A healthy diet can help prevent dental problems and asthma, as well as conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and cancer.
Eating and lifestyle habits are established early in life, so it’s important to set a good example by eating healthily and making time to eat together as often as possible.
Carbohydrates – including potatoes, bread, rice and pasta – provide energy and help the body grow and develop.
Fibre – from fruit and vegetables – helps to push food through the body. Fibre also helps children feel fuller for longer so they don’t need to snack. Five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, either fresh, frozen, canned, dried or made into juice or smoothies, is important for a healthy diet. A juice or a smoothie (no matter how many items of fruit or veg you have in it) only counts as one portion.
Protein – including meat, nuts, grains, pulses, fish and eggs – is an important building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood, helping children to grow.
Calcium – including dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese – helps muscles work, your heart to beat and your blood to clot, as well as building and keeping bones healthy.
Fats – including butter, oils and spreads – helps the body to absorb nutrients, produce important hormones, store energy, support cell growth, protect your organs and keep your body warm.
Sugar – helps to build lean muscle and provide a burst of energy when needed, as well as helping the body store energy for later – BUT should only be eaten in small amounts and occasionally.
It’s also important to drink six to eight glasses of fluid every day (such as water, milk or sugar free drinks) and to have plenty of exercise – children should be active for at least 60 minutes a day.
If you are worried about your child gaining or losing weight, please see ‘Healthy Weight’ in the further information section below and seek advice from your GP to ensure they can be assessed medically and to rule out other physical causes.