Why is a healthy diet so important?

It’s not just about the here and now…
What you feed your child in the early years of life does not only impact his growth and development but also influences his health in later life too. It’s essential to get into good habits early since the foods given to young children predict what foods they will eat in later life. Acting now will help them develop the right habits for the future. Helping your child to learn to enjoy food and mealtimes is one of your most important jobs as a parent.

What happens if my child doesn’t eat a healthy diet…

Not eating a varied, well-balanced diet can lead to being overweight or underweight or not having the right nutrients in the right amounts which can affect health and wellbeing.

Being overweight or obese as a child does not only cause problems during childhood, but can have an impact later on in life too. Children who are obese are more likely to have low self-esteem and behavioral problems in childhood, and in later life are more likely to suffer from heart problems, diabetes or a stroke.

Being underweight can affect growth and development too.

What should I feed my child?

Do you hear yourself saying: ‘I’m not a great cook’, ‘I don’t have time to cook everything from scratch’, ‘I know nothing about nutrition’, ‘How do I know what I should be feeding my child’? Don’t worry, the most important thing to do is be positive and look forward to exploring and learning about food together with your child.

Next, get to know your Food Groups. This is one of the simplest and easiest ways to ensure that your child (and the whole family) eats a varied and well-balanced diet. Each food group provides different nutrients but if you make sure that you give a mix of these foods across the day you will know your child is getting what he needs.

Food Groups

Fruit and vegetables


For vitamins, minerals and fibre.

All types are good fresh, frozen, canned or dried.

Give a mix of colours (green – cabbage, broccoli; yellow and orange -squash, carrots, mango, apricots).

Citrus fruits (oranges and clementines), tomatoes and peppers are good  for vitamin C and help absorb iron from other foods.

Give five servings per day.

Include in every meal. Great for snacks too (carrot and apples sticks and dip, banana on toast).

Bread, other cereals and potatoes


For energy, vitamins, minerals and _bre

Most toddlers really enjoy these foods. Try different types and a mix of white and wholemeal bread, breakfast cereals and pasta. Include potatoes, rice and couscous.

Give five servings per day.

Include in every meal and in some in between meals too. Try different shapes of pasta; boiled, mashed or roast potatoes. Try crackers or breadsticks at snack time.

Meat, fish and other proteins


For protein and other nutrients including iron and zinc. Oily fish for omega 3 fats.

Lamb, beef, pork, chicken, turkey and other meats, white and oily fish (tinned or fresh),nuts, eggs and pulses (such as beans ,lentils and peas and foods made from these like hummus

Give two servings per day or three servings per day for vegetarians.

Milk and dairy products


For essential nutrients including vitamin A and calcium.

Milk, yogurt, fromage frais, cheese, growing up milk. Use on breakfast cereals, to make porridge, custard or rice pudding. Gratecheese onto pasta or baked potatoes. Serve cheese cubes with fruit as a snack

Give three servings per day

Either as a milk drink, in milk based dishes or as dairy foods. Milk is important for your toddler.

Foods that are high in fat and sugar like sweet biscuits, cakes, puddings, ice-cream, fats and oils should be eaten less often. Sweets and chocolate can be given to toddlers occasionally but is best to give them after a meal and not as a in between meals to help reduce the risk of tooth decay.


Water is the best drink for children.

Offer six to eight drinks a day. So, that’s one with each meal and in between meal plus extra if your child is particularly active or the weather is particularly hot. The drinks should be about 700 ml including water and milk. Avoid fizzy and sweetened drinks and if giving fruit juice keep it for mealtimes and make sure it is well diluted to help avoid tooth decay. Tea and coffee are not suitable for children as they may interfere with the absorption of iron from meals and may contribute to tooth decay if sugar is used.


Things I can do to make sure my child is well fed

Have a routine of regular meals and in between meals

Your child should get all the nutrients and energy he needs from 3 meals and 2 to 3 nutritious in between meals in between, based around their daytime sleep (if he still has one).

Provide a balance of foods from all the food groups

As well as providing nutrients this combination will also give your child a mix of some high calorie and some low calorie foods through the day and will add color, texture and interest to your child’s diet.
Offer your child a savory and sweet course at mealtimes – Healthy puddings provide valuable nutrients to your child and should not just be used as a reward for finishing the savory course.

Offer six to eight drinks a day

The drinks should be about 700 ml including water and milk.

Keep offering your child all the foods your family eats

Respect your child’s tastes and where necessary offer alternative foods from the same food group if they consistently dislike something. Eating together will help your toddler enjoy new foods by copying the adults or other children they are eating with.