Ensuring small children eat a well balanced diet every day and get all the nutrients they need may seem like an impossible task for many parents. However, there are plenty of parenting hacks and simple tips and tricks to getting it right and ensuring that your little ones get the best diet possible. Remember that a ‘perfect diet’ doesn’t exist, it’s simply about balance and variety and trying to establish a healthy relationship with food.
As a starting point however, here are my ten top tips for healthy children:
Focus on a balance of foods everyday (as much as possible)
This means trying to include foods from each of the main four food groups; starchy foods such as bread, rice, pasta, potatoes; fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, apples and carrots; dairy foods such as cheese, milk and yogurt and, lastly, protein and iron rich foods such as nuts, beans, lentils, eggs, meat and fish
Establish a routine around meal and snack times
It’s a good idea to have a routine so that children learn when to expect food. This helps to develop an appetite and a good awareness of hunger and fullness signals in the body. It also provides multiple opportunities for growing bodies to receive energy and nutrients
Avoid too many foods that are high in sugar, salt, fat and little in the way of nutrients
Foods such as crisps, sweets, cakes and biscuits are fine to have occasionally, but if they are a regular part of your child’s daily diet they can displace other more nutrient-rich foods. Avoid letting children fill up on ‘empty calories’ in-between mealtimes as much as possible
Make sure they are staying hydrated
All children need to stay hydrated is good old H20! Try to always have some water with you to keep young, active children hydrated and offer water as an option alongside a meal
Take the pressure off
Sometimes taking the pressure off at mealtimes can help to make mealtimes more enjoyable for children and this in turn can help them to enjoy their food more. If mealtimes have become a battle ground, try taking a step back and just enjoying time together again, without the pressure to eat everything on their plate. As long as they have a good food routine, there will be plenty of other times to get some nutrients into their bodies
One of the best ways to get your children gobbling up all the good foods you want them to eat is to eat them yourselves. Children learn by copying what those around them are doing, including their parents. So practice - Do as I do, not just as I say!
Don’t forget about their vitamins
Children under the age of 5 are recommended to have a supplement containing vitamin A, C and D. For children over 5, it’s recommended that in the winter months this age group take a supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D as they won’t get enough from the sun in the winter months
Include healthy snacks as part of their routine
Snacks are an ideal way to top up energy and nutrient levels in-between meals. Children are often growing and developing at a fast pace and so the extra snacks can really help. Try and focus on healthy options such as fruit and veggies, nuts and seeds and yogurt and cheese
Avoid talking negatively about food or body image etc in front of young children
The way we as adults talk about food, diets and our body shapes can hugely impact how our children feel about their own bodies as they grow older. Try to encourage learning about the human body and explain how we are all different shapes and sizes to encourage body positivity and confident little people
Make food fun
Try having fun with food and encouraging lots of fun occasions where food is involved. Christmas is a great time to get roasting chestnuts and gobbling plenty of veggies at Christmas Dinner. However throughout the year use indoor/outdoor picnics or even blindfold taste tests, food stamp games and lots more to get children familiar with and enjoying a wide variety of delicious, healthy foods
In an effort to help educate kids and inspire them to choose healthier food options, Whitworths has launched the 'My Amazing Body' campaign to celebrate the launch of its new healthy snack range, Bright Little Nuts. The campaign aims to give children and parents the tools they need to make learning about the body a regular and fun activity, with each pack containing 'My Amazing Body' collectable cards as well as an interactive new website that plays host to a range of educational games.