Early childhood nutrition lays the foundation for lifelong health and well-being. During the formative years of infancy and early childhood, proper nutrition is not just a matter of growth and development; it profoundly impacts physical, cognitive, and emotional development. The importance of early childhood nutrition cannot be underestimated, as it sets the stage for healthy habits, optimal brain development, and resilience against disease later in life.

Nutrition is essential for supporting the rapid growth and development that occurs during infancy and early childhood. Adequate intake of essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats is vital for building strong bones, muscles, and organs, as well as for supporting immune health. Additionally, early childhood nutrition significantly influences cognitive development, with the brain undergoing rapid growth and development during the first few years of life, and adequate nutrition is essential to support this process. Nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, and various vitamins are particularly important for brain development and function.

Early childhood is a critical period for establishing lifelong eating habits. Introducing a variety of nutritious foods during this time sets the stage for healthy eating patterns later in life, and it is here that parents and caregivers can play a crucial role in shaping the nutritional habits of young children. The Australian dietary guidelines provide recommendations on the types and amounts of foods children should consume to support optimal health, including foods from the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, legumes and beans, grain (cereal) foods, lean meat, fish, poultry and/or alternatives, and dairy or dairy alternatives. It is also recommended that children should limit their intake of foods that contain saturated fat, added salt, or added sugar and should also be encouraged to choose water as their preferred drink. Parents and caregivers can support their children by offering a variety of nutritious foods, modelling the healthy eating behaviours that we want them to develop, and involving children in meal preparation and planning.

Early childhood nutrition lays the foundation for a child’s health and well-being throughout their life. Providing children with a balanced and nutritious diet can set them on a path towards optimal growth, development, and a healthier future.


Tracy Davies is an accredited family nutritionist and feeding therapist and founder of Be Well Nourishment Family Nutrition. Tracy provides specialised nutrition and feeding therapy support to children, adolescents and adults struggling with feeding issues and limited diets, with a passion for promoting healthy eating habits and positive relationships with food among families.

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