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Optimising children’s nutrition for health and learning

3 min read
AUTHOR: Ross Carver-Carter
Father and son preparing food

A child’s diet impacts their health, learning and mental wellbeing, meaning it’s crucial that parents get nutrition right. By establishing healthy eating patterns in early life, we can also protect children against poor dietary choices in adolescence and beyond.

As it stands, we are falling woefully short. Childhood obesity is on the rise in the UK, with as many as 10% of reception age kids (4-5) now classed as obese. Ultra-processed foods high in fat, sugar and salt are a staple of many children’s diets, at least partly fuelled by the ongoing cost of living crisis.

Curated from the Food Matters Live Podcast, the following episodes explore the link between childhood nutrition, school performance and overall wellbeing whilst asking how we can encourage better eating habits amongst children and improve nutritional engagement.

Childhood eating habits – and how to change them

girl and boy on picnic in the forest, the children lie on covered and read a book

Feeding your child a balanced, healthy diet can be challenging, especially whilst navigating the ongoing cost of living crisis. According to a recent study in the UK, around one-fifth of parents have struggled to provide food for their families, with 1.2 million Britons living in “food deserts” – areas too far from supermarkets to purchase cheap fresh food easily.

So what impact can poor nutrition have on a child’s development? How do their nutritional needs change throughout childhood? And how can we encourage picky eaters to enjoy healthy foods? Joining us on the Food Matters Live podcast to tackle these questions is Hannah Love, a paediatric nurse and nutritionist with over 25 years of experience.

How do we get children engaged with nutrition?

Angry child sat at dinner table refusing to eat their greens

The foods and beverages children get most excited about are often those that are worst for them – processed sweets, fast-food burgers and fizzy drinks. But why?

Far from being a coincidence, these products often use fun characters, vibrant colours and engaging shapes to appeal to children. Which begs the question: could these same techniques be used to engage children with healthy eating instead?

In this thought-provoking podcast episode, we explore the psychology behind childhood eating habits and look at the best approach to cultivate an appreciation for healthy, sustainable eating in kids. We also chat with Tomo Delaney at Noshi – the company behind organic, fruit-based edible paints allowing kids to decorate their food.

Around the world in 10 trays: school meals from around the world

Children watching cooking tutorials from digital tablet and making food

Many children rely on school meals for a significant portion of their calorific intake, but depending on where you are in the world, these can look very different.

Whilst some countries offer nutritionally balanced meals prepared by the students themselves, others continue to serve up foods high in salt, fat and sugar – all of which can trigger physiological changes that disrupt learning.

In this fascinating feature article, Food Matters Live take a tour around the world’s school kitchens, comparing and contrasting the nutritional value of each dish.

Explore research developments, market trends and ingredient innovation across the nutritional world at the Inspiring Nutrition event, this November.