It is very important that children have a healthy diet and here are some of the ways in which you can encourage this within your family.
Fruit and vegetables
To increase your child’s interest and appetite for vegetables, it is a great idea to involve them in the recipe searching and shopping stages. By doing this together your child will become aware of everything that is available and can choose a preference in terms of recipe/ingredients. Your child will enjoy having a say in what your family eats, and you can make a challenge out of trying new types of food.
A similar approach can be used for fruit: take time to explore the supermarkets and talk to your child about all the different types of fruit that exist. Make it a challenge to try as many fruits as possible and listen to what your child says about each one. When they tell you what they like, you could start a game in which you could include fruit in different forms including cereal, fruit bowls or a make your own ice-lolly.
We understand that it is not possible for many parents, but try and use any opportunity to involve your children in the food shop, as this will give them an idea of where their meals are coming from and it can also spark an interest in a particular food item that they like the look of. The supermarket will open their eyes to many new products, encouraging them to try more, whilst having a hand in the decision making. Sometimes fresh fruit and vegetables can be expensive; you could try frozen fruit and vegetable which have the same healthy effect and can cost less.
For fast meal menus and recipes why not visit the Change 4 Life recipe section, where you'll find a lot of suggestions to try out as a family. It's worth cooking in bulk too because this means you will have home-made ready meals available for super quick healthy dinners. There are many stages to cooking a meal and you can get the whole family involved by dividing the cooking into different parts.
It is important to maintain regular meal times so that your child becomes used to eating at certain times around the day. There are many options for healthy snacks inbetween main meals including carrot sticks, nuts and fruit.
We know that fussy eating (not just for toddlers) is not uncommon. Children refuse to eat certain foods, eat a very limited range of food or refuse to eat at all. The following things may help:
- Eat together as a family and eat the same meal, ensuring that your child has an appropriately sized portion and that their food does not have any added salt
- Keep trying with new foods and offer them in different ways (e.g. offering carrot cooked, uncooked, grated, mixed in a sauce etc.)
- Praise your child when they try something new
- Aim for no more than two snacks a day
What if I need more help?
If you need further help and support, speak your health visitor and/or GP.
Healthy Start Food Vouchers
If you’re more than 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4, you may be entitled to get help to buy healthy food and milk.
If you’re eligible, you’ll be sent a Healthy Start card with money on it that you can use in some UK shops. We’ll add your benefit onto this card every 4 weeks.
You can use your card to buy:
- plain liquid cow’s milk
- fresh, frozen, and tinned fruit and vegetables
- fresh, dried, and tinned pulses
- infant formula milk based on cow’s milk
You can also use your card to collect:
- Healthy Start vitamins – these support you during pregnancy and breastfeeding
- vitamin drops for babies and young children – these are suitable from birth to 4 years old
Find out if you're eligible here.