New guidelines on suitable food and drink for young children will be launched on Monday.
Childcare providers will for the first time have a nationally-recognised source of information about menus, portion sizes, how to deal with fussy eaters and advice on involving children in food and cooking activities.
According to the School Food Trust charity, which compiled the voluntary guidelines, some young children are given food which is more appropriate for older children and adults. This can result in them eating too much salt and sugar, and not enough energy, carbohydrates and essential minerals.
The charity’s nutritionist Patricia Mucavele said pilot schemes to introduce the guidance are already in place with five local authorities, and they will spread throughout the year.
“This is just the beginning, and we hope that as many providers as possible will use these guidelines to help children get a healthy start in life,” she added.
Children’s minister Sarah Teather said: “Healthy eating is at the heart of helping every child get the best start in life.
“Nurseries play a vital role in getting children from all backgrounds to develop good eating habits - but many lack the expert knowledge of what is the best food to serve.
“Parents rightly want their children to be eating healthy, nutritional food. Thanks to these voluntary guidelines drawn up by the School Food Trust, we will help nurseries and other childcare providers do just that.”