The primary role of staff is to make sure that young people are as physically and mentally healthy as is possible. Good health and well-being include providing proper nutrition, ensuring adequate sleep, and regard for safety at all times.

Getting young people active and engaged can be one of the most challenging tasks social care staff face daily. Often the backgrounds of young people have been chaotic and unpredictable. Embedding positive attitudes to a healthy lifestyle should start from the moment a young person is placed and continue throughout their time in placement.

The organisation is committed to ensuring that the health of children/young people is a high priority and a constant focus of the staff group’s attention. We achieve this by embedding the key messages contained within health and well-being outcomes.

The staff team aim to promote healthy lifestyles for young people by providing them with opportunities to enjoy a range of leisure and sporting activities and to work with them to ensure they possess the personal skills to enjoy a healthy lifestyle.

The staff team must provide each young person with access to a healthy diet through the construction of varied, healthy menus. Menus must be quality monitored by the manager and where required the advice of a nutritionist should be sought.

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Nutrition and Diet

Diet does not solely mean losing weight. Diet describes the mixture of foods that a person eats. The connection between diet, exercise and health is now undeniable. For young people, diet is vitally important as it can shape their eating habits into adulthood.

Young people should be encouraged to eat a well-balanced diet, including,

  • protein (meat, cheese, fish, pulses, eggs, and nuts)
  • carbohydrates (cereals, pasta, rice, potatoes, and bread)
  • fats (vegetable/olive oils, butter/margarine, and oily fish)
  • fibre (fruit, vegetables, and whole grains), vitamins and minerals (contained naturally in a well-balanced diet).

Bread, other cereals and potatoes – plenty of these will aid a well-balanced diet although too much bread of course can promote weight gain.

Fats & sugar - foods containing fat or sugar should be eaten in moderation and lower fat alternatives are preferable.

Fruit and vegetables – All young people should eat at least five portions a day as recommended by NHS change4life. Canned tomatoes and baked beans count as do glasses of fresh fruit juice (although they contain much less fibre than a piece of fruit). 

Meat, fish and alternatives – young people should eat moderate amounts of these and eat lower fat versions where possible. Oily fish is a good source of Omega 3.

Milk and dairy foods – young people should be encouraged to eat or drink moderate amounts of these and provided with lower fat versions whenever possible. 

Vegetarianism - in order to ensure an adequate intake of essential amino acids, at least two different types of protein (pulses, Quorn, tofu, soy protein meat substitutes) should be provided as an alternative to meat.

Food and mealtimes – these can be an emotive issue for many young people, particularly those who are traumatised for whatever reason. Behaviours can include hoarding, refusing, overeating, finickiness, vomiting, stealing. These behaviours may be reflecting inner trauma and have nothing to do with appetite or food preference. Whatever the reason it is always best to avoid confrontation.

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Children and young/people should be supported to make healthy choices when preparing menus. Food choices should follow the essential guidance above to ensure children/young people receive the nutrition that they need.

Change4life can be consulted online for a variety of useful tasty and nutritious recipes when menu planning. Staff should also follow this guide for snacks aiming to ensure children/young people develop healthy eating habits.

Children/young people should always have access to fresh, healthy food and snacks, water and drinks.

Where children and young people have a specific diet preference as a result of religion or lifestyle choice, arrangements should be made to support that choice. Staff must work with the young person to make sure their nutritional needs are met within their preferred plan.

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 Get the complete policy in our residential children's home policy package.