Written by Jack Crabtree
As a parent, what you feed your child will have a huge effect on their mental and physical well-being, as well as their growth and development and habits in later life. It is important to ensure that our children are eating a healthy, balanced diet which consists of all of the key macronutrients and is also full of micronutrients and vitamins.
Generally, you should aim to feed your child three balanced meals per day, ideally containing a source of food from each food group.
Protein is essential for the growth and development of children, since it helps to build muscle as well as aid with brain development and healthy bones. Essential amino acids can only been found within sources of food containing protein, so it is therefore vital that your child has these in their diets.
The best sources of protein include lean meats such as chicken, fish, eggs, milk, yoghurt etc. These contain all 9 of the essential amino acids and are therefore considered the best for the growth of your child. There are also a lot of sources of plan based proteins such as beans and pulses, though these do not contain as much protein as animal produce does. For this reason, it is recommended to eat them alongside other sources of protein. Moreover, they do not contain all 9 essential amino acids that are required for growth. Why not try our new Milkshake Mix? We have fortified our milkshakes with vitamins and minerals to support with healthy growth and development, cognitive development, the normal function of the immune system and the maintenance of normal teeth.
It is recommended that children should eat fish twice per week, with at least one being of the oily variety. These include trout, salmon and mackerel and can be bought for relatively cheap. Fresh fish is ideal though canned or frozen will suffice.
After the age of one, children are usually more than capable of consuming various carbohydrate sources with ease. Carbohydrates are essential because our bodies use them as an energy source. More specifically, glucose, a simple sugar, is converted into ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate) which is used by our muscles when they move. Children tend to be very active from a very young age, so will need to consume a decent amount of carbohydrates in order to fuel them each day.
Carbohydrate sources can include bread, pasta, muesli and grains. Whilst generally any variety is fine, it is recommended to opt for a healthier wholegrain option if possible. These have a lower GI (glycaemic index) and will give your child more sustained energy over a longer period of time, and are all round better for them. If your child is a fussy eater, why not tempt them with a gluten-free, high fibre cereal bar. Our new Grizzly Bar has all the grains your child needs and are also perfect for lunch box treats!
Whilst initially the word ‘fats’ may seem bad, it is essential to have some fat in your diet and more so the healthier fatty acids such as omega 3. This is because many vitamins are fat soluble and require fat for them to be absorbed properly.
Omega 3 is most commonly found in oily fish and nuts, which is why it is important to make sure your child has at least 1 serving of oily fish per week. Nuts are another great source, though they present a certain choking hazard so shouldn’t be given until children are a little older. Moreover, nut allergies are common so you should confirm with your doctor whether or not your child is allergic before you implement them into their diets.
Fruit and Veg
Whilst it has recently been recommended that the intake of fruit and veg goes up to 7 portions per day, a good starting block for children is 5 portions. A general rule of thumb when it comes to how big a portion should be, is the amount that fits into the palm of their hand.
Vegetables are crucial for developing children as they contain many different vitamins and minerals, many of which are not found in fruits.
It is also important to consider what types of fruit your child is consuming and limit their intake if necessary. Some fruits are very high in sugar and consuming too much of a certain type could have a negative effect on their health.
If your child isn’t keen eating green, try our Bubbly Multivitamins, packed with a range of 12 vitamins and 6 minerals from Vitamin A to Zinc. Great tasting, easy-to-consume and full of natural sources.
It’s no secret that children have a sweet tooth. Offer them chocolate and sweets and they will struggle to turn it down. These foods are very bad for a child’s health however, and should be limited to treats and special occasions. For example, maybe allow your child to have some sweets when they do well in school or award them for good behaviour. It is all too common now to fill a child’s lunch box with unhealthy junk, but just because other people do it, doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to do.
Foods such as sweets, chocolate, cakes, crisps and sugary drinks should not make up a large proportion of a child’s diet.
Take Home Message
Getting your child’s diet right is very important, and as they are too young to shop and prepare meals for themselves, ensuring they consume the right foods falls on you, as a parent.
This article should be used as a guideline for what you should be feeding your child, but as always, use your best judgement. Some children will need more food than others whilst some will need less. If your child is on a growth spurt, they will need more food in order to grow, for example.