General guidelines for healthy living

Primary school age is the perfect time for all children to learn about staying healthy, consuming a sensible and well balanced diet, learning about others and being active

A good start in life lays down the foundations to learn how to interact with others, discover new experiences and adventures.
The chance to learn quickly, make friends through popular trends. Be that through, communicating with others, joining in with sport, eating healthy foods and generally being respectful of others. It’s a whole new adventure, in the eyes of a young mind.
The amount of physical activity young children have in the day will be a major factor in how much they will eat. When children are busy and active, a balanced diet can help keep their energy levels high.

Medical guide

  • To enquire about useful services for parents/carers: click here
  • The National Child Measurement Programme: click here
  • Healthy weight children, advice for parents: click here
  • How to involve your child in being healthy – Change4Life: click here
  • How to treat head lice and nits: click here
  • Dental Hygiene: click here
  • Healthy sleep tips for children: click here

Nutrition guide

  • Sugar: Kids are having nearly three times more sugar than the recommended daily amount every day. Learn more here
  • Fat: A quarter of children’s saturated fat comes from unhealthy snacks. Learn more here
  • Salt: Most of the salt we’re eating each day is already in the food we buy. Learn more here

Be Food Smart

  • The FREE Be Food Smart app is here to help.
  • NHS Food Scanner – Download and start scanning!
  • Google Play: click here
  • Apple App Store: click here
  • The Change4Life website – click here

A healthy diet

A healthy diet provides the body with essential nutrition: fluid, adequate essential amino acids from protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and adequate calories.

Ideas for healthier packed lunches

Further information and ideas can be found on the British Nutrition Foundation website – click here

Fussy eaters - what can I do?

  1. Don’t make a big deal if they refuse their food. Just take the meal away and make no comment.
  2. Don’t force your child to eat foods they don’t like and don’t provide an alternative meal for your child.
  3. Disguise the foods they don’t like in food they do. They will never know there are vegetables on the pasta sauce if you blend them.
  4. Go food shopping with them and let them choose some foods they are willing to try.
  5. Get them to help prepare the meal they are going to eat.
  6. Make sure they are hungry when they sit down to eat otherwise they won’t eat anything, never mind anything they would not normally eat.
  7. Give them a taste challenge. With their agreement, blindfold your child and then put a tiny bit of food on a fork and then put it into the child’s mouth. They taste it and try and guess what it is. It’s a great ways to introduce new foods.
  8. Remove distractions: TV, computer games, etc.
  9. Try and eat around the dinner table. It will help children to take meal times more seriously and help with their social skills as well.
  10. Don’t call them a fussy eater – it will make them feel they should live up to that ‘label’

Toddlers and young children can be notoriously difficult about eating what you want them to eat, when you want them to eat it but try not to worry too much! The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) says that food problems in pre-school children are common, to the extent that they are seen as a stage of normal development at that age, and that a third of under-fives practice food refusal or selective eating.

This is partly because children are experimenting with, or being asked to try, new textures and tastes, and partly because they are testing their parents’ reactions and seeing what effect their behaviour has.

The RCP reassures that the majority of children will grow out of any problems but in the meantime you can help minimise mealtime tantrums and raised stress levels with some of our tips here.

