Food and Nutrition

At Medowie Gumnut Preschool, we are passionate about nutrition for children. Children have their own unique nutrient needs and meeting those needs is vital for a child to grow up big and strong (and healthy)!
A child’s diet should consist of a variety of foods that contain a range of nutrients.

Nutrients In Food

When talking about food, you’ll often hear people refer to the word nutrients. Is the food full of nutrients? Is it a nutrient-rich food? Are you getting your recommended daily serves of nutrients?

What are Nutrients and Why are they good for you?

Nutrients are the substances in food that our bodies process to enable it to function. Your nutrient requirements are influenced by factors including your age, growth stage and activity. Nutrients are so small that they can’t be seen by the naked eye.
Nutrients can generally be broken onto two categories:
macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein, fats;
micronutrients – vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, vitamin C.

These days there are many nutrient poor foods available – this means they don’t contain much nutrition that your body needs to function. Rather, the food is full of energy (kilojoules) but it’s not nutritional. This means that the food will provide your body with energy (kilojoules) so you won’t feel hungry, but it’s void of other essential nutrients that your body needs to function.


Drinking fluid is essential to stay alive. Water is the best fluid for our bodies as it helps regulate our temperature, aids digestion, assists in the transportation of nutrients around the body, helps kidney function and helps with the elimination of waste products. Water also cushions our organs and joints, helping prevent injury and pressure. Water is vital for survival.
Children should be encouraged to drink water from an early age. If they are, it is likely that this good habit will continue into adulthood.
Dehydration can result when a person does not drink enough fluid. This can result in poor concentration, an increase in stress, headaches, lethargy, dry itchy skin and constipation.
Sugary beverages such as fruit juice, cordial, flavoured mineral water, soft drink and sports drinks are high in sugar and contain very little nutritional value, so they should be limited. Milk is a healthy alternative to water and is a nutritious choice.

5 Food Groups

The key to healthy eating is to enjoy a variety of nutritious foods from each of the 5 food groups. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating displays the 5 food groups on a plate, in the proportion that you should be eating them throughout your day. If you eat a variety of foods from each of these groups, your body will receive all the nutrients and vitamins it needs to function –

The five food groups are:
Dairy: the foods in this group are excellent sources of calcium, which is important for strong, healthy bones. Not many other foods in our diet contain as much calcium as dairy foods.
Fruit: fruit provides vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and many phytonutrients (nutrients naturally present in plants), that help your body stay healthy.
Grain (cereal) foods: always choose wholegrain and/or high fibre varieties of breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, etc. Refined grain products (such as cakes or biscuits) can be high in added sugar, fat and sodium.
Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds: our body uses the protein we eat to make specialised chemicals such as haemoglobin and adrenalin. Protein also builds, maintains, and repairs the tissues in our body. Muscles and organs (such as your heart) are made of protein.
Vegetables, legumes and beans: vegetables should make up a large part of your daily food intake and should be encouraged at every meal (including snack times). They provide vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and phytonutrients (nutrients naturally present in plants) to help your body stay healthy.


Nutrition for Kids: 5 Tips

1) Stick to concrete ideas
Avoid abstract concepts. Children only start to understand abstract concepts once they reach about 11 or 12 years old. For example some concrete ideas are:
Eat lots of different foods every day
Eat fruit and vegetables of all colours of the rainbow every day
Talking about whole food items
Classifying foods by where they come from
“Sometimes” and “everyday” foods
Note: the classification of foods into everyday or sometimes is an abstract concept, but how often foods are recommended to be eaten is a concrete idea.

 Some abstract concepts are:
Vitamins and minerals
Other nutrients that can’t be seen (e.g. protein, calcium, saturated fat)
Classification of foods by nutrients
Recommended serve size; daily recommended serves
Chronic disease risk
Processes by which food affects health

2) Avoid complicated phrases
Kids can often recite facts and phrases without really understanding them. For example, younger children probably don’t understand what ‘variety’ means and many kids might only know the word ‘diet’ to be a special way of eating (for example to lose weight or for diabetes) rather than a person’s everyday food consumption. Other terms kids might not understand are healthy weight, low fat or low sugar. When talking with your child, keep checking in with them and ask them to explain back to you what they know – that way you’ll get an idea for how much they’ve grasped.

3) Use props!
When referring to a particular food, use the real food item or a picture of the food so your child knows what you’re talking about. Chat about the food you’re preparing and eating for dinner. Ask them how the food grows or where you can find it; discuss seasonal produce and the kinds of environments foods need to grow.

4) Be meaningful
Kids live in the present, so focus on the immediate benefits rather than long term ones. Being strong, growing well and having enough energy to climb the monkey bars are important concepts to kids. They’re less concerned about their longterm disease risk or heart health!

5) Be a role model

Research shows what you eat and do influences children’s habits more than what you say. Studies also show that an authoritative parenting style is also associated with positive dietary results in children. Authoritative parenting doesn’t necessarily need to be overly restrictive nor lax, but it sets some boundaries around the consumption of “sometimes” foods. Families that eat meals together are also associated with children who eat more fruit and vegetables.

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