Healthy lifestyle choices play an important part in children's
development. Children who have a healthy and balanced diet are able to
progress and develop well and are more likely to grow into happy and
As parents and carers you have a substantial influence over your
child's eating habits. The patterns laid down in their early life are
more than likely to be carried on into adulthood. Therefore both modelling
and encouraging your child to eat a varied and balanced diet is
essential. The first few years of your
child's eating experiences are of vital importance to their health and
well-being so you may find the Baby & Toddler Healthy Eating Planner helpful.
Babies Weaning Drinks
Mealtimes Vegetables Deserts
Lunchboxes Healthy Snacking
How to encourage healthy eating
Healthy eating needs to be developed and promoted from as early an age
as possible to keep your child healthy and well. Children develop their
eating patterns early on so getting it right as a parent and carer is
essential. It can be frustrating at times when you know what foods your
child should be eating to stay healthy but they refuse to eat them.
Starting from the very beginning by breastfeeding your baby will give
them the right nutrients early on. Breastfed babies experience a range of tastes and flavours early on through the mothers breast milk which prepares them for new tastes they will experience during weaning.
Before you have your baby, you must ensure you are aware of the need
Eating during Pregnancy
, not smoking or drinking and making sure you are getting enough folic
acid. By doing so you are ensuring your baby is getting all the essential
nutrients whilst still in the womb.
When your baby is born, keeping yourself healthy is crucial, as this
affects the quality of breast milk your baby receives. Breast milk contains many nutrients
as well as antibodies that help your baby
develop a healthy immune system and fight off infections. Some mothers may choose to bottle feed but the benefits and nutrients in breast milk
are recommended by many health professionals. Breast milk
fights infections as it contains antibodies, stops constipation and
provides babies with all the essential nutrients they need for the first
six months of their lives. It is advised to breast feed your baby for as
long as possible.
As soon as your child is ready to be weaned, which is usually at around
six months old, it is essential that you begin with healthy and
nutritious choices. This way your child learns to accept these foods as
part of their everyday diet. Most importantly incorporate fruit
and vegetables into your child's meals.
There are two method of weaning- Baby Led Weaning or the traditional weaning method which involves feeding purees, Baby Led Weaning also referred to as BLW begins with the introduction of a variety of safe and appropriate finger foods rather then the traditional approach of spoon feeding pureed foods. Advocates of BLW explain how such an approach allows babies to explore food textures for themselves, becoming use to a variety of healthy foods early on. BLW also encourages babies to develop a pincer grip, refined fine motor control and hand eye coordination.
For those following the traditional or puree weaning approach a main meal could consist of making a puree from fresh fruit or
vegetables. Purees are healthy and simple to make. Vegetables need to be
washed, peeled, chopped, steamed and then liquidised in a liquidiser. Make sure the food is blended up to a
runny, paste like consistency. The Philips AVENT Combined Baby Food Steamer and Blender
is ideal for steaming vegetables, fruit, and pulses and can be used from
the early stages of weaning. By making your own purees you save money
and also provide your child with nutritious home cooked food without any
Fruit or vegetable purees are a healthy option and the texture can be altered
by adding cooled boiled water or breast or formula milk. When you first start
weaning you need to to introduce new foods and tastes slowly perhaps
just pureeing one fruit or vegetable such as a sweet potato or apple. As your baby gets used to different tastes you can move on from
single purees to combinations such as carrot with swede or red lentils
and vegetables. Never add salt to food as this can damage your
babys kidneys. Always check the temperature of purees yourself before
feeding them to your baby.
As your child becomes use to new foods, you could start blending up
the fresh foods you eat.
Once your child is eating solid foods and joining in with family
mealtimes, they can become more involved with
Healthy Eating Choices. It
is helpful if all members of the family are good role models and eat a
healthy diet, as this way your child will be used to seeing others
eating a range of foods and see it as part of their diet too.
By having a range of nutritious and varied dishes at mealtimes which everyone in the
family enjoys, your child will grow up getting used to these healthy
foods such as brown rice, brown pasta, sweet potatoes, fresh fish,
broccoli, lentils and salads.
Give your child time to try different meals and foster a love for healthy
foods in your home. Encourage them to be involved in helping you prepare
the meals, perhaps washing the salad ingredients or peeling the
potatoes. It make take time and
effort to begin with but your child will be more likely to eat different
foods if they are involved with the preparation.
Undoubtedly as your child gets older they will realise that there are
other foods which perhaps are more appealing to them which they haven't
been introduced to. Or if healthy eating is something new you are
developing within your family, you may find that your child struggles to let go of fast foods and accept the change of diet. Try not to
suddenly start forcing healthy foods on your child but rather introduce
them slowly and during family mealtimes.
