Background: Full-day-care pre-schools contribute significantly to the nutritional intake and acquisition of dietary habits of the pre-school child. The present study investigated nutritional practices in full-day-care pre-schools in Dublin, Ireland, aiming to determine the nutritional support that pre-school managers deem necessary, thereby facilitating the amelioration of existing pre-school nutritional training and practices.
Methods: A telephone questionnaire completed by pre-school managers (n = 54) examined pre-school dietary practices, food provision and the association between these and pre-school size, nutritional training attendance, possession of the Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Pre-school Services and having a healthy eating policy. Nutritional training needs were also investigated.
Results: Twenty-five pre-schools provided all food for attending children; parents were sole providers in six. Thirty-four pre-schools had a written healthy eating policy. Attendance at nutritional training was reported by 40. Possession of the Guidelines (n = 40) did not consistently result in their use. Poor parental and staff involvement in policy and menu development was cited. Although the delayed introduction of iron-containing foods and a feeding beaker in infants was clearly evident, inappropriate beverages and snacks were served to children aged 1–5 years in 43 and 37 pre-schools, respectively. Training priorities cited by managers included parental education and the provision of information regarding menu planning and healthy food choices.
Conclusions: Nutritional training should advocate whole staff familiarity with and use of current guidelines, in addition to encouraging nutritional policy development and enforcement. Parental education is warranted. Dietary education should focus specifically on appropriate weaning practices, healthy beverage and snack provision and menu planning.