Developing the EYN Partnership Quality Mark criteria - food, nutrition and beyond!

Bridget Benelam, Senior Nutrition Scientist, British Nutrition Foundation

The EYN Partnership Quality Mark is designed to recognise good practice in food and nutrition in early years settings, and the assessment criteria that we have developed provide the basis for the EYN Partnership registered nutrition professionals to work with settings to help them gain accreditation.

Our team here at the British Nutrition Foundation considered current public health guidelines for nutrition in the early years, as well as other existing schemes that provide guidance for early years settings when developing the criteria.

Food provided in early years settings

For the Early Years Nutrition Partnership we have developed criteria for the four main food groups:

  • Starchy carbohydrates
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Dairy and alternatives
  • Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins.


There are also criteria for ‘other foods and drinks’ which includes drinks, desserts and foods high in fat, sugars and salt.

In each case the criteria covers foods that are to be encouraged, for example wholegrains, or restricted, such as deep fried starchy foods. Guidance is provided on how often to provide foods from different groups and also on encouraging variety in the types of foods provided.

Each set of food-based criteria comes with guidance on portion sizes for foods in that group and also a helpful guide. This provides supporting information for foods from that group covering examples of which foods are included, guidance on appropriate types of food e.g. which types of milks and milk-alternatives can be provided to young children and issues to look out for, such as allergies.

A wider approach to nutrition practice

While good food and drink provision is fundamental to Quality Mark accreditation, we have always been clear that it doesn’t stop there. The food environment, working with parents, and education on food and health are also vitally important to achieving a whole settings approach to food and nutrition. These are covered in the non food-based standards.

To gain the EYN Partnership Quality Mark settings will have to meet the Accredited level criteria in all cases, demonstrating a high quality approach to food and nutrition in the setting, and not just in the food they provide. Achieving accreditation is a real achievement and we hope that all settings who receive their Quality Mark will proudly display it to parents!

Striving for the very best practice

At the EYN Partnership we also want to recognise those settings which go above and beyond and strive for further improvement. Therefore we have also provided criteria for Advanced and Specialist level Quality Marks, which challenge settings to go the extra mile and to be innovative in how they approach food, nutrition and health.

Working towards the Quality Mark

The criteria documents set out what a setting needs to do to achieve the EYN Partnership Quality Mark, and also provide space in the resources for teams to develop an action plan. Each setting team will be supported by one of our team of EYN Partnership registered nutrition professionals, who will provide direct, ‘hands-on’ support and guidance on how to fulfil the criteria. This direct, in-setting support is a unique approach.

We are really excited about seeing these standards being put into practice, and seeing early years teams gain well-deserved recognition for excellence in their approach to food and nutrition.

Good luck to all our registered settings teams! And if you are not yet registered, but want more information, drop us a line at