Tiny tummies fill up fast so by avoiding the nutrient-light stuff, white flour, biscuits, crisps, fizzy drinks, there is more room for the good stuff that actually helps them grow and develop. A 5 year old’s stomach is roughly ¼ size of ours, but they can need up to ¾ of an adult’s calories. They need this food to be packed with energy and goodness. Make sure they have regular meals and snack times to keep the energy levels up. The Under 5s are growing at the fastest rate, and can do with 3 meals and 2 or 3 snacks a day. Hydration is also key. Make sure they drink 6-8 glasses of water or liquid a day, milk included. Juices and smoothies are best drunk close to mealtimes to prevent tooth decay. The early years of a child’s life are crucial in forming their eating patterns and food choices.
What a healthy diet does for a child
- Promotes proper physical and mental growth and development
- Helps improve their concentration, brain function and learning capacity
- Ensures a healthy immune system and resistance to disease and infections
- Ensures balanced blood sugar levels and calmer, happier disposition
- Establishes a healthy eating pattern and love of delicious food for life
- Choice and variety are key, not repeating recipes endlessly, getting stuck in a routine of favourites or excluding things completely.
- Repeat foods that are not initially popular. Children often suddenly like a food after 3 or 4 tastes.
- Encouraging them to try new tastes and different ways of eating things.
- Make eating fun and interesting. The plate should look great and enticing, not standing over them force-feeding them. But a relaxed, fun environment promotes healthier eating habits.
- Hydration is crucial, keep them drinking water throughout the day.
- Organic, hormone free food is more critical for children as they absorb more of the chemicals and they are developing nervous and reproductive systems.
- Involving them in shopping, choosing and chopping gets them interested and more knowledgable about food and where it comes from.
- Do explain basic nutrients of foods to them. Knowledge excites and empowers them: “Broccoli makes your hair shiny etc” Myths and lies and bribery never help!
- Don’t fill their tiny tummies with empty calories. White bread, biscuits, sugar and fizzy drinks have nothing good in them, and mean that there is less room for the foods that they do need.
- Eating the rainbow – the different colours of fruit and vegetables are from the powerful phytochemicals that fight diseases, so keep moving through them