As part of Early Years Wellbeing Week read Sarah Scotland’s blog on nutrition.
Realising how your health is affected by what you eat is one of the biggest revelations you will come across. Food is not only vital to eat for energy but also important for nutrients; minerals, vitamins and fibre. Hydration is key too. It is imperative that the body is kept at the optimum fluidity level by eating and drinking a variety of foods and drinks. Exercise and fresh air complete the healthy picture.
As a practitioner in Early Years it might seem unusual to think about your health and wellbeing. You are probably used to skipping meals or rushing them. It is common practice to hear that EY staff are missing out on meals and are snacking instead. This might seem like the only way to get through the day, but really it is not a good habit to get into.
Not eating properly and eating on the go often leads to energy dips, mood swings and irritability. If this sounds familiar it’s because you are on the rollercoaster, eating energy dense foods such as cakes, biscuits,crisps, any food that is high in fat or sugar. You eat when your energy dips but overcompensate by eating too much only to find your energy soon crashes again, needing another boost to get you through the day, hence the rollercoaster. The best foods to keep you on an even keel and full for longer are low GI foods such as wholegrain bread and pasta, lentils, basmati rice, sweet potato, or foods high in protein.
Eating breakfast is really important. Make sure it is a good breakfast: a cereal bar or croissant grabbed on the way to work is not adequate. Have a bowl of porridge with fruit or granary toast or eggs, however you like them scrambled, boiled or poached (not fried!). If it is too difficult to have breakfast before you leave the house then have it when you arrive at work.
Eat lunch with the children. This will ensure that everyone is eating a nutritious meal. It also has the benefit of staff sitting down and eating with the children, sharing meal times and being good role-models.
Hydration is very important too. Drink water throughout the day, especially when you first wake up. This keep you hydrated and will set a good example to the children you care for, who should also see water as the most important drink to be drinking.
Finally make sure that you make time for yourself. Make sure that your own “glass is full”: If you don’t look after yourself you can’t look after others
Some notes for managers
If you want to provide snacks for a meeting or for any other occasion, try fruit instead of cakes and biscuits. A piece of fruit not only provides, water, vitamins and minerals but fibre, all of which help to nourish and hydrate the body. Cakes and biscuits provide instant gratification, fats and sugars, unnecessary calories and set people on the rollercoaster
Ensure staff are eating a proper nutritious breakfast before the start the day. If necessary provide facilities for staff to heat porridge, refrigerate milk, store bowls and do washing up. Perhaps toasters could be provided (depending on the sensitivity of smoke detectors).
Put together a “nurture basket” for your staff, this can have anything that you feel would be motivational and provide a feel good factor: Fruit (again), unusual tea-bags, pick-me-up notes, thank you cards, coupons or vouchers, anything that is easy to do that just helps to lighten the day a little.