Why nursery food matters
Healthy eating habits in the early years are crucial; impacting on growth, development, behaviour and academic performance in later life.
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 meals, so parents need to be assured that their children are being provided with healthy, balanced food that fulfils all of their nutrient requirements.
The good food guarantee
Here at Zebedees we take this responsibility seriously.
Combining the knowledge, passion and expertise of over 20 years and 90 members of staff, we have perfected the art of preparing fresh, home cooked food that is appealing to young children, while keeping variety and nutrition at the forefront.
We are the only early years food provider to employ a full time in-house Nutritionist to ensure that our meals are low in salt and added sugars and contain the right amount of nutrients to support the high energy requirements of pre-school children.
We follow the ‘Eat Better Start Better’ menu planning checklist when formulating our standard nursery menus, to ensure that we meet all Early Years Foundation Stage food requirements.
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 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 meal times 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?
In accordance with the Eat Better Start Better guidelines, we serve the following for lunch:
• Both a main course and a dessert (fruit, cereal or milk-based) each day
• Limited amounts of foods high in NME sugars (added sugars, plus those naturally present in honey, syrups and fruit juices)
• Only one portion of ready-made sauces / gravy granules each week
• No added salt
1 portion of starchy foods - such as bread, rice, pasta and potatoes - each day
3 different types of starchy foods provided across each week
Wholegrains (i.e. brown rice/pasta/bread) provided at least once a week
Milk & Dairy
1 dairy product – including milk, cheese, yoghurts, fromage frais, milk-based sauces, custard and puddings made from milk – each day.
Butter and cream are not included in this group.
Fruits & Vegetables
1 portion of fruits and/or vegetables – a colourful variety (including fresh, frozen, canned in natural juice and dried) to provide a range of essential nutrients – each day.
Potatoes are classed as a starchy food and are therefore not included in this group.
1 source of protein – a variety of meat, fish, cheese, eggs, beans, pulses & meat alternatives – each day.
Meat products (such as sausages & meatballs) no more than once a week. A variety of meat, fish & meat alternatives across the week.
Oily fish at least once every 3 weeks. One vegetarian lunch provided each week.
The Eat Better Start Better guidelines 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 in-house Nutritionist, to ensure they meet recommended nutrient targets for pre-school children (including salt and NME sugars).
Zebedees pudding policy
Children aged 1-5 have a high requirement for vitamins and minerals because of the rapid rate of growth and bone development and high activity levels during these years.
In fact, pre-school age children need more nutrients and calories per kilo body weight than a grown man. A healthy diet for young children must therefore differ from that of older children and adults.
Early years settings are encouraged to meet the Voluntary Food & Drink Guidelines for Early Years Settings in England, introduced in 2012, including those for non-milk extrinsic sugars, often added to foods & beverages during processing.
As part of these guidelines, desserts, puddings and cakes made with cereals (such as rice or oats), milk and fruit can be included as part of a healthy, balanced diet for young children. With this in mind, our menus include a variety of different pudding options, balanced out across the 3-week menu cycle. Any desserts made with ingredients that contain added sugar (such as the ice cream and the custard) only contain amounts that are well within suggested limits, with ingredient quantities reviewed and adapted where appropriate.
Should parents prefer for their child to receive just fruit for pudding in place of desserts containing any refined sugar, we are happy to accommodate this. However, when the guidelines were developed, it was found that where settings provided only fruit as a dessert option, children often weren’t getting enough calories, carbohydrate or nutrients (such as zinc and iron - needed for healthy growth and immunity), which a variety of different dessert options can help to provide.
Furthermore, we believe that establishing an "everything in moderation" approach from a young age, in the context of an otherwise nutritious and balanced diet, is important to help set healthy eating habits later in life.
* 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, and we can supply fruit only puddings upon request. We also produce our own range of organic frozen baby food purees, which are completely additive and preservative free.