The province's new Healthy Living Strategy is taking aim at some Prince Edward Island’s youngest people.

Lorie Gosse, of Garderie Educative Cornwall Childhood Education Centre, said the lunch menu at her child-care centre is now serving at lot more fruits and vegetables and a lot less of other foods.

"Ham was one of them," she said, "That was something we kind of served quite a bit because the children really like it. But it's filled with salt. It's a processed food, so we're trying to stay away from it."

According to the Healthy Living Strategy website, the guidelines encourage Islanders to improve their quality of life by improving eating habits and increasing the amount they exercise.

In terms of diet, the guidelines suggest limiting salt, sugar and processed foods, giving children plenty of drinking water and at least 20 minutes to eat their meals slowly.

The website says educators should also teach children about healthy living and set a good example.

Dietitians like Ashley Murphy of the Healthy Eating Alliance helped produce the guidelines in the strategy, then worked closely with child-care centres to get staff to participate.

"Some of them needed a little bit of tweaking and help. Sometimes it can be quite a challenge to serve vegetables and fruit to children. They may not always accept it," she said.

Educators have a responsibility

Monique McClean, early years co-ordinator for Chances Family Centre, said educators have a responsibility to provide healthy meals.

"The children spend sometimes eight to nine hours a day with us, so we have a responsibility to model good eating habits and behaviours to children," McClean said.

"Now especially, since most families there's both parents working, (and since) there are so many children in child care centres, and they get almost 50 per cent of their food in the child care centre."

McClean admitted there are a few picky eaters.

"But children get exposed to these things over and over and the staff eat with the children. They're modeling really good habits," she said.

"Maybe they don't want to try the turnip today, but they'll try the carrots tomorrow.  And those foods get introduced over and over again so there's lots of opportunities to keep trying."

Physical activity important as well

The guidelines also include a physical activity component.

It says pre-school aged children should be getting at least 60 minutes of exercise per day.

Gosse said it's important to teach children the benefits of exercise.

"If they want to sit around all day at home and play video games, that's up to the parents," she said, "But for here it's our duty to encourage them to live a healthy lifestyle."

Currently, these are just recommendations for child-care centres.

But, starting this fall, child-care centres regulated by the government will be required to follow them.

Gosse said enforcement won't be necessary at the Garderie Educative Cornwall Childhood Education Centre.

Whether the province pays a visit or not, she said staff at her centre are committed to the healthy changes.