the week

♥ At least 5 different fruits and/or vegetables are offered each day

♥ A colourful variety of fruits and vegetables are provided to ensure a range of essential nutrients

♥ Vegetables are also added to composite dishes such as curries, casseroles and pasta dishes


♥ 1 source of protein – including a variety of meat, fish, eggs, beans, pulses and meat alternatives at each meal

♥ Meat products (such as sausages and meatballs) no more than once a week

♥ A variety of meat, fish and meat alternatives (i.e. soya mince, Quorn) across the week

♥ Oily fish (salmon/mackerel/sardines/herring/anchovies) at least once every 3 weeks

♥ 1 vegetarian lunch and tea provided each week

♥ Processed meat products such as sausages are limited as much as possible and are included just twice in the 3-week menu

♥ Sausages are carefully sourced to ensure high quality and contain at least 80% meat

♥ Red meat such as beef or lamb is included at least once per week to increase the iron content of the menus

♥ Baked beans are homemade to help reduce salt and sugar content of the meal


♥ 1 dairy product – including milk, cheese, yoghurts, milk-based sauces and second courses made from milk – at each main meal

♥ Different varieties of cheese and yoghurts, such as soft cheese spread, cheddar, natural yoghurt and fromage frais, are included to increase variety

Limiting Sugar

♥ Limited amounts of foods high in NME sugars (added sugars, plus those naturally present in honey, syrups and fruit juices)

♥ We have reformulated many second course recipes to reduce sugar content and improve the nutritional value of these dishes

♥  Vegetables such as carrot and courgette are included in some baked second courses to offer a mixture of savoury and sweet tasting second courses

♥  Our ongoing goal is to continue to reduce the sugar content of our menus as much as reasonably possible, using fruits to sweeten dishes instead of sugar

Limiting Salt

♥  Only 1 portion of ready-made sauces / gravy granules each week

♥ No added salt

♥ No ready-made sauces containing added salt are used

♥  Gravy granules are used less than once per week (twice on the 3-week menu)

♥  Baked beans are homemade

Promoting a positive relationship with food

As well as nutrition, we care about supporting a child’s relationship with food. We promote the message of variety and encourage children to learn that all foods can be enjoyed as part of a balanced and varied diet. That’s why we avoid using the term ‘puddings’ or ‘desserts’. Instead, we prefer to call these ‘second courses’ and aim to include a mixture of both savoury and sweet items for second courses.

 We also serve all tea items on the same plate at teatime. We believe that by serving sweeter tasting foods such as fruit and yoghurt alongside more savoury items, children learn that all foods are equal and second courses do not become the prize or reward that comes after the savoury foods.


The Government Guidance for Menus for Early Years Settings are underpinned by a nutrient framework specific to early years children, to ensure they receive appropriate amounts of energy and nutrients across each week.
However, it's important to remember that all children grow and develop at completely different rates, and appetite is likely to vary in accordance with this. Typical portion sizes supplied are suitable for children with the highest requirements and should therefore be adapted as appropriate.  

The Zebedees Promise

Our children eat real food, prepared from scratch and cooked on the day of delivery. Our menus are developed with our Nutritionist, to ensure the nursery food we deliver meets recommended nutrient targets for pre-school children (including salt and NME sugars).

Specialist Diets

We adapt all our nursery food for a range of food allergies, intolerances, cultural and ethical requirements.

Find Out More

Food Safety

We are committed to ensuring the highest standards of nursery food safety, food quality and food hygiene.

Find Out More

Zebedees pudding policy

As well as nutrition, we care about supporting a child’s relationship with food. We promote the message of variety and encourage children to learn that all foods can be enjoyed as part of a balanced and varied diet.

In the UK we know that children are consuming too much added sugar. At Zebedees we want to ensure we are doing the very best for children’s health and nutrition but also for supporting healthy eating habits in later life. By reducing the sugar content and the sweetness of our menus we are not only supporting children’s physical and dental health, we are also setting an example to nurseries, parents and families that second courses do not always have to be ‘sweet treats’.

The expectation that puddings and desserts are always something sweet (and often used as a reward for eating well at the main meal) does not support a healthy relationship with food. It can make the second course more appealing in the eyes of the child. Instead of fuelling this idea that puddings are more desirable we feel it’s important to challenge this association and help promote the idea that all foods are equal and that our bodies need lots of different food to keep them healthy.

Making subtle changes such as changing the language from pudding to second course and by serving some typical ‘pudding’ items on the same plate as the main meal we can support the idea that second courses are equally important nutritionally and will never be used as a reward, prize, or bribe.

* Please note that advice for children between birth and 12 months of age differs from those aged from 1 to 5 years old. The Department of Health recommends that all added sugar is avoided by children under 12 months of age. Please contact Client Services for more information on ordering second courses for children under 1. We also produce our own range of frozen baby food purees, which are completely additive and preservative free.

Book your Free Taster

The best way to see how our nursery catering service will fit into your daily routine is to try it. We believe our nursery food speaks for itself and offer a no-obligation taster service. You can enjoy a selection from our current menu including nursery lunches and afternoon tea. We’d be delighted to come and visit your nursery in East Sussex, West Sussex, Kent, London, Brighton, Surrey or Essex.


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