Helping you to plan nourishing menus for the children in your care

Infancy and early childhood is an important time for focusing on nutrition and obesity prevention strategies, as food preferences and eating habits are established during this time and are often retained into adulthood. The early childhood education and care setting provides a wonderful opportunity to introduce children to a wide range of nourishing foods and to limit their intake of discretionary foods.

Central Coast Local Health District’s Nutrition Service works with Central Coast Health Promotion Service to support our local early childhood services to ensure their menus meet the nutritional needs of the children in their care. We offer menu planning resources, menu review services, and training opportunities. We also provide regular, ongoing support through our Cooks Network meetings, Cooks Corner e-newsletter, Ask the Dietitian service and local childcare recipe bank.

Healthy menu support

The Caring for Children Birth to 5 years manual cover.

Caring for children menu planning guides

The NSW Health Caring for Children guides provide menu planning information and checklists to help you plan a menu that meets the nutritional needs of the children in your care.

A child in an apron and hat with flour and a roller and rolling board.

Submit your menu for an annual review

Our dietitians can assess your menu to see if it meets the Caring for Children guidelines. Menus that meet the guidelines will receive documentation that can be used to show parents, accreditors and the wider community.

A screenshot of the Cooks Corner e-newsletter.

Subscribe to Cooks Corner e-newsletter

Our regular Cooks Corner e-newsletter provides information on the latest menu planning news, upcoming events and highlights recent successful menu reviews.

A young woman with an apron on smiling at a kitchen bench with the Patch to Plate recipe book open.

Ask the Dietitian

Got a childcare menu-related nutrition question? Submit your question and one of our dietitians will respond.

Find help and inspiration

Here are some additional free resources to support you in planning and serving a menu that meets the Caring for Children guidelines.

Someone out of view writing notes while looking at an iPad.

Healthy menu planning training

A screenshot of the Cooks Corner e-newsletter.

Past Cooks Corner e-newsletters

Someone out of view writing notes while on a laptop.

Frequently asked menu planning questions

Healthy early childhood recipes

Chicken fried rice.

Chicken fried rice

Toasted muesli with yoghurt and fruit.

Toasted muesli with yoghurt and fruit

Red lentil and pumpkin soup.

Red lentil and pumpkin soup

Italian meatball and vegetable pasta bake.

Italian meatball and vegetable pasta bake

Tomato vegetable wholemeal pasta.

Tomato vegetable wholemeal pasta

Mexican tuna.

Mexican tuna

Cajun chicken pasta bake

Cajun chicken pasta bake

Cook of the Year Award

The Central Coast Cooks Network Cook of the Year award has been developed to recognise our exceptional early childcare cooks.

Congratulations to Corrina Beal from Umina Childcare Centre for winning our inaugural Cook of the Year Award in 2023.

It was a close competition with five cooks who had outstanding menus in the final round, but Corrina’s explanation of how her Centre links the menu to learning activities helped her leap to the front of the field!

Who is eligible?

Any cook whose early childcare menu has been awarded a Central Coast Local Health District Healthy Menu Award over the current year.

Stay tuned for updates on the 2024 award and make sure you submit your menu for a review between 1 November 2023 and 31 October 2024. If you meet all the Caring for Children guidelines, you will be eligible to enter. 

A smiling woman in a chef's outfit with healthy ingredients up in the air around her.

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