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Under fives to be taught how to eat healthily
6:56am Monday 4th March 2013 in News
UNDER fives will be taught how to eat healthily as part of an anti-obesity campaign being rolled out across Southampton, the Daily Echo can reveal.
The Southampton Healthy Early Years Award has been set up to ensure healthy eating and physical activity is a priority in all children’s centres, pre-schools, toddler groups, nurseries and with childminders across the city.
Senior health promotion specialist Pawan Lall, of Solent NHS Trust’s health promotion team, said it is crucial to influence children to eat healthily from a young age because food preferences are determined early in life.
She said: “Research confirms that healthy eating habits in the years before school are very important because they influence growth, development and academic achievement in later life. If children are introduced to healthy living earlier on, it means schools can then build on those life skills.
“Embedding important messages at an earlier age is really crucial when it comes to prevention.”
Last week the Echo revealed that one in five of Southampton’s primary schoolchildren are now obese according to shocking NHS statistics – triggering a fresh warning that Britain’s obesity epidemic is spiralling out of control.
The NHS Trust’s health promotion team spent just over two years developing the award in partnership with key agencies.
It was piloted last year and is now being rolled out city wide.
Training days are held where people from the establishments are armed with knowledge to gain the award – including learning about the correct portion size for children and knowing how to make healthier substitutes in ingredients used.
It means children under five have the chance to learn about food including where it comes from, cooking it, handling it and tasting healthy produce including fruit and vegetables.
Ms Lall said: “It is about getting children used to food they may have not been exposed to before.”
But it is not just about the youngsters. The award also promotes parents’ involvement to ensure the message of healthy eating reaches home too.
Ms Lall highlighted the importance of continuing food education once children start school.
The health promotion team also runs Healthy Schools Southampton, which rewards schools that focus on educating youngsters on health issues.
She said: “We are battling with media advertising campaigns which heavily influence children.
They always seem to be on TV at peak times and it is pressure for carers and parents when companies offer free toys with junk food.”