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Balanced diet for young children

The Eatwell Guide is designed to show us how to achieve a healthy balanced diet containing all the key nutrients our bodies need. It does not apply fully to children under the age of 2 as they have specific nutritional needs however, between the ages 2-5 years, children will gradually move to eating the same foods as the rest of the family.

The video details the message in The Eatwell Guide and how they apply to young children.

Healthy Food Song

Join in with the NYLO team as they sing about foods that keep our body healthy.

Fruit and Vegetables

This is one of the larger sections on the Eatwell guide so it is important children eat lots of these foods. They contain a range of vitamins and minerals as well as being a great source of fibre.

Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta, and other starchy carbohydrates

This group is also one of the larger sections of the Eatwell Guide and should be included with every meal and ideally as one snack. These foods provide the body with energy, fibre, B vitamins and some are fortified with iron.

Dairy and alternatives

This group includes foods such as milk, (including breast milk), cheese, yogurts and dairy alternatives. These foods are a great source of calcium which is needed for strong bones and teeth and are also a good source of protein.

Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins

These foods are a great source of protein. Protein is important for growth and building muscles which is especially important for children. They are also rich in iron and zinc.

Oils and spreads

This group contains unsaturated oils and spreads made from these oils. Unsaturated fats come from plant-based fats and are a healthier choice for our heart. Examples of these are vegetable oil, sunflower oil or olive oil and spreads made with these oils. This is the smallest section, so children only need a small amount of these foods.

Drinks

Water and milk are the best fluids for children. They should aim for 6-8 drinks each day. On hotter days or when they are doing more physical activity, they may need more than this.

Foods high in saturated fat, salt and sugar

The type of foods you’d find in this group are chocolate, butter, biscuits, cream, sweets, full sugar soft drinks, crisps, stock cubes and ice cream. It also includes fats such as butter, ghee, coconut oil and cream. This group is outside of the main Eatwell Guide as these foods are not essential in the diet, so should be eaten in small amounts and less often.

Tips to save time and money

Family life can be hectic, it can be difficult juggling different commitments and still having time to provide nutritious family meals. The video includes top tips on ways to feed your family well whilst saving time and money.

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Portion size video

Healthy snack ideas

Healthy snacks can be a great opportunity to provide your child with the key nutrients they need for general health and development. Try to focus on giving snacks from the main food groups:

  • Fruit and Vegetables
  • Carbohydrates – bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other cereals
  • Protein – meat, fish, eggs and beans
  • Milk and dairy foods

We know that children in Wales are not eating enough foods from the fruit and vegetable food group. Snack are a great opportunity to give these foods either alone or in combination with another food group for example, you could try adding some fruit to their yogurt or adding vegetables to a rice cake. You could also try our Fruity Faces recipe.

Carbohydrates provide children with the energy they need to be active therefore these can be a great snack idea. But remember to make sure they do not have added fat, sugar or salt. Some carbohydrate snacks could include rice cakes, oat cakes, mini wrap or toast. You can also add some fruit or vegetables to these to boost the vitamin and minerals.

We know that protein foods can make children feel fuller for longer, while also providing a good source of iron. Some snacks could include nut butters, egg and hummus.

Milk and dairy provide children with calcium and protein, which is important for strong bones and teeth. Snacking on these foods can help ensure they are getting enough of these nutrients. You could try giving a plain yogurt with added fruit or cheese on crackers.

Less healthy snack options can often provide children with high amounts of fat, sugar and salt. Try to limit foods such as crisps, chocolate, cakes, sweets, biscuits and ice cream.

It is also important to consider how much of these our child is eating. Too many snacks can fill them up, making it less likely they will eat their main meal. As a guide you can offer 2 healthy snacks every day. Children love to be involved in preparing healthy snacks, so try getting them to spread foods and support them to chop foods.

Here are some snack ideas which include some of the main food groups:

TIP – Remember to check the label of your child’s snacks to ensure it is a healthy choice!

Sardines on toast with celery

Crumpets with soft cheese and pepper slices

Mini avocado and tomato salsa sandwiches

Oatcakes with Brazil nut butter and satsumas

Sugar in snacks and drinks video

Favourite snacks animation

The NYLO team talk about their favourite snacks.

Managing fussy eating

Happy mealtimes animation

The NYLO team show us how they get ready and enjoy mealtimes together.

Faddy eating in young children

Understanding food labels

Reading and understanding food labels can really help to ensure we are giving children healthy food. The quickest place to look if you want a snapshot of the nutrition information is the front of the pack. Most products display a traffic light label. This uses colours to demonstrate the amounts of that nutrient present in the item. It can be useful to compare similar products and to help you make healthier food choices.

More nutrition information can be found on the back of the pack such as ingredients, allergens, nutrition per 100g, nutrition per serving/portion and number of servings per pack.

Tips for cooking with children

The benefits of cooking with children

Cooking with your child from a young age can offer a wide range of valuable learning opportunities. Giving children the chance to explore food in a safe and fun way outside of meal times may help reduce anxiety around food. Children are much more likely to try new foods if they have seen where it comes from and helped with the preparation. Having repeated positive experiences during food activities can increase a child’s confidence around food, and help to ensure healthy eating habits in later life.

Cooking can help to develop many skills

  • Coordination – chopping stirring, squeezing, mashing, mixing, tearing
  • Fine motor skills – sprinkling, spooning, spreading, cutting, kneading
  • Independence – carrying out tasks on their own, weighing out and washing fruit and vegetables
  • Cognitive development – thinking, problem-solving, and creativity
  • Cause and effect
  • Language and Numeracy

Remember cooking together with your little one can also be a lot of fun!

Recipes for cooking with children

Activity ideas

Food Activity Videos

Active Play Ideas

Benefits of Being Active

Getting Started with Solid Foods

Suitable foods and textures

Keeping your Baby Safe

Introducing Allergens

Progressing to Family Meals

Content coming soon

NYLO is a free family nutrition programme that can help you feel more confident to provide a balanced diet for your child.

Developed by Cardiff & Vale UHB Public Health Dietitians, NYLO is open to all families with children aged 5 years and under, living in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.

To find out more about this free programme

Email: Nutrition.Skillsforlife.cav@wales.nhs.uk Call/text: 07972 732614

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