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Healthy Eating Back

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 successful individuals. 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

Cooking Healthy 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 for Healthy 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 additives.

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 baby’s 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 occasions.

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, this 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.

Encouraging your 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 in their 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 yourself.

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 Vegetables and 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 of fresh 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 child’s 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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