Healthy eating

​It is important for early childhood service professionals to provide guidance on and access to healthy food and drink options.

With people increasingly eating food that is not prepared at home, a high proportion of Victorian adults and children are now classified as overweight or obese and are not meeting the healthy dietary guidelines.

Healthy eating and nutrition

The five food groups

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend five food groups which should be enjoyed every day for good health. These include:

  • fruit
  • grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties e.g. breads, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, couscous, barley, quinoa, polenta, flour, crispbreads, rice cakes
  • lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans
  • milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives
  • vegetables and legumes/beans.

Iron-containing foods

The Infant Feeding Guidelines recommend that the introduction of solid foods at around 6 months should start with iron-containing foods. Examples of iron-containing foods which are suitable for infants include:

  • iron-fortified infant cereals
  • pureed meat
  • poultry and fish
  • cooked tofu and legumes.

Discretionary choices

In the Australian Dietary Guidelines, the term ‘discretionary choices’ describes food and beverages which are not necessary to be part of a balanced diet. These include:

  • confectionery, chocolate, jelly, lollies
  • high fat/ sugar sweet biscuits
  • chips and high fat/ salty savoury biscuits
  • high fat/ sugar cakes and slices
  • cream and ice cream
  • deep fried foods
  • sausage rolls and pasties
  • most fast food and takeaway foods
  • some processed meats (e.g. sausages, frankfurts/hot dogs, salami, strasburg, devon, some commercial chicken nuggets and fish fingers)
  • soft drinks, fruit drinks, cordial, sports drinks, sports waters, flavoured waters, flavoured mineral waters, iced teas and energy drinks.

Food at your service

Canteens and other food services at early childhood services play an important role in communicating healthy eating messages to young children, staff, families and the wider community.

Foods eaten by children at early childhood services contribute significantly to their daily nutrient intake and also influence the development of their lifelong eating habits, growth patterns and energy levels.

For more information on service requirements under the National Quality Framework, see: Healthy eating in the National Quality Standard

Nutrition advice and support

The Victorian Healthy Eating Advisory Service offers free, tailored healthy eating and nutrition advice and support to help your early childhood service develop a healthy eating environment.

It will also include menu assessments, over the phone and email advice from nutrition experts, staff training and resource materials.

Healthy eating - translated resources for parents

To access the English versions of the healthy eating resources, see: Parent Tip Sheets

Food in the first year of life
Healthy eating and play for toddlers (1-2 years)
Healthy eating and play for kindergarten children (3-5 years)
Try it - you'll like it! Vegetables and fruit for children
Why no sweet drinks for children

More information