A varied, nutritionally balanced diet is essential for our overall health, both as children and adults. There is lots of guidance on children’s nutrition across the internet. The Food Standards Agency’s EatWell Plate is a good visual reminder of how your child’s daily diet should look, over 5 years old, with the right nutrients.
A varied, nutritionally balanced diet is essential for our overall health, both as children and adults. There is lots of guidance on children’s nutrition across the internet. The Food Standards Agency’s Eatwell Guide is a good visual reminder of how your child’s daily diet should look, over 5 years old, with the right nutrients.
A good and varied child’s diet should include:
Your child’s diet should also contain enough of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals their body needs to be healthy.
Many of us know what a good, varied diet should look like for our family’s growing and developing needs. The challenge can be: how do I get my child to eat that?!
Is it just my child?
When reading blogs, articles and guidance on children’s nutrition, it can be easy to sometimes think, is it just our family that struggles to get everyone eating the right foods? The answer to that is a very simple NO. You are absolutely not alone if your child doesn’t always want to eat the foods on offer for dinner and can struggle with certain foods.
Why Do Some Children Struggle with Certain Foods?
The first thing to mention is that when it comes to food, we ALL have foods as adults that we like more than others, foods we struggle with or simply just don’t like. Children and young people are no different. Luckily not one food source is vital for all of your child’s nutrition. The secret is finding what works for your family, at any particular time. This last bit is important too – depending on when you are planning your family’s diet, there may be different challenges.
Children who are teething, have certain illnesses or are going through growth spurts, might want a different type of diet. Equally, children with sensory processing disorders can also struggle with certain foods with too much colour, texture or taste.
The trick is to find what foods your child likes that can also provide sufficient nutrients.
To help you along the way, we’ve got some tips on encouraging your child to try different foods. The key word is ‘try’; just like us adults, children may not like all foods. But by encouraging your child to get used to trying different foods and different variations of how they are prepared is one way to get closer to meeting their nutritional needs.
If there was food source you had never heard of or seen and as an adult you were confronted with a plate of it, how would you react? Children respond well to being introduced to foods before they are encouraged to taste them. Picture books are a great way to get a child interested in vegetables before they appear at mealtime.
Following on from this, allowing your child to play with a vegetable before it appears at mealtime is another great way to introduce the food. Children often respond to texture and colour. Understanding that before eating the vegetable can help your child to develop a positive relationship with certain foods.
Why do children like fast food? Because it looks so great on the photos. We are surrounded, like it or not, by adverts for fast food. So why not try the same for healthier foods? Try advertising what’s coming up on the fridge or a noticeboard in the kitchen? Build excitement for trying broccoli for the first time!
How you respond at meal time will affect how your child relates to what is on their plate. If we all get excited about a takeaway but not about a healthy veggie bake, our children will pick up on these patterns. Let’s make healthy food fun!
Life can be hectic so it is only natural that meal times can turn into a battle under pressure to get food over with. The problem with this is that it can mean you as a parent hold all the power and your child’s only response is to refuse to eat. So take the pressure away – it’s OK if your child chooses not to try something or eat the meal prepared for them. Make sure you are providing lots of options and work with your child to help them discover the healthy diet that works for their nutritional needs.
When your child tries a new food, maybe you could reward this with a sticker chart on the fridge. Make it a fun activity to explore new food sources and recipes to make them interesting.
Getting The Balance Right
The most important thing, when it comes to your child’s nutrition, is that you encourage your children to develop a healthy relationship to a healthy and varied diet. Whatever diet choices you make as a family, plant-based or not, there are lots of choices available for your child. Keep the quest for a healthy balanced diet fun and an adventure – discover new foods and experiment with healthy recipes!
It may be that as a family you need to consider supplements to ensure you are getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need. Some vitamins, such as Vitamin D, are lacking in every food source. Choosing a supplement that helps your family keep healthy can help to ensure you have a balanced diet and your nutritional targets are met.
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