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"A large part of their nutrition relies on what they receive in those centres, and brains don't function without food."



Young children, whose brains are rapidly developing, need a nutrient-dense diet to help them as they process the world around them. Without the right nutrients, toddlers and preschoolers might struggle to develop the skills to maintain concentration, which becomes increasingly important as they get older. Having a well balanced menu in an Early Learning service, supports children’s overall strength and wellbeing, with allowing them to have the energy to run around, explore, and be able to regulate themselves better. Balanced nutrition is crucial when you care for Children, as it protects against malnourishment, maintains a healthy immune system, prevents obesity and reduces the risk of chronic disease, as well as it supporting their behaviour.

Morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea should provide 1-5 year old children with half of their recommended daily intake from the five ‘core’ food groups. 

The five core food groups include:

  • Fruit
  • vegetables and legumes 
  • grain (cereal) foods
  • milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives 
  • lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans
  • Sources of added fat, sugar and salt should be limited. 

Water should be the main drink provided. Menus that include breakfast and/or a late afternoon snack will need to offer additional foods and drinks based on the five core food groups. 

The guidelines also provide guidance on catering for food variety, allergies, and more. 


A balanced menu will ensure:

🟢 It supports children’s growth and development, mental/physical wellbeing, and oral health. Children will learn better and be more alert when they eat well.

🟢 Children are receiving adequate portions and a variety of food per meal - Breakfast, morning tea, Lunch, afternoon tea and late snacks and will receive a minimum of 2 servings per child.  

🟢 Reduces children’s risk of developing nutrition-related chronic conditions later in life and  Supports children’s overall behaviour and wellbeing. 


Example menus:

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Example of what is served to the children: 

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Watch with the children, or within your team: How to promote healthy eating in your early childhood service : 

Policy that supports this guide:  



Please refer to attached links for recipes from past, current and future menu's. 

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