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Healthy eating for children and young people

The official guidance on precisely how much food children require is difficult to find and often complicated.

This is why we run a child weight management programme and break down the advice making it easier to understand with lots of practical tips, but even then, you will need to use your own judgement to an extent, especially with regards to portion sizes.

One tip is to not overfill the plate and let your child ask for more if they’re still hungry, you can also avoid using adult-size plates for younger children as it encourages them to eat oversized portions.

You should aim for your child to get most of their energy intake from healthier foods such as fruit and vegetables, and starchy carbohydrates such as bread, potatoes, pasta and rice (preferably wholemeal). You should also try to switch sweetened soft drinks for water.

Children, just like adults, should aim to eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables every day, which shouldn’t be too difficult; almost all fruit and vegetables count towards your child’s 5-a-day, including fresh, tinned, frozen and dried.

Juices and smoothies also count but only as a maximum of one portion which is just 150ml a day. Did you know that when fruit is blended or juiced, it releases the sugars which increases the risk of tooth decay, so it’s best to drink fruit juice or smoothies at mealtimes.

Children are tending to have too much sugar, saturated fat and salt in their diets.

According to Change 4 Life children are having nearly three times more sugar than the recommended daily amount every day; a quarter of children’s saturated fat comes from unhealthy snacks; and most their salt intake comes from pre-bought foods. You can visit their website for tips on how to change this cycle.

Healthy eating and snacking tips

  • Carrot sticks, cucumber sticks and peas make good veggie snacks
  • Ditch the ice cream and make ice lollies from squash and fresh fruits instead
  • Make vegetable kebabs for meal times – not only will your child enjoy making them, but they count towards your 5-a-day
  • Swap sweets for frozen grapes