• Healthy eating programmes delivered in early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings (e.g. preschools, kindergarten, family day care) may improve child diet quality, likely increase fruit consumption, may have favourable effects on vegetable consumption, and likely have no impact on consumption of less healthy foods and sugar‐sweetened drinks. They may have favourable effects on child weight and may reduce the risk of being overweight or obese.
• We don't know if healthy eating interventions save money or cause unwanted effects because very few studies provided information about these points.
• We found little evidence from low‐ and middle‐income countries, but healthy eating programmes in high‐income countries may benefit child health. We don't know how to support educators and staff to implement these programmes in practice. We need more research about delivering programmes and about their effect in low‐income countries.
Why is it important to improve young children's diet?
Having a poor diet puts people at risk of many long‐term diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancers. Research estimates that over 11 million deaths worldwide are caused by having an unhealthy diet. Dietary behaviours and preferences are established early in life and persist into adulthood.