What are the benefits of healthy eating for you and your family?
No matter what age you are, healthy eating is really important to maintaining and improving your health and it is even more important for children and young people who are still growing and developing.
A healthy, well balanced diet has many benefits including:
- Helps growth and development
- Provides a fuel store so children and young people have the energy to get through the day
- Helps improve concentration, mood and stress
- Is a source of the nutrients needed for healthy skin, teeth, hair and nails
- Protects the teeth from damage from sugary foods and drinks.
What foods should children eat?
Every meal should aim to follow the guidance from the eat well plate template (see below) and should include the following foods or alternatives if your child has any special dietary needs.
- Starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice, pasta and bread (whole wheat where possible)
- Fruit and vegetables – aiming to eat at least five-a-day
- Sources of protein including meat, fish, eggs and beans
- Diary like milk, yoghurt or cheese
- Source of healthy fats such as oils, nuts and avocados.
The NHS Living Well website is a great resource for more information on what foods are healthy and how much to eat.
10 a day
Everyone should be aiming for 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day no matter how old they are. It’s just the portion size that should vary. A good guide is that a portion for that person should be about as big as a handful would be for them.
Smoothies and fruit juices are a great way to get children to eat more fruit and vegetables but these often these end up providing only one portion and too much sugar.
Introducing some fresh and healthy yet tasty snacks into your child’s day is a great way to fit in some more fruit and vegetables. You could try some of these lunchbox ideas:
- Swapping biscuits or cereal bars for dried fruit like raisins
- Rather than a sugary yoghurt, you could try some plain yoghurt and add some fruit
- Homemade vegetable crisps
- Sliced apple and peanut butter.
How can I get children and young people involved in healthy eating?
Get them to help with cooking
Getting children involved preparing the meals; from selecting a dish, helping shop for the ingredients or even getting involved in the cooking (under adult supervision) is a great way for them to learn and think about what is in their food.
There are many great sites for child friendly recipes such as Change4Life
Setting a challenge
Why not set your child a challenge of how many days they can make healthy swaps?
Create a tracker for their five-a-day
Why not treat them to a sweet or ice cream if they achieve a full week of healthy eating so they start seeing sugary items as a rare treat rather than daily snack?