Children undoubtedly will occasionally
want to indulge and have foods which are high in sugar such as sweets
and chocolates, but this should be kept for a treat or perhaps special
Avoid falling in to the trap of labelling
some foods as 'good' or 'bad' and instead use phrases such as 'everyday'
and 'sometimes' foods, this will develop your child's understanding of
when they can and cannot have certain foods. By banning unhealthy foods,
results in children wanting them even more, so be sure to explain that
these foods are 'ok' in the right quantities. Often parents bribe their
child to finish their main course so they can enjoy the dessert, it is
this that often results in children thinking that eating the healthy
option is a chore, and the reward for doing so is having a dessert.
Children need to enjoy mealtimes and nutritious foods. Parents need to
try and let their child choose how much they need to eat, as forcing
food on a child is not helpful to eating patterns. Remember children
rarely go hungry, so provide the nutritious option and let your child to
decide how much they can eat.
Most importantly don't give up after serving a new food once, but serve
it at least four or five time, so you child has a good chance to try it
and enjoy it. When presenting your child with new or alternative foods
do so calmly without pressuring and nagging your child as this will only
create negative feelings to be associated with healthy eating.
child to eat vegetables
Vegetables are the most common food to be avoided and disliked by
children, especially those who have not had them from a young age.
Therefore encouraging your child to eat and enjoy vegetables is
important, and can be done in a creative and fun way. You could serve
vegetables with a healthy dip to make them more appealing, or cut them
into special shapes for your child. Perhaps by purchasing alphabet
cutters to represent the letters in their name or exciting shape
cutters. Serving new vegetables which your
child hasn't had before and perhaps trying them together as a family
will make eating vegetables seem more exciting. You may choose to serve
vegetable kebabs and involve your child in making them. Juicing vegetables is
also a good idea as your child will get a lot of nutrients this way.
This could be made more appealing by serving as a Smoothie
favourite glass complete with special straw. Your child make like fresh
carrot juice. Make sure you show your child how much you enjoy
vegetables and how lovely these wonderful foods are. The best way you
can get your child to eat vegetables is by setting an excellent example
A further way to encourage your child to eat vegetables is to take them
the local supermarket or farm shop to help them choose and buy different
vegetables. This way they will be more involved and learn about how
different vegetables grow and where they come from. If you do have the
ability to grow vegetables at home this is an invaluable experience, and
will no doubt create excitement and interest with your child wanting to
try what they have grown. Your child is far more likely to eat vegetables if they themselves
have planted them and seen them grow. Two recommended stories to
read to your child to encourage healthy eating are
Oliver's Fruit Salad.
These are great picture books with some wonderful illustrations of where
our food comes from.
There are many healthier desserts which you can make to ensure your child
is having a balanced diet. Try and avoid buying ready made desserts as
they can contain high levels of sugar,
artificial colourings and preservatives. Healthier options include home-made
fruit cakes, apple crumble,
flapjack, fruit kebabs, fruit cake, fruit scones or fruit salad.
Make sure you don't fall into the trap of
rewarding your child for good behaviour with sweets and
chocolates! Instead do an activity together that you know your child
will enjoy. You are likely to find they appreciate it far more when you spend quality one-to-one time together,
which will also strengthen your relationship. Why not rustle up a fruit
salad or delicious fruit smoothie together?
Try and encourage your child to snack on healthy foods
from a young age, so it becomes a healthy lifestyle habit, rather than
something they feel they ought to do.
There are many healthy nutritious snacks which your child can enjoy such
as cereal bars (check sugar content carefully), natural yoghurts, cherry
tomatoes, fruit, breadsticks, raisins, crackers (which are low in salt),
dried fruits (prunes, apricots, dates, figs).
Encourage your child to have a glass of milk or water if they are
thirsty during the day. You might want to make this more appealing by
providing them with their own special plastic glass and cartoon
character straw. Explain to them why drinking milk is good for them i.e.
it contains calcium which develops their bones and teeth.
Avoid having fizzy drinks and squash available during the day and maybe
keep these types of drinks for a birthday party or special treat,
Instead help them make a fruit smoothie or banana milkshake with a range
fruits. If your child has been use to having sugary drinks and refuses
to drink water or milk try giving them a sugar free squash and then
gradually diluting the squash more and more with a view to getting them
to drink water.
Most children enjoy spending time with an adult, and cooking together is
an ideal way to promote healthy eating in a fun and enjoyable way. You
might decide to use a childs cookbook, so your child can select
something they would like to make and which appeals to them. Make sure
the recipes in the book are healthy, sensible and suitable for
children. Home cooking is healthiest as it does not contain artificial
colourings, additives or preservatives.
By cooking with your child they will begin to understand what foods are
healthy and good for them and what foods are best eaten in smaller
quantities or less frequently. You may decide to cook with your child
once a week and let them choose what they would like to make, or
depending on the age of your child, perhaps
let them help you on a daily basis with simple meals. By cooking with your child you are
teaching them the importance and need for a healthy and balanced diet.
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