  • Get going as soon as possible with offering them a variety of foods after weaning is established (after the age of 6 months).
  • Research shows that if your child has been introduced to a wide range of foods straight from weaning, they are more likely to accept them. Only 4% of new foods are accepted after the age of two. A delay in offering textured, ‘lumpy’ foods or chunks of food can contribute to later faddy eating.
  • Remember no child can like everything and that doesn’t matter. Almost all children aged around 2 – 3 will have their food favourites and will take against certain other foods that they have previously liked, or will refuse certain other foods just from looking at them, or try a little and then refuse to touch that food next time it is offered. Many will use food refusal as a way to get your attention, or a reaction, or as a tool. If in general they are not underweight and seem healthy, and are eating some foods from each of the groups then you shouldn’t worry too much. If they see you get agitated, or if you try to force them to eat, this will probably make the situation worse.
  • A survey conducted by University College London found that these are the foods that 4 – 5 year old children hate most: avocado, leeks, marrow, melon, cottage cheese, sweet pepper, onion, liver, cabbage.
  • If your child is teething they may feel off colour, their gums will be sore and they may be off their food. Offer sugar free rusks or rice cakes to chew on and plenty to drink until they feel better.
  • If your child is ill, they may well be off their food. See a doctor about their illness and offer plenty to drink.
  • If your child is more tired than usual, or worried about anything (e.g. new childminder, picking up that you are troubled) they may go off their food.
  • Small children who will only eat a few different types of food – say, milk, bread, cheese, apples – can be a worry but seem to do better on such limited diets than you might think. Try to build on a favourite food and work others in – for example, if they love milk, then add a small amount of blended fruit to make a milkshake and gradually increase the amount and variety of fruits used. If they love bread, try it toasted, plain, white, brown, with butter, with spread, and then try a tiny bit of peanut butter or mashed banana in a small sandwich.
  • For a child with limited appetite, small range of foods or who is failing to grow properly or thrive, your community dietician may advise vitamin and mineral drops – A, C and D are commonly given to small children.
  • If your child has a small appetite, be guided on whether that is a cause for concern by whether they are a reasonable weight or not – if they are then don’t worry. Many small children don’t have much of an appetite for their main meals because they have filled up on snacks and drinks between mealtimes.
  • A child needs to be somewhat hungry to enjoy their meal, so try offering only water or diluted juice for drinks and snacks of fresh fruit or vegetable batons between meals.
  • If your child seems to be a fruit and/or vegetable hater – there are usually a few fruits/veg that they DO like. Concentrate on these for the time being and introduce tiny amounts of one or two of the disliked ones again every few weeks (but not all at the same time).
  • As we’ve said, few children like everything so if they only dislike some vegetables then that isn’t too much of a problem as they can get all the nutrients they need from the ones they
    do like.
  • The thorny junk food and sweets problem: Try to avoid buying/offering these items from weaning up to school years. By and large if a young child doesn’t have access to these foods, they won’t want them; they won’t even know what they taste like. It is in these young years that tastes develop and with luck you can avoid your child getting a strong liking for unsuitable items. As at this age you have control over what you buy for your children, so it is best to be ‘cruel to be kind’ and try not to introduce the idea that these items are treats or rewards. This is especially important for overweight children and for children who have a poor appetite and trouble eating enough of the ‘good’ foods.
  • Tastes for salty and sweet foods are developed early in life – though they can be reversed, it is harder when entrenched. However, there is nothing wrong with many puddings – things like custards, fruit desserts and rice puddings can offer a range of important nutrients such as vitamin C, calcium and protein, and if your child eats a general balanced diet, the small amounts of sugar in such desserts are acceptable.
  • Try to relax. Some parents, particularly new ones, worry so much about a good diet for their small child that meals become tense and anxious affairs which can make any small feeding problem worse, as children can very easily be put off their food by tension – or learn to like the attention that food refusal brings.
  • It is important to give your child the idea that good food is wonderful, to be enjoyed. Help them develop a love of real food and of home cooking. Let them enjoy sitting with you (and other family members if you have them) to savour a meal and a good chat.
  • Even quite small children can help prepare food – washing fruits or vegetables, mixing, kneading, carrying unbreakables, and so on, and then taste testing.
  • However if a child really doesn’t want their meal, never force them to sit there with uneaten food for ages after others have finished. Set a time limit on each meal of 20 – 30 minutes. Don’t ever offer bribes (eat up these greens and you can have some sweets).

Show by example. If everyone is eating it and there is no alternative then there is more chance they will eat it. If you don’t buy the rubbish then how can they eat it.
Jenny, Bucks

Chill, chill and chill again. Think of the food intake over a week rather than a day and look at the intake and the variety that way. It is probably better than you think. Keep offering favourite and a bit of new food but don’t sit  anxiously over them – see what happens.
Nicola, Edinburgh

Plonk small portions of the food down and then ignore and see what happens. Don’t make a fuss and don’t try to encourage or bribe.
Claire, Herts

Take a basic food that they love e.g. bread, and add new things to it bit by bit – so try bread and cheese then eggy bread, then eggs and soldiers… praise any new tries.
Helena, Exeter

Just never gave in. My daughter was given her meal each day and if she kicked up a fuss about what was on her plate was told to eat what she wanted and could leave the rest there. The days of not eating never seemed to do her any harm and now she will eat almost anything.
Sharron, South Beds

I have a slightly different perspective. I am a fussy eater. All through my life I hated it when people made a fuss. I was made to eat things at school and still remember to this day a some of the incidents at nursery. I am of the strong opinion that you should never force a child to eat anything they don’t like.
Julie, West Midlands

One success I have had is with broccoli. My son wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole until I got him to pick the one he wanted at the market. Then we came home and he washed it and broke it into pieces and popped it into a saucepan. He made a lot of mess and water went everywhere, but he also had great fun and has eaten broccoli ever since.
Helen, Poole

Hiding goodness in sauces is a good one – chop things up really small – only the most dedicated take the time to pick it out and they will accidentally get some nutrition from it.
Emma, Orkney Islands

We’ve explained about vitamins and minerals and how they help your body grow and stay healthy. Emma will now eat mushrooms because she is desperate to be a big girl. And Sam will flex his muscles when he’s eaten a lot of veg!
Donna, Rotherham

My son doesn’t like the broccoli florets but loves the stalks. If you buy some with a long stem and peel and chop it into slices like a carrot it will steam or boil really quickly. I think the taste and texture is different.
Helene, Bucks

My 4-yr old little boy loves orange juice but has never touched oranges. So one day I cunningly suggested an ‘orange smile’ (segment!) as a ‘treat’ and told him that footballers have these at half time. Hey presto! He’s now requesting ‘orange smiles’ in his lunch box!”
Emma, Berkshire

Try serving up raw veg. My daughter wouldn’t touch veg until I discovered she liked everything raw: green beans, carrots, cucumber. I think she likes the crunchiness. I server them up while I’m cooking our main meal.
Karen, North Glos