Parents Guide to Children’s healthy eating

Nutrition for children made easy


Parent’s guide


Advice on :

What is a healthy balanced diet?

Six easy ways to encourage children to eat

Fruit and vegetables

Choosing the right post

Choosing the right sugars

Cutting back on salt

Tips for packing a healthy lunch

Healthy snacks

Tips for healthy teeth

Lifestages         –     weaning

  • Coping with food pods 28
  • Changing appetite 29

Cooking with children

The importance of family meals

Exercise and activity

Understanding foot labelling

Healthy meal plans for children


What is a healthy balanced diet?

Fruit and Vegetables

This group includes almost all Fruits and vegetables – Fresh, Frozen, dried, canned (canned Fruits in juice or water rather than syrup).


  • As children often find a huge pile of vegetables off-putting, it’s better to give them an amount you know they will eat and increase the portion size as they get older.

What’s a portion?

Children under five should aim to eat at least five “child-sized” portions of fruit and vegetables per day.  A child’s loose fist, provides a good estimation of what a child’s portion of fruit or vegetables looks like.  For children five years and over, one portion is equivalent to:

Piece of fruit, (e.g., apple, banana, pear)

Small fruits (e.g., kiwi, plum, tangerine).

A handful of smaller fruit (grapes, cherries)

2-3 tablespoons of vegetables

1 small bowl of salad

1 slice of a large fruit (e.g. melon)

1 small glass (150ml) of fruit juice       *Fruit juice counts as only one portion, however much is consumed.

Milk, cheeses, yogurt and fromage frais

 Children need three to four servings from this group each day.

  • One serving equals a glass of milk, a small pot of yogurt or a matchbox-size piece of cheese.
  • Children under the age of two should be given full pot milk and dairy products rather than low or reduced fat products.

Meat, fish, eggs, nuts, beans and lentils

  •  Children need two or three servings a day.
  • Children under five should not be given whole nuts as they may cause choking.

Foods high in fat and sugar 

  • Foods in this group include crisps, biscuits and sweets and should only be eaten occasionally in very small amounts.
  • Foods and drinks containing sugar should be consumed mainly at mealtimes to reduce the risk of tooth decay. 

Grains, cereals, potatoes, bread, pasta, rice, noodles, couscous and breakfast cereals 

  • Children need four or more servings from this group each day.

Six easy ways to encourage children to eat fruit and vegetables


  1. Add finely chopped vegetables such as carrots, peppers and mushrooms into dishes like spaghetti bolognaise or serve vegetables with a cheese or tomato sauce.
  1. Serve raw vegetables such as strips of peppers or carrots with hummus or a yogurt instead of crisps when children come home from school.
  1. Stewed or fresh fruit make great fillings for pancakes.
  1. Make fruit smoothies by blending soft fresh fruit (berries, banana or mangoes) or canned fruits such as apricots, peaches with yogurt and skimmed milk or fruit juice.
  1. Spread a mashed banana on toast in the morning instead of jam or marmalade or add a few raisins to cereal.
  1. To encourage children to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables get then to keep a list of all the different types of fruits and vegetables they eat. (pin the list up on a kitchen pin board). At the end of the month get them to count up how many different fruits and vegetables they have eaten that month and offer a treat if they can beat that number in the coming month.
  2. Make it fun. Try making faces out of healthy kinds of food. Make different shapes. Get a plate with faces on it and “decorate” it with health foods. Make ice lollies from fruit juice and real fruit.




Fat provides essential fatty acids which are important for your child’s development.  Fat also helps the body absorb the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and provide energy which is important for growing children.  For these reasons low or reduced fat products are not recommended for very young children.  Children under the age of two years should have whole milk and full fat products rather than low or reduced fat products.

Fats can be divided into a number of different groups based on their chemical structure.

  1. Polyunsaturated fats – there are two major groups of polyunsaturated fats.

◊    The Omega-6 fats found naturally, in margarines and vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn oil and soya bean oil.


◊    The Omega-3 fats found naturally in only fish such as salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel and sardines, linseeds and rapeseed oil.  Omega-3 fats play an important role in early brain development and help to keep the heart healthy.


  1. Monounsaturated fats Monounsaturated fats are found naturally in olive oil, walnut oil and rapeseed oil, nuts and avocados.
  1. Saturated ‘animal’ fats are found naturally in full fat cheeses, cream, butter, lard, suet and fatty cuts of meat. Saturated fats also occur in coconut and palm oil.

For a healthy balanced diet, choose more of the unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated).

Choosing the right sugars

When most people talk about sugar they are usually talking about the white granulated from of sugar commonly found on the meal table.  But the term ‘sugars’ actually refers to a number of different compounds including natural sugars such as Fructose, the sugar in fruit and lactose, the sugar found in milk.

