What we eat, especially during childhood, plays a critical role in determining our health. Having healthy and nutritious meals throughout childhood is very important, as it is a time of rapid growth, development and activity. Did you know that general eating habits are actually formed in the first few years of a child's life? Poor nutritional choices during their early years can lead to health risks such as obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease and hypertension. To ensure your child is maintaining a balanced diet, they will need to eat the right proportion of food from the five different food groups.
Let’s take a look into the different groups and why it's important for children to eat foods from every group to maintain in optimal health. Depending on the age of your child, they will need different proportions of each group which can be found here.
Carbohydrates are crucial in everyone's diet as it gives you the energy you need to keep you going throughout the day, as well as calcium and vitamin B. To help you out, here are a few of our favourite meals containing a good amount of carbohydrates, to keep your child going throughout the day.
- Pear porridge
- Wholegrain cereals like Weetabix
- Wholegrain toast with marmite
Lunch and dinner
- A baked potato with baked beans or tuna
- Tomato pasta with a salad
- Brown rice and chicken
Proteins are the building block for the human body, they help repair and grow it. Protein is found in meats, eggs, fish, lentils, brands and a whole range of other foods such as soya. These foods also provide the body with vitamins, minerals and iron. Here are a few high-protein recipes.
- Soft boiled eggs and soldiers
- Protein banana muffins
- Toast with peanut butter
Lunch and dinner
- Chilli con carne
- Baked beans on toast
Dairy products are filled with vitamins like Vitamin D, A and B12, as well as calcium which keeps your bones and teeth healthy. Our bodies will absorb calcium from foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurts. Here is how you can incorporate dairy into your child's everyday meals.
- Blueberry buttermilk muffins
- Berry smoothies with yoghurt
- Cottage cheese on toast with honey
Lunch and dinner
- Turkish eggs with Greek yoghurt and spinach
- Vegetable frittata
- Macaroni and cheese
If you're finding it hard to portion out all of the different food groups into your child's lunch whilst at school, find out why are lunch boxes are the best here.
Fruit and vegetables
You will have heard this many a time, but you should eat 5 portions of fruit and veg a day, no matter how old you are. Fresh fruit and veg, frozen fruit and veg and tinned fruit in juice all have similar nutritious values and should be incorporated into your child's meals. Fruit and vegetables are high in fibre, antioxidants and vitamins that will help to keep your child full and will keep their digestive system healthy. The more variety of fruit and vegetables your child eats, the more nutrients they will consume.
- Fresh fruit salads
- Apple and cinnamon muffins with sweet potato
Lunch and dinner
- Pesto pasta with veggies
- Vegetable curry
Fats and sugars
We all know that it is important not to have too many foods from this group a day, as they give us a lot of energy but they are not nutritional. Try to keep foods such as butter and cooking oil to a minimum and save foods and drinks like chocolate, cakes and fizzy drinks for the occasional treat.
Throughout the blog, we have spoken a lot about foods that contain high amounts of various vitamins, but why are vitamins important for a child’s immune system and their growth and development?
Vitamins that helps with their immune system
Poor diets in younger children can lead to deficiencies in essential nutrients and vitamins. Vitamin A is particularly important in younger children as it helps their immune system strong, it helps their vision in dim lightning and it helps to keep their skin healthy.
Here are a few foods that are rich in vitamin A:
- Carrots, mangoes, sweet potatoes
- Dark green vegetables like broccoli, spinach and cabbage
- Dairy products
- Fortified fat spreads
Vitamin C is another vitamin that helps boost your child’s immune system and it’s important for their general health and it can help their body to absorb iron.
Here are good sources of vitamin C:
Vitamins for growth and development
Vitamin D is very important as it helps to control the amount of phosphate and calcium in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep their teeth, muscles and bones healthy. If children don’t have enough Vitamin D in their diet, it can lead to bone deformities like rickets and bone pain. The NHS states that children who are most at risk of not taking in enough Vitamin D are children aged between one and 4 as well as babies.
Good sources of Vitamin D:
- Direct sunlight
- Oily fish e.g. mackerel, salmon, sardines and herring
- Egg yolks
- Red meat
- Fortified breakfast cereals
Make sure you keep an eye out on our Instagram and blogs for new and healthy recipes that your children will love!