As a parent you probably spend some time wondering and asking yourself if your child is getting a proper, nutritionally balanced diet. With so many sources advising on what you should or shouldn’t feed your little ones, it may be overwhelming and confusing to ensure they’re getting a balanced diet. Here is some information to help guide you!
Simply put, a balanced diet is one that helps maintain or improve overall health and provides the right amount of water, macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
The first thing is to be in control of their meals. And the best way to do it, is to home cook their meals as much as possible. Ready-to-eat meals are super convenient, especially because as a parent you don’t have much time on your hands between taking care of your little one and everything else that requires your attention. However, those meals are often high in sugar and salt, and you can’t know if the foods used are good quality and will provide the nutrients your child needs.
We understand that parents are often very busy, so this might not always be possible, but why not try cooking some extra portions when you do have the time and freezing them so if you’re short on time you’ll always have a balanced meal ready to go?
In each of the three main meals, there are five things your children should have on their plate (or lunchbox): vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy protein and healthy fats. Here’s a sample of what each main meal could look like:
- Breakfast: Wholemeal bread with peanut butter + carrot and orange smoothie + yogurt.
- Lunch: Wholemeal pasta with grilled chicken and mix of vegetables in a homemade pesto sauce + a piece of fruit.
- Dinner: Sweet potato and chickpea curry with brown rice + a piece of fruit.
If you have a hard time with your child eating vegetables, a good tip is to hide them in their food. Grated carrot or grated courgette will easily pass unnoticed in a stew or curry, for example.
One way to ensure your child is getting enough of all the micronutrients they need is to make their meals as colourful as possible and vary the food through the week or from one week to another. You can even engage your little one by gamifying this: 1 point for each different food they try in a month and then as a parent you can decide what those points can be converted to.
Another way to make sure micronutrients needs are met is by setting a colour for each day of the week and focus on fruits and vegetable of that particular colour. This can also be a fun way to help your child try different foods. For example:
- Monday is Yellow Day (bananas, pineapple, yellow peppers,).
- Tuesday is Orange Day (orange, easy-peelers, carrots).
- Wednesday is Red Day (strawberries, red peppers, tomatoes).
- Thursday is Purple Day (grapes, plum, aubergine).
- Friday is Blue Day (blueberries, black currants, blackberries).
- Saturday is Green Day (kiwi, green peppers, spinach).
As for water intake, try to help them drink water through the day and keep things interesting for them:
- Allow your child to choose the cup, straw or glass they want to use.
- Add drinking time into family’s routine (for example: before each meal our snack, everyone must drink half glass of water and the other half at the end).
- Send them to school with a sports water bottle to drink during the day.