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Young Food Dudes Lead the Way for Healthy Nurseries

An exciting new programme to establish good eating habits in very young children received the top Health Research Award from LARIA (Local Authorities Research Intelligence Association), at an awards ceremony in Manchester University.

The programme is a highly effective means of ensuring that children as young as 2 or 3 years old learn to enjoy good food and develop healthy eating habits for life. As Professor Pauline Horne, who led the development of the programme puts it, “It shows you are never too young to learn.”

The past few decades have seen a steep rise in childhood obesity in countries across the world. Childhood obesity is now at very high levels in the UK and it starts in the very young. Experts in the field recognise that it is increasingly important to intervene as early as possible before poor lifelong dietary habits become established.

Enter the Young Food Dudes! This programme, which is for children aged between 2-5 years old, is run in Nurseries, Early Years Centres, and Kindergartens. It is modelled on the highly successful Primary Schools’ Food Dudes Programme, which runs in many schools across the UK and Ireland. The new Young Dudes scheme is specially designed to appeal to younger minds and tummies.

The programme uses a range of “nudges” and behaviour change influences to help very young children make healthier choices and to learn to enjoy a wide range of fruit and vegetables, so lessening the amount of sweet and fatty foods that kids eat so much of these days.

Having seen movies of their role-models, the heroic and dynamic Young Food Dudes, Rocco, Razz, Tom and Charlie, who enjoy and gain great special energy from eating fruit and vegetables, young children want to become Dudes too. . (Click here to see the Promo Video - http://fooddudes.co.uk/videos/nursery.html)

And better still, when then do begin to taste the great fruit and vegetables presented to them, they win exciting Food Dudes prizes. They take great pride in their success, and everyone can win.

After repeated presentations of the same foods, the children come to acquire the taste for them. Their taste buds do the learning.

Controlled trials of the new Programme were conducted in Walsall, West Midlands, UK, with the support of NHS Walsall, Walsall MBC and Bangor University. They showed that children in Nurseries that had the Young Food Dudes programme increased their consumption of vegetables by 129%, and of fruit by 55%. These gains were still in place at the follow-up 3 months later. Children’s eating habits in Control schools, where the same range of fruit and vegetables was repeatedly presented, did not show the same improvements. The study shows that just providing good food is not enough —it is also crucial to motivate the children to eat it!

Sarah Pullen, Food Dudes Health; Dr. Barbara Watt, Public Health Consultant, Walsall MDC and Professor Fergus LoweSarah Pullen, Food Dudes Health; Dr. Barbara Watt, Public Health Consultant, Walsall MDC and Professor Fergus LoweThe Control schools will now receive the Young Food Dudes programme so that all those children can become Dudes too.

Councillor Mike Bird, portfolio holder for Public Health with Walsall Council Coalition said “We are delighted with the success of this programme in improving the eating habits of very young children in Walsall.

“It has been a great experience for all concerned: nursery staff, and parents, and, of course, the children themselves who just loved it”

Salma Ali, Accountable Officer for Walsall Clinical Commissioning Group said “The introduction of Food Dudes into Walsall Primary schools and, now, Nurseries has had a transformative impact and we are delighted to be working in partnership to pioneer really effective interventions in this crucial area of public health”

According to Professor Fergus Lowe, one of the founders of Food Dudes, “Any serious attempt to prevent obesity should start at a very early age. This programme leads the way internationally in showing just how this can be achieved and how good eating habits can be set in train for life.”

Publication date: 17 September 2013

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