The guidelines are being developed by the School Food Trust, which has also launched a new scheme to offer training to nurseries and children’s centres on how to run cooking sessions for families.
Funded by the Department for Education, the ‘Eat Better, Start Better’ project starts in five local authority areas in November.
Letters have been sent out to local authorities to invite them to take part in the cooking scheme.
A second phase of the project will start next year.
The voluntary guidelines will also be trialled with providers in a range of settings in the five areas.
Following recommendations by the Advisory Panel on Food and Nutrition in the Early Years and the Tickell review of the EYFS, the School Food Trust has been asked by the Government to draw up national, voluntary guidelines for nutrition in early years settings.
It has also been tasked with developing training, recipes and menus for providers and practitioners, and a code of practice.
The ‘Eat Better, Start Better’ draws on the Cook4Life project, which was started by the previous Government as part of the Department of Health’s Change4Life programme, and involved teaching cooking skills to parents in 60 children’s centres in the North West and South West England.
These centres are now able to offer their own training for settings.
Chantelle Boughton, activity coordinator for the Thames Children’s Centre in Blackpool, which was involved in the original project, said, ‘We’d never done cooking classes at the centre before, but we knew it was something that we needed to do because some of the children we work with just weren’t getting a good diet at home.
‘We got the parents on our courses to choose what they wanted to cook – it was things like cottage pie, lasagne and spaghetti bolognese. Some of our parents said they'd never realised how much you could get out of a basic bolognese recipe.
‘My advice to other centres taking part in this pilot would be that the more staff you can get trained, the better.’
David Edwards, director of Let’s Get Cooking, which is running the training, said, ‘This work really did help us to shape the larger programme we’re now delivering. Parents who took part told us that they do cook from scratch more often at home now and have improved their diet, which is fantastic to hear from just a few sessions of practical cooking training.
‘Above all, what children eat and learn about food at this age does set the foundations for their health in the future, which is why we’re so pleased to be delivering this new programme for Government.’
Children’s minister Sarah Teather said, ‘Getting children to eat healthy food early on is vital. Quite rightly, parents don’t want their child being fed junk food – and nurseries play a key role in developing good eating habits to help every child get the best start in life.’
The School Food Trust runs training from Let's Get Cooking for providers keen to launch cooking sessions for families http://www.letsgetcooking.org.uk/Workwithus/Whodowetrain