Healthy Eating for children

Why is a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet essential for young children?

For younger children of pre-school age take a look at the Children's Food Trust.

A healthy, balanced diet and regular physical activity are essential for children’s health and well-being. Research confirms that healthy eating habits in the years before school are very important because they influence growth, development and academic achievement in later life.
A recent review of health inequalities by Marmot identifies the early years as a crucial time to intervene to reduce health inequalities across the life course. Quality of early years experiences can have a fundamental impact on all aspects of human development, physically, emotionally and intellectually. Encouraging breastfeeding and ensuring that children eat well in their early years are key to ensuring that they achieve their potential, and help prevent them becoming overweight and obese. 
This approach also helps to reduce the risk of serious diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancers in later life. 

Good nutrition is important for children aged under five to: 
  • ensure that they get the right amount of energy (calories) and nutrients needed while they are growing rapidly 
  • ensure that they do not consume too much energy (calories), which may lead to children becoming overweight or obese 
  • encourage them to eat a wide variety of foods and develop good dietary habits to take with them into later childhood and beyond. 
There are lots of resources on the children's Food Trust web site, including healthy recipes to try. There is also lots of information on healthy eating on the NHS web site, search for the Eatwell Guide.   This guide is for adults and children over 2.

The Eatwell Guide shows how much of what we eat overall should come from each food group to achieve a healthy, balanced diet. You don't need to achieve this balance with every meal but try to get the balance right over a day or even a week.

  • Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day
  • Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates. Choose wholegrain where possible
  • Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks and yoghurts). Choose lower-fat and lower-sugar options
  • Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein. Aim for at least two portions of fish every week – one of which should be oily, such as salmon or mackerel
  • Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and eat in small amounts
  • Eat foods high in fat, salt and sugar less often and in small amounts
  • Drink plenty of fluids – the government recommends 6-8 cups/glasses a day
 Change 4 Life logo

The NHS have a brilliant new app that they have created that you can download to your phone. I helps you to calculate how much sugar is in the foods that your children are eating. Take a look at the Change4Life website 

Many people believe that a healthy breakfast is important to give us a good start to the day. Often, however, our breakfast can have surprising amounts of sugar, saturated fat and salt. In fact, kids are eating nearly half their maximum daily amount of sugar before the school bell rings. Watch our short film to see how the sugar stacks up at breakfast time.