A healthy, balanced diet is especially essential for children, as they are still growing and developing.1,2

Children who are 3 years and older can already eat any food, provided there are no feeding issues or concerns. It is important, however, to teach them that their diets must be varied, and should include even those foods that they do not necessarily like, such as fruit and vegetables. A healthy diet can go a long way to avoid bad eating habits, and can only benefit your children.1,2

Each of the 5 food groups provide nourishment, and should be included in your children’s diet:3,4

  • Whole grains: for fibre and energy, and this group includes brown rice, bread, cereals, pasta, and oatmeal.
  • Vegetables: for fibre, vitamins and minerals, and this group includes carrots, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, squash, onions, peas, beans, cucumbers and other green leafy vegetables.
  • Fruits: for fibre and vitamins, and this group includes apples, pears, bananas, melon, grapes, oranges, naartjies, peaches, plums, mango and paw-paw.
  • Dairy products: for nutrients, calcium and protein, and this group includes milk, soymilk, yoghurt, cheese and cream. It is important to mention that some dairy products should be given in moderation, due to the high fat content that they provide, such as cheese and cream.
  • Meats, beans and fish: for protein, and this group includes meat, poultry, seafood, beans, peas, nuts, seeds and eggs.

Fats in the diet are also important and should not be avoided completely. Cooking with mono- and poly-unsaturated oils, such as canola oil, olive oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil and corn oil is an excellent way to ensure your children are still getting healthy and fat soluble vitamins in their diet.5

The amount of food children need from each group varies with gender and age. As a general rule, a nutritionally balanced diet should include at least 3 of the 5 food groups at each meal. Snacks should contain 2 groups.4

BUILDING HEALTHY DIETS FOR CHILDREN

HOW TO CREATE A STRONG NUTRITIONAL FOUNDATION

Ensuring your children eat the right foods can sometimes be a challenge. What may help overcoming this challenge is to understand what they should be eating.4

HEALTHY EATING FOR CHILDREN: THE BASICS

A healthy and balanced diet should include eating 3 meals and 2 nutritious snacks every day. Limit the amount of high-sugar and high-fat foods they eat, and make sure they get the right amounts of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and dairy products every day.4 Click here for serving suggestions and ideas of the 5 food groups. 

References: 1. Nicklas TA and Hayes D. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Nutrition Guidance for Healthy Children Ages 2 to 11 Years. J Am Diet Assoc 2008;108:1038-1047. 2. Zelman KM. Kid Nutrition: Quick Tips for Parents. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/kid-nutrition-quick-tips-parents?print=true Date Accessed: October 2019. 3. Food variety and a healthy diet. Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/food-variety-and-a-healthy-diet Date Accessed: October 2019. 4. Nutrition and Menu Planning for Children in the Child Care Food Program. Available at: http://www.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/childrens-health/child-care-food-program/nutrition/_documents/nmp-workbook-2013.pdf Date Accessed: October 2019. 5. Mayo Clinic Staff. Nutrition and healthy eating. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fat/art-20045550?p=1 Date Accessed: October 2019.

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