Dietary requirements for children
Diet is incredibly important for children to grow and develop.The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that children achieve and maintain a healthy diet, weight, be physically active and consume adequate amounts of nutritious food and drinks to meet their energy needs.
In particular, children should ensure their diet includes:
- Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from five food groups – Vegetables (including legumes and beans); fruit; grain; lean protein; reduced fat dairy – every day.
- Limit their intake of foods containing saturated fat, added fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol.
A balanced diet for good health
When children eat from the five food groups, they’ll not only be getting essential vitamins and minerals needed for optimal growth, but they’re more likely to make healthy choices as they get older.
Unfortunately, statistics show that most kids don’t eat enough vegetables, and instead fill up on foods high in saturated fat, added sugars and salt. While these ‘treat foods’ are okay occasionally, consuming them too often can lead to poor nutritional intake, dental decay and weight gain.
Research shows that childhood obesity can profoundly affect children’s physical health. Many medical conditions have been linked to childhood obesity including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, asthma and, orthopedic problems.
Childhood obesity also negatively impacts their social and emotional wellbeing, and self-esteem. It’s also associated with poor academic performance and a lower quality of life for the child.
Should you require the addition of vitamins or supplements to your diet, you can shop a full range of supplements here.
What should be included in a child’s diet?
Children should be eating from the five different food groups, and their diet should be varied, interesting and appropriate for their age and chewing ability.
Some examples of how to include these foods in a healthy eating plan for children include:
- Breakfast – bowl of wholegrain cereal topped with fruit and yoghurt
- Lunch – wholegrain wrap spread with advocado, topped with chicken and salad
- Dinner – spaghetti bolognaise, (add grated carrot, zuchinni or other vegetables to the sauce), sprinkled with grated cheese.
What about snacks?
Snacks provide an excellent opportunity for children to get their daily quota of essential vitamins and minerals. Healthy snacks that will meet nutritional needs for children, include:
- smoothies made with fresh fruit, milk and yoghurt
- homemade cakes and muffins with added grated fruit or vegetables (e.g carrot and zuchinni)
- fresh fruit skewers with yoghurt
- poached or tinned fruit (no added sugar) with custard or yoghurt
- boiled egg with wholegrain toast
Put the fun back into food
One of the keys to getting children interested in healthy eating is to make it fun. Healthy toddler meals can be made more appealing by cutting sandwiches into shapes using cookie cutters, or making ‘faces’ using a variety of different foods (e.g. cucumber slices for eyes, capsicum strips for a mouth, etc.). It’s also important to encourage little ones to feed themselves as soon as they’re old enough.
Getting children to eat healthy food can be tricky. Here are some tips that may help:
- Lead by example – when children see their parents eating healthy food, they’re more likely to do the same.
- Plan meals – children should be encouraged to help plan meals.
- Involve kids – when kids are involved in grocery shopping and meal prepping, they’ll be more likely to eat what’s served.
It’s quite common for children to be fussy eaters. However, healthy options should still be offered to them. Research shows that what children learn at home about healthy eating and making the right nutritional choices will have the biggest influence on the choices they make when selecting foods to consume at school and fast-food restaurants. So, it’s important that parents and carers make nutritious eating a priority.
Please note: The information supplied is general in nature. Please consult your medical practitioner for individual advice.
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