It is important to give children healthy and nutritious foods to help them grow and to support the development of healthy eating behaviours right from the start. Many foods advertised for children are high in fat and/ or sugar and tend to be low in nutrients, these foods can also develop a taste preference for unhealthy foods leading to health problems later in life.
Follow these top tips to help your child eat well:
1. Provide a wide variety of unprocessed foods from all four food groups – fruit and vegetables, starchy food including bread, rice, pasta and potato, protein rich food for example pulses, eggs, meat and fish and dairy food including milk, yoghurt and cheese. This will help ensure your child gets all the nutrients they need.
2. Avoid processed foods- if there are more than a handful of ingredients on the label then avoid them. Processed foods are foods that have been changed from their natural state and often contain added ingredients for example salt, sugar, artificial flavourings and additives.
3. Meal times matter- eating together as a family is important for children as children will learn from those around them. It’s important to role model healthy eating habits and make meal times a positive family experience.
4. Avoid foods with added salt- children should not have foods high in salt as it can damage their developing kidneys and develop a preference for salty foods. Avoid giving young children processed foods, take always, ready meals, salty snacks or adding salt to their food.
5. Provide child-sized portions of at least five different fruit and vegetables a day. As a guide a portion size is the size of your child’s hand. Serve fruits and vegetables with every meal and snack.
6. Include foods high in iron and zinc. This includes eggs, red meat, oil-rich fish, nuts, seeds, pulses and fortified cereals
7. Include sources of calcium, riboflavin and iodine every day. Whole or semi-skimmed cows’ milk, cheeses, and unsweetened yoghurt and fromage frais are good sources of these nutrients. For children who do not have dairy products, an unsweetened fortified milk alternative such as soya milk alternative or unsweetened fortified soya yoghurt can provide these nutrients
8. Plain milk and water are the only drinks recommended for children. Children should be encouraged to drink tap water if they are thirsty, and fresh drinking water should be available at all times. Water quenches thirst, does not spoil the appetite, and does not damage teeth.
9. Limit their sugar intake. Children do not need foods high in sugar such as cake, sweets and biscuits. They can lead to weight gain and tooth decay and create a preferred taste for sweet foods. See our snack list for suitable alternatives