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Healthy eating for kids

Many children eat more in snacks during the day than they do at mealtimes, so it is important to make sure that there are some healthy snacks around. Keep your fruit bowl full and colourful, make time to cut up fresh fruit and veggies and present it in interesting ways; like fruit on a skewer or chopped up raw vegetables and cherry tomatoes with a tasty dip, stuffed pita pockets or in pasta salads.

Children need good nutrition to ensure that they receive the right amounts of vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and fat required for energy production, growth and repair. During the years of childhood, puberty and adolescence, young people need a vast range of nutrients to ensure a strong immune system, to aid brain, heart and lung development and build strong bones and teeth.

Some Facts about Food

CARBOHYDRATES

Good choices: Wholemeal bread, brown bread, brown pasta, brown rice, oats, potatoes, fruit and vegetables

  • The main function of carbohydrates is to provide energy for the brain and body
  • Carbohydrates are important for growing children who have greater energy needs than adults
  • Try and choose wholegrain and fibre rich carbohydrates where possible
PROTEINS

Good choices: chicken, fish, lean meat, eggs, milk, cheese, yoghurt, nuts, seeds, lentils, pulses, soya products (soya milk, tofu, soya yoghurt)

  • Protein is essential for building hair, skin, nails, bones, cartilage, ligaments and hormones
  • Our bodies are made up of approximately 25% protein
  • Red meat is a good source of protein and also provides the best and most easily absorbed source of iron
  • Breakfast cereal enriched with iron, and dried apricots are other good sources of iron. In order to improve iron absorption, include vitamin C-rich foods or drinks with meals e.g. oranges or orange juice, kiwi fruit, strawberries or guavas
ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS

Good choices: oily fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines, fresh tuna), eggs, nuts, seeds and avocado

  • Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), such as Omega-3 and 6 cannot be produced by the body and therefore must be obtained from food. EFAs are important for the healthy development of the brain and nervous system, eyes, skin and hormone balance
  • Research has shown that a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids may improve brain and eye function
  • Fresh tuna is a good source of Omega-3, but not tinned tuna as EFAs are lost during the processing

WATER

Water is essential for keeping the cells in the body hydrated, for keeping the digestive system regular, and for ensuring that chemical processes in the body occur

  • Always offer your child water to drink as a first option
  • Dilute any fruit juices to reduce the sugar quantity where necessary
SUGAR

Most children eat twice as much sugar as they should and sugar can be hidden in many foods

  • Other names and types of ‘sugars’: glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, dextrose. Also, honey, maple syrup, fruit syrup, molasses, corn syrup, mannitol and sorbitol
  • High sugar intakes can cause blood sugar imbalances, tooth decay and weight gain if not controlled
  • Teach your children the importance of eating a healthy diet, low in sugar
  • Sugar Tips:— Choose 100% fruit juice and dilute with water— Avoid fizzy drinks (they can contain up to 8 teaspoons of sugar per can)—Avoid fizzy drinks (they can contain up to 8 teaspoons of sugar per can)— Choose foods and drinks with less than 2% sugar (2g per 100g/100ml)— Avoid foods with more than 10% sugar (10g per 100g)

  • Approximately ¾ of our salt intake comes from processed foods such as packet soups, tinned soups, sausages, chicken nuggets, burgers, processed meats and salty snacks
  • Do not add salt to your child’s food
  • Check the salt content on food labels: 1g of sodium per 100g = 2.5g salt
  • Generally, foods containing 0.5g of sodium per 100g are high in salt

Some Nutrient-rich Meal and Snack Ideas for Kids

  • Chopped fresh fruit
  • Fresh fruit with yoghurt and cinnamon
  • Dried fruit e.g. raisins or apricots
  • Toasted raisin bread and peanut butter
  • Scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast
  • High fibre breakfast cereal topped with chopped fresh fruit
  • Bowl of blueberries and sliced banana
  • Crudités (red, green and yellow peppers, carrots or cucumber strips) with dips such as hummus or cream cheese
  • Cherry tomatoes and small blocks of cheese
  • Cold meat (chicken drumstick, meatballs, slice of lean ham, chicken or turkey ham)
  • Wholemeal crackers or rice cakes with peanut butter topping
  • Mini pita breads stuffed with tuna mayo and sweetcorn
  • Pasta salad with chicken strips, grated cheese and cherry tomatoes