 Children are born with a natural preference for sweet foods.  While it isn’t necessary to avoid sugar completely it is important to make sure children don’t develop too much of a sweet tooth, so try to avoid adding sugar to foods and drinks.  Sugary foods or drinks between meals can increase the risk of tooth decay and should be discouraged if, however, the occasional sugary item is eaten or drunk between meals make sure children brush their teeth once they’ve finished eating.


Cutting back on salt


A high salt intake can increase the risk of high blood pressure later in life.  The taste for salt and salty foods is a ‘learnt response’ which means the more we eat the less sensitive our taste buds become.  If salt isn’t added to food, children will learn to enjoy the natural flavour of food from an early age.

Children are more sensitive to the harmful effects of salt, so it should never be added to foods for babies and toddlers.  Try to discourage older children from adding salt to their food at the table.

`Check the nutrition information on ready meals, snacks and cereals, even those aimed at     children, to check they don’t contain too much salt.

Guidelines Daily Amounts for salt 

Children aged between 4-6 years

  • No more than 3g salt a day

Children aged between 7-10 years

  • No more than 5g salt a day

Tips for Packing a healthy lunch

Packed lunches like other meal should be balanced and fit in with current healthy eating guidelines.  Children will quickly get bored if they are given the same lunch day after day, so a selection of foods should be offered throughout the week. 

As well as something to drink, a healthy packed lunch should contain:

◊          One portion of vegetable or salad and one portion of fruit (fresh, canned or dried all count).

◊          One portion of a milk or dairy item such as milk, cheese, yogurt fromage frais or a yogurt drink.

◊          One portion of a starchy food such as bread, pasta, rice, noodles or potatoes

Healthy packed lunch ideas

 Monday                                                                                       Wednesday

Egg and cress sandwich                                                                    2 small wholemeal or granary rolls filled with soft (mash a hardboiled egg with reduced fat mayonnaise                            cream cheese, sliced ham and cucumber.

And mustard and cress)                                                                     A few carrot sticks

3 cherry tomatoes                                                                                Fruit juice jelly

Small pot of fromage fraiis                                                                 Small apple

3 ready to-eat dried apricots                                                             Bottle of water

Bottle of water

Tuesday                                                                                            Thursday

2 mini wholemeal pitta filled with chicken, tomatoes                    Tuna and sweetcorn sandwich

And lettuce                                                                                                3 cherry tomatoes

Strips of red pepper                                                                                Pot of yogurt

Kiwifruit (slice the kiwi in half then wrap with cling film,             Bottle of water

Don’t forget to include a teaspoon)

Small box/handful of raisins                                                              Friday

Pot of yogurt                                                                                         Cheddar cheese sandwich

Bottle of water                                                                                      with apple slices

Strips of yellow pepper

Small banana

1 slice of malt loaf or currant bun

Bottle of water

Healthy snacks


Children often need snacks between meals to maintain energy levels.  Snacks like sweets, biscuits, cakes, crisps, chocolate and sweetened drinks provide energy but are generally low in nutrients essential for healthy growth and development, such as calcium or iron.  These foods should be offered sparingly so try to offer healthy snacks as an alternative.

Some healthy snacks for children include:

◊              Fruits

◊              Vegetables

◊              Oatcakes spread with soft cheese

◊              Toast

◊              Non sugar coated breakfast cereals with milk

◊              Teacakes or scones

◊              Fruit loaf

◊              Plain biscuit

◊              Fruit yogurt and fromage frais

◊              Smoothies or home-made milk shakes


Tips for Healthy Teeth

  • Encourage children to brush their teeth at least twice a day.  Preferably after breakfast and before bed.
  • Use a child’s toothbrush with soft bristles
  • Until the age of 2 use toothpaste formulated for children and encourage children to spit out toothpaste rather than swallow.  Children over the age of 2 can use adult toothpaste but will only need a pea-sized amount.
  • Water and milk are the best drinks for teeth and should be encouraged between meals.  Acidic or sweetened drinks such as orange juice or squash should be consumed with meals rather than between meals to avoid damage to teeth.
  • Sugary foods should be limited and children should be encouraged to brush their teeth or rinse their mouths with water after eating sweet foods.


Lifesages – Weaning


Weaning is the process that begins when you start to introduce solid foods into your baby’s diet.  As babies get older milk alone cannot satisfy all their nutritional needs.  Their stores of nutrients such as iron start to run out and need to be supplemented by a more varied diet.

Current recommendations are to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months so weaning usually begins at this time but the exact age depends entirely on the individual baby.

Lifestages – coping with food fads


  • As children get older and a bit more independent it’s not unusual for them to become faddy and picky about what they eat.
  • If your child refused certain foods or meals, simply clear it away without any fuss, making sure you don’t then let them fill up on snacks or drinks between meals.
  • Try not to use food as a bribe or reward as this could lead to eating problems later in life.
  • Don’t let children spoil their appetite by letting them fill up with too much fluid between meals.  I the hour before a meal only water should be given and the drinks should then only be offered when the meal is finished
  • Be aware that children often pick up bad eating habits from other members of their family, so make sure you and any other siblings are setting a good example.

