Healthy kids make healthy adults and it’s important that they get the nutrition they need as their bodies grow and their brains develop. Encouraging your children to eat a balanced diet and choose the healthy option over sugary treats isn’t always easy, so here CashLady looks at the food and nutrition guidelines for healthy food for kids.
Healthy food for kids
Eating a healthy balanced diet
Children are always on the go and from school age, around the age of five, they see their activity levels increase even further as they run around with friends and take part in school activities.
Fuelling this activity with healthy food for kids is important and a great place to start is the NHS Eat Well Guide.
The guideline is for children over two and adults.
It highlights all that you need for a healthy balanced diet, including how much of what you eat overall should come from each food group and a reminder to get your five a day fruit and vegetables.
The information is presented in a handy chart that you can print and pop on the front of the fridge.
Carbohydrates for healthy kids
Essential for energy for growing kids, carbohydrates should make up one-third of their diet.
Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta, breakfast cereals, oats, couscous and other grains all fall into the carbohydrate category.
Where possible opt for wholegrain options, which are considered healthier with slower energy release and read up on the sugar content of breakfast cereals before serving them as they can be far more sugary than you think.
Jacket potatoes with their skins on are an excellent (low cost) energy source, with lots of healthy fibre in the skins.
Protein for growing kids
Protein is an essential part of your diet and is super helpful for growth, maintenance and repair of kid’s bodies.
Lean meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, pulses, beans and soya products are all healthy food for kids and excellent sources of protein. You should aim to give your child fish at least two times a week.
One of these fish portions should ideally be an oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout or sardines as it contains omega 3 fatty acids which are important for general health.
Calcium for growing bones
Milk, cheese, yoghurt and fromage frais are good sources of protein and some vitamins, and crucially they’re also an important source of calcium, which helps keep kids bones strong.
Aim for lower-fat and lower-sugar products where possible, such as 1% fat milk, reduced-fat cheese or plain low-fat yoghurt.
You can also find calcium in soya beans, tofu, green leafy vegetables, soya drinks with added calcium, bread and any food made with fortified flour, and fish that contains edible bones.
Healthy foods for kids: fats
A little bit of good fat is required in all diets but it’s important that you choose only the right type of fat and give it to your child sparingly.
Saturated fat is the one to avoid or restrict, it’s contained in animal products such as fatty meats, butter, lard, ghee, and dairy products and foods made with these items, such as cakes, biscuits and pastries.
Unsaturated fats are olive, rapeseed and sunflower oils, oily fish and nuts and seeds.
Too much saturated fat can increase the risk of your child developing serious health conditions in later life such as heart disease, so opt for unsaturated fats where possible.
Limiting sugar for healthy kids
The NHS claims that both children and adults eat too much sugar and that we all need to cut down.
Too much sugar in children can build up fat around vital organs, can cause weight gain and serious diseases in the future like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. It can also cause tooth decay.
It’s essential that you become sugar aware and limit fizzy drinks, sweets, cakes, sugary cereals and yoghurts.
With manufacturers often adding lots of sugar to foods, it can be difficult to know just how much sugar your child is eating.
Download the free scanner app, which tells you how much sugar is in popular food and drinks items.