Healthy Eating for Children

When it comes to introducing healthy food to your children, there’s always a worry that they might not gravitate to trying healthy meals.

As a nation, we are not always eating well balanced diets and, as a result, are becoming more overweight. A well-balanced diet, consisting of the food below, can help us to become healthier eaters and recognise what we should consider feeding our children.

Below, we’re looking into the types of healthy food that you can offer your child, as well as what specific products you should consider during meal times.

Starchy Food

Starchy food consists of bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes amongst many others. These are crucial for children to eat at a young age, as they contain minerals and vitamins that are essential for your child’s growth.

If you want to introduce your child to eating bread, try to offer them a range of wholegrain breads like Tortilla and Pitta. You can also introduce pasta, noodles and rice too and see how they react.

Snack noodles are high in fat, so be careful not to feed them to your child.

Nuts are an excellent source of fibre but avoid feeding them to your child until they are five years old and above as they could be a choking hazard.

Fruit and Vegetables

Fruit and Veg are excellent sources of nourishment and we encourage you to introduce them to your child at any age.

A good starting point for making sure that your child eats fruit and vegetables is to give them a variety of five portions every day. These can range between fresh, canned, tinned, dried or frozen.

A child portion is half of an adult portion, but this can vary depending on the age and size of your child. Once your child is between the ages of 3-5, you can gradually increase their fruit and veg portions to an adult sized one.

Protein Food

Much like starchy food, protein is full of vitamins and minerals that are crucial to areas of the human body, such as brain development and stronger bones. These foods include beans, fish, eggs and lentils, as well as various others.

We recommend that your child should eat two portions of fish a week, with one being an oily fish meal e.g. salmon or trout. Meat products, such as chicken and beef are excellent sources of protein, with chicken being the least fatty of the two. You can also add pork and lamb to your child’s diet as these are rich in protein.

Don’t feel limited to just meat when it comes to incorporating protein. Eggs are a great alternative as they are made up of protein and iron, along with beans and lentils which are low in fat and high in protein.

Milk and Dairy Food

Milk and Dairy products provide children with a good source of calcium and protein which is important for bone development, as well as the nerves and muscles.

Wholemilk can be given to children once they are a year old but can be introduced into foods at around 9 months. If by then, they are growing well and are eating a variety of other foods, you can then introduce them to semi-skimmed milk.

Other dairy snacks you could offer your child include natural yoghurt (Processed yoghurt is full of sugar and colourings), and cheese and fruit sticks. Make sure that your child is fed three servings of calcium food every day, as children under five require more calcium-based food to help them grow.

Other Strategies You Can Try

Eating your meals together as a family: Not only does this encourage more time between you and your children, but it gives you a chance to introduce new foods and not always eat unhealthy snacks.

More Involvement for the children: Feel free to give your children the chance to choose a balanced meal. Let them join you on a shopping trip and pick out what ingredients are needed for the meal. With more involvement, your child will be able to make decisions about what food they want to eat and have healthier options in the future. You could also try getting them involved in the cooking and preparation of meals.

Stock up on Healthy Meals: If you want your children to keep eating healthy foods, you should continue to weave fruits and vegetables into the meal routine. You can also limit fattening foods and drinks, giving your child a choice of healthy snacks, but don’t ban fast food permanently. An occasional treat won’t hurt.