Changing Appetite

  • It’s not unusual for a child’s appetite to fluctuate from day to day.  An increase in appetite is often a sign that they are about to have a growth spurt.
  • Many children lose their appetite if they are very tired or overexcited, so try to make sure children have some quiet time just before meals.

Cooking with Children          


Getting children to help out with preparing meals is a great way to get them interested in food, to teach them about healthy eating and to help them understand that cooking can be creative and fun.  Children are much more likely to eat something they’ve had a hand in preparing so, if children are fussy eaters, getting them involved in cooking may be a way to encourage them to try new foods.

◊              Younger children can help with simple tasks such as washing vegetables, mixing ingredients, tossing the salad or laying the table.

◊              Allow children to choose a recipe from a book or a magazine and prepare a meal for the rest of the family once in a while.

The Importance of family Meals


If you’ve got small children you know that life can sometimes seem like an endless merry-go-round of ferrying children from one place to the next.  Juggling work, social events and after school activities can leave little time to sit down and eat together as a family. But there are plenty of reasons why it’s important to sit down and enjoy a meal together.

  • Family meals provide much more than the opportunity to fill hungry tummies – they provide the chance for families to talk and share feelings, and are an opportunity for you to teach children about table manners and social etiquette.  But a family meal can mean more than just good manners.
  • Research shows that children who regularly eat with their families are more likely to eat a healthier diet.  Studies show they tend to have a higher intake of key vitamins and minerals, eat less saturated fat and consume more vegetables the children who rarely sit down to eat as a family.

Exercise And Activity


Healthy active children are more likely to grow into healthy active adults and are less likely to suffer from diabetes high blood pressure, stokes and heart disease when they get older.  Active children have fewer health problems, are less likely to become overweight or obese and are more likely to have more self-confidence and a better self image.

  • Ideally children need a least 30-60 minutes of physical activity every day, which doesn’t have to be done all at once but, can be incorporated into their daily routine.
  • It doesn’t have to be formal activity, active play such as playing Frisbee, or hopscotch or skipping are good ways of encouraging children to be active throughout the day.
  • Other fun ways to help your children be active include treats such as bowling or a day out at an adventure playground.

Understanding Food labelling


Name of the product.  The law states that neither the name nor the packaging must be misleading.  So, for instance, if a raspberry yogurt gets its’ flavour from artificial flavouring rather that real raspberries, it must be called a raspberry flavour yogurt rather than just raspberry yogurt, and it cannot have a picture of raspberries on the pot.

Ingredients list.  The order in which ingredients including any additives are listed should reflect the content of the ingredients with the greatest quantity of ingredient listed first, its’ important that parents are encouraged to carefully check ingredients lists as not only do they inform on how many ingredients are present but equally important what they are.  Manufacturer’s websites and consumer relations departments can also be sources of information.

Nutritional information.  To compare two similar products look at the figures per 100g rather than per serving because different manufacturers may use different portion sizes.

Healthy Menu Plans for Children 


Children under the age of two should have whole milk and full fat dairy products rather than low or reduced fat dairy products due to high energy needs related to their small size.

 Fruit juices and squashes should be kept to meal times.

Menu 1


Small glass of fruit juice

Small bowl of non sugar-coated

Cereal with milk

Slice of toast with Banana

Mid morning snack 

Apple or Tangerine

Small glass of milk


Scrambled egg on toast

Carrot sticks

Fruit yogurt of fromage frais

Afternoon snack 

Small glass of water

1 slice of malt loaf

Evening meal 

Spaghetti bolognaise, sweetcorn

Or mixed vegetables

Fruit juice jelly


Small glass of milk

Menu 2


Small glass of fruit juice

Small bowl of porridge with milk

Slice of toast with reduced sugar jam

Mid morning snack

Small glass of milk

Rice cake topped with mashed banana


Cheddar cheese and tomato in a

Pitta with strips of raw vegetables

Pot of low fat rice pudding

Afternoon snack 

Small glass of water

1 teacake or currant bun

Evening meal 

Tuna and sweetcorn with pasta

Fruit yogurt or fromage frais


Small glass of milk

Menu 3


Small glass of fruit juice

Small bowl of non sugar-coated

Cereal with milk

Slice of toast with marmite

Mid morning snack

Small glass of milk



Cheese on toast

3 cherry tomatoes

Fruit yogurt or fromage frais

Afternoon snack 

Small glass of water

Currant bun or fruit scone

Evening meal 

Fish pie made for salmon, white fish

And mashed potato

Garden peas

Stewed apples and custard


Small glass of milk

Some products may contain unfamiliar ingredients or additives such as colours, preservatives and other E nutrients and whilst they are perfectly safe, they may not appeal to some parents.  Some manufacturers have developed products which avoid unnecessary additives and are made with 100% natural ingredients. e.g Little Stars range.


If you are concerned that your child is overweight and findin git very difficult to lose weight then try:

[email protected]

or phone: 07966 254 818


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