Caring for young kids can be exhausting, but eating the right foods will give you energy. If you’re breastfeeding, it will help you pass on important nutrients that your baby needs to grow up strong and healthy. And if your kids see you eating a healthy diet, they are more likely to follow your good example and do the same.
The eatwell plate shows the different types of food we need to eat – and in what proportions – to have a healthy and well-balanced diet. For adults and children over five, a diet based on the eatwell plate† is important, to make sure that we obtain the wide range of nutrients we need. Children under the age of five need a diet that is higher in fat and lower in fibre than this, but they should still have a good variety of fruit and veg.
Your kids may not like all of the same foods as you, but it’s a good idea to get them to try foods from all of the four main food groups. Take a look at our tips for fussy eaters.
What kind of foods should we eat?
Plenty of fruit and vegetables: These are a great source of vitamins, minerals and fibre – try to eat at least five portions of a variety of different fruit and vegetables every day.
Plenty of potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy foods: These are good sources of energy, vitamins and fibre and should be the main part of every meal. Older children and adults should eat wholegrain varieties whenever possible – for example brown bread and brown rice or pasta – as they are higher in fibre. Children under five should have fewer high-fibre foods than adults because these can fill up their small tummies, meaning that they don’t have room for the other foods they need to give them energy and the wide range of nutrients they need every day.
Some milk and dairy foods: Cheese, milk and yoghurt contain calcium and other nutrients. Remember, children should not be given cow’s milk as a main drink until they are over 12 months old, although you can use it when cooking for them. Once they start drinking cow’s milk, children should have whole milk (and full-fat dairy products), as lower-fat varieties won’t give them the energy they need. Children over the age of two can have semi-skimmed milk, but not skimmed milk. Low-fat varieties can be given to children over the age of five who are growing well.
Some meat, fish, eggs, beans and other sources of protein (not dairy): Choose lean meat. Make sure that foods like eggs, chicken, pork, burgers and sausages are cooked all the way through. Try to eat oily fish at least once a week.
Only have a small amount of foods and drinks that are high in fat and/or sugar: Only have a small amount of food and drinks that are high in fat and/or sugar such as biscuits, fizzy drinks, crisps and cakes.
For more information:
NHS Choices: Healthy eating (England)
Enjoy Healthy Eating (Northern Ireland)
†Department of Health in association with the Welsh Government, the Scottish Government and the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland