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A healthy, balanced diet is crucial for children and adults alike for maintaining good health and feeling your best. Essentially, a balanced diet is one which has a wide variety of foods, all in the right proportions to keep you at optimum health.
From the age of 5, a healthy diet for children is actually very similar to a healthy diet for adults, so we hope these tips will be just as useful for yourself as they are your child. Here’s our six key tips for keeping your diet balanced:
Fruit and veg are high in fibre, vitamins and minerals, and have been shown to have a wide range of health benefits. Portions can come in all sorts of forms, whether that’s fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced. When spread throughout the day you’ll find it surprisingly easy to add or substitute a couple of portions (roughly a handful) here and there to help your child reach their five.
Go for rice, bread, pasta or potatoes. These should make up around a third of everything you eat, which means that meals should really be built around these foods. Wholegrain pasta and brown bread contain more fibre and usually more nutrients. There’s also a whole lot of goodness in potato skin, so try for a skin-on version when you can.
Pulses, beans, fish, meat and eggs are all high in protein, which the body needs to grow and repair. Protein is more than just for muscles – it’s essential for almost every cell in your body, from your hair and nails to your brain and digestive system!
When choosing meats, prioritise lean, low-fat meats like chicken over red processed meats like bacon and sausages. Fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help keep your heart healthy.
Beans, peas and lentils are naturally high in fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals. Try to eat a variety of these throughout the week to get the full benefits of their nutrients.
This is an area that’s more important for children than adults – cheese, yoghurt and milk are great sources of calcium, which helps with healthy bone development. Choose low-fat and low-sugar options where you can. For dairy alternatives, such as soya, choose the calcium-fortified versions.
Never underestimate the benefits of water! It’s a healthy and cheap way to quench your thirst, with no calories and no sugars which can damage teeth. Whilst the exact amount varies for each person, it’s recommended that the average child aims for around 6 to 8 glasses a day. This can be water, milk, squash or fruit juice.
Beware of sugary drinks – these don’t contain any nutrients and can be bad for your teeth. Unfortunately, whilst a lot of smoothies and fruit juices contain healthy nutrients, they’re also worse for your teeth than solid fruit, so it’s recommended to limit children’s intake for these to 1 glass a day.
We know that naughty foods are tasty and can make the most indulgent treats, but it’s important that treats are only enjoyed occasionally. Keep an eye on how much of your child’s food is high in fat, salt and sugar and be sure that unhealthy treats aren’t taking the place of healthy snacks.
Oils and fats aren’t bad in themselves but should be consumed in moderation and focus on unsaturated versions, as saturated fats have been linked to an increase in blood cholesterol. Sugary foods are absolutely packed with calories and often lack nutrients, which means they can increase your risk of obesity. Eating excess salt, meanwhile, can increase your blood pressure, which, over time, can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Struggling to get your child to eat their greens? Premier Education wellbeing sessions teach children all they need to know for healthier living in a fun and engaging way. Our sessions cover all aspects of healthy living, from tips to getting active every day, to the importance of eating a balanced diet. We even offer special cookery classes, created by a nutritionist.