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Childcare LEAPS into healthier future

20th February 2014

You've filled the fridge with fruit and vegetables, put a timer on the TV and your mantra is: "Go outside and play." But how do you know your family's healthy lifestyle ethos is mirrored at childcare?

A new, free program called LEAPS - Learning, Eating, Active Play and Sleep - led by QUT in partnership with NAQ Nutrition is providing professional development and resources for Queensland early childhood education and care services such as Family Day Care, Kindergartens and Childcare on providing nutritious food and healthy activity levels for the children in their care.

"There are some early childhood services that do actively promote breastfeeding, provide nutritious food and who are doing a really good job keeping their kids active enough to satisfy the national guidelines,'' QUT Associate Professor Danielle Gallegos said.

"However, there are so many pressures surrounding food and physical activity at services - time, money, staff expertise, facilities... There are a thousand variables that make each provider's service delivery different.

"The information around these issues also changes as research progresses.

"The LEAPS program provides information and tips on how to meet the current guidelines on nutrition and physical activity, in practical ways. For example, there are a number of fact sheets available on the LEAPS website including budget buying, healthy snacks, recipes and active play activities in small spaces.

"And the services who do not provide food may find it hard to address problems with what parents pack in their child's lunchbox. It can be very hard for an educator to talk to a parent about these issues and to assist them in making nutritious choices.

"The LEAPS program provides really practical strategies on how to get that conversation started and how to successfully get the message across."

Sandgate Child Care director Colleen Pavey said she and educators at her Brighton Rd, Sandgate, centre completed LEAPS last October, as part of their ongoing professional development program.

"We had completed courses before in nutrition, however, they were usually talking about older children and we had to adapt it to suit our age group,'' Ms Pavey said.

"There is a new national quality standard that we must meet as a childcare service, so we are always looking for ways to improve. We do supply food at Sandgate Child Care - breakfast, lunch and morning and afternoon tea and a late snack, and our cook, Kate Nelson, always ensures the food is fresh and nutritious.

"But because this course was specifically tailored to child care, it was amazing in terms of new ideas.

"Something we did immediately was to introduce vegetable pieces into the fruit platters served for morning and afternoon tea. We expected that the children would not be that receptive, but the children have taken to it really well, and they especially love the strips of capsicum and the baby cucumbers. Most children were pretty willing to try something new.

"And I have also started to order low-fat milk, for the children aged older than two."

QUT has partnered with NAQ Nutrition who developed and is facilitating the LEAPS program, as well as Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER) who developed the physical activity component of the program. The program is available now in a range of locations across Queensland and will run till June 2016. The project is funded by the Queensland Government under the National Partnership Agreement on Preventative Health - Healthy Children's Initiative (a joint Australian, State and Territory Government initiative).

More info:www.naqld.org/category/leaps or email: LEAPS@naqld.org

LEAPS is based on the Get up & Grow guidelines for Early Childhood Education and Care Services (a list is below)
A LEAPS recipe is also included, below the contact details.
To download images of Sandgate Child Care cook Kate Nelson, click on the image above or here. There are several images from which to choose.

Media contact:
Amanda Horswill, QUT Media, 07 3138 1150 a.horswill@qut.edu.au (Mon-Thurs)
After hours, Rose Trapnell, QUT Media Team Leader: 0407 585 901
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THE GUIDELINES

Healthy Eating Guidelines:
1.Exclusive Breastfeeding is recommended, with positive support, for babies up to six months. Continued breastfeeding is recommended for at least 12 months - and longer if the mother and baby wish.
2.If an infant is not breastfed, or if breastfeeding is discontinued, use an infant formula until 12 months of age.
3.Introduce suitable solids at around six months.
4.Make sure that food offered to children is appropriate to the child's age and development, and includes a wide variety of nutritious foods consistent with the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
5.Provide water in addition to age-appropriate milk drinks. Infants under the age of six months who are not breastfed can be offered cooled boiled water in addition to infant formula.
6.Plan mealtimes to be positive, relaxed and social.
7.Encourage children to try different food types and textures in a positive eating environment.
8.Offer an appropriate amount of food, but allow children to decide themselves how much they will actually eat.
9.Offer meals and snacks at regular and predictable intervals.
10.Ensure that food is safely prepared for children to eat - from the preparation stages to consumption

Physical Activity Recommendations:

1.For healthy development in infants (birth to 1 year), physical activity - particularly supervised floor-based play in safe environments - should be encouraged from birth.
2.Toddlers (1-3 years) and pre-schoolers (3-5 years) should be physically active every day for at least three hours, spread throughout the day.
3.Children younger than two years of age should not spend any time watching televisions or using other electronic media (DVD's, computer and other electronic games).
4.For children two to five years of age, sitting and watching television and the use of other electronic media (DVD's, computer and other electronic games) should be limited to less than one hour per day.
5.Infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers should not be sedentary, restrained or kept inactive for more than one hour at a time - with the exception of sleeping.

Recipe

Quick, Easy and Economical
NOODLE CAKES
- Makes 12

Ingredients:
2 x 85g packets of 2 minute noodles
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese (reduced fat), grated
1 zucchini, grated
1 carrot, grated
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
Olive oil spray

Method:
1. Cook noodles as per packet instructions without the seasoning
2. Drain and place in a large bowl
3. Stir through eggs, cheese, zucchini, carrot and spring onions
4. Heat fry pan to medium heat and spray with oil
5. Cook approximately 1/2 cup of the mixture for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden

Variations:
Other ingredients that could be added are: Corn kernels, grated potato, diced capsicum.

Food Groups per Serve (2 cakes):
Grains: 1/4
Vegetables: 1/4
Dairy: 1/4
Meat and Alternatives: 1/3

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