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Healthy Eating for all the Family

Healthy Eating for all the Family

Children need to have regular meals and snacks that provide them with the energy and the health benefits of 'nutrients' that they need to thrive and fend off disease. The nutritional needs of children change as they get older, so it's important to be aware of those changes. This article will help you ensure that your child consumes the right food in the right quantities, regardless of how old they might be.

Eating as a family helps inspire children to enjoy a variety of food and spend time with relatives. It is a good idea to sit at the table together as a family and not to seek distractions with other things, for example watching the TV or using your phone. 

Breakfast is an opportunity to break your fast! It has been shown that children who have breakfast focus more during the morning. Also, having lunch and an evening meal with two nutritious snacks in between give children a variety of different foods and nutrients.

Healthy Foods

Children need a variety of nutrients from all major food groups:

1. Carbohydrates

Every meal should be focused on wholegrain, starchy foods. This includes bread, potatoes, pasta , rice and grains at main meals. If you don’t like wholegrain, meet in the middle with 50/50 or mix grains to make your own! Remember, a portion size is normally around a child's handful for starchy foods. 

2. Fruit and Veggies

Enjoy five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. It can be canned or juice, dry, frozen, tinned in water. Fruit juice can be offered at mealtimes as a drink but it’s important its not from concentrate. Try to include a variety of vegetables at main meals, and fruit can be used as snacks, smoothies, or desserts. Portion sizes for vegetables are two handsfull, and for fruit, one handful!

3. Dairy

This food group provides children with protein and calcium which is essential for healthy bone growth. Good sources include milk, butter, yoghurt, and cheese. If you’re vegetarian  there are other sources of calcium, like tofu, calcium-fortified milk, yoghurt alternatives, and soy and linseed bread fortified with extra calcium. 

4. Protein

Excellent sources of protein and iron are beef, fish , eggs, nuts, pulses (such as beans , lentils and peas) and foods made from pulses (such as tofu, hummus, and soya mince). You need a variety of these foods two to three times a day. A good portion size for protein is a child's palm, try to get children involved as much as possible in measuring this! 

5. Fats and Oils

Getting enough healthy fats is essential for growth and development. Young kids, in particular, need enough of them in their diet to help the brain and nervous system develop normally. Try eating more nuts, seeds, fatty fish like salmon or maybe even some avocado!

Food and drink high in fat and/or sugar

Foods which are high in sugar and fat and will provide additional energy but lack any essential nutrients. This group includes biscuits, cake, ice-cream, sweets, chocolate, savoury snacks such as crisps, chips and sugary drinks.

High sugar intakes often lead to tooth decay. It is important to avoid giving your child frequent sugary drinks, snacks or sweets to protect their teeth and overall health. If you want to give them something sugary, it is best at mealtimes. Check out the Oral Health artical for more information.

Only offer foods in this group occasionally and consume in moderation. Why not grill, steam or bake foods instead of frying them and try to use a smaller amount of butter or oil. 

Drinks

Did you know tooth decay is one of the most common reasons for hospital admission for children aged 5 to 9 years old? Water and milk are the best drinks for children, as they won't hurt teeth. Fizzy drinks and some squashes have excessive amounts of sugar, and should only be consumed in moderation. Look for the no added sugar squash if you like flavour, or try adding lemon to give it some zing!

Smoothies and pure fruit juice have quite a lot of sugar, although it’s naturally occurring, we know fruit is better eaten whole. Try mixing the recommended amount of 150ml for juices and smoothies with sparkling or still water. My personal favourite is orange juice with sparkling water! It almost tastes like Fanta!

Summary

Food and making meals can be enjoyable! Children enjoy being involved, so take them to the shops and help them pick various foods, help them prepare and chat about healthy eating. This can help inspire children to try new foods and make it a pleasurable family experience.

We hope you found this interesting!

The Spark Team