Around the time your child starts school, he or she will suddenly start growing
very quickly and becoming more active. Children need a lot more energy and nutrients
for their body size than adults. Here is some practical advice to help you make
some healthy food choices for your growing child.
What Should My Child Be Eating?
Children need a healthy balanced diet rich in fruit, vegetables and starchy
foods. Encourage your child to choose a variety of foods to help make sure they
get the wide range of nutrients they need to stay healthy.
Remember to include these sorts of foods:
- Milk, cheese, yoghurt, soya beans and nuts - these are rich in calcium,
which is needed for healthy bones and teeth.
- Fortified breakfast cereals, margarine and oily fish - these are good sources
of vitamin D, which helps ensure a good supply of calcium in the blood and
therefore healthy bones. The main source of vitamin D is from the action of
sunlight on the skin, but remember to avoid strong sun, especially around
midday when there is a risk of burning.
- Meat, particularly red meat and liver and fish, which are rich sources of
iron. Pulses (beans and lentils), green vegetables and fortified cereals are
also good sources of iron. Iron is needed for healthy blood and research shows
that some children, particularly older girls are not getting enough iron.
- Citrus fruit (such as oranges and lemons), tomatoes and potatoes - these
are all good sources of vitamin C, which is essential for health. Vitamin
C can also help the body to absorb iron, so it's a good idea to give your
child some food or drink containing vitamin C, such as a glass of fruit juice
at the same time as an iron-rich meal to increase the amount of iron the body
- Milk, margarine, butter, green vegetables, carrots and apricots - these
are all good sources of vitamin A, which is important for good vision and
But you should avoid giving children shark, swordfish and marlin because these
types of fish have been shown to contain relatively high levels of methylmercury,
which might affect children's developing nervous systems.
Sweets and Snack Foods
Eating sweet and sticky foods frequently between meals causes dental decay.
Snack foods, such as cakes, biscuits, crisps, chocolate and sweets are often
high in sugar and saturated fat, and low in certain vitamins and minerals. So
if your child does eat these sorts of foods:
- Try to make sure they only eat them occasionally or in small amounts, so
they only make up a relatively small part of the overall diet
- Help and encourage your child to clean their teeth every day
- Try picking a weekly 'sweet day' or choose the weekends as a time when your
child is allowed to eat sweets
My Child is Overweight. Is Dieting the Answer?
If you encourage your child to eat a healthy balanced diet, restrict amounts
of foods containing sugar and fat, and encourage your child to get plenty of
physical activity, they should maintain a healthy weight.
However if you are concerned about your child's weight, consult your GP before
starting any sort of diet.
How Can I Encourage My Child to Eat Healthy School Meals?
As your child grows older they will tend to follow the eating habits you've
established at home. If your child has school dinners, talk to them about what
they eat and try to encourage them to vary their meals.
How Can I Make Sure My Child Has a Healthy Packed Lunch?
Eating a variety of foods is important for a balanced diet. But it can sometimes
be difficult to make packed lunches varied, interesting and healthy.
About one third of our diet<