During Summer time, with the hot weather it is very easily to forget to have healthy food throughout the day as we tend to pick on food rather than have a proper meal.
Our children are the same, but they need us adults to help them to make the right food choices. Children aged 1-4 need 3 meals throughout the day and 2-3 healthy snacks in between.
Healthy food means eating variety of food from each of the main food groups.
What food is nutritious and what food is not?
Before we start on what food is healthy and what food is not, let’s talk about three very important nutrients children need.
- Vitamin D
Did you know that children aged 1-3 don’t eat enough iron in their food. Iron plays important part in their development so it is important that we do provide children with enough foods that are rich in iron such as : red meat, poultry oily rich foods and also in green leafy vegetables , beans, lentils, pumpkin seeds, eggs and also many breakfast cereals are fortified with iron. Eating foods high in vitamin C can boost the absorption of iron in the body.
Did you know that almost 97 % of toddlers are not getting enough vitamin D. The reason for that is :
- Irish weather – we do not get enough sun even during the summer and we also protect our children from the sun by applying sun cream.
- There is very little foods that have vitamin D
Omega – 3 fats
Omega – 3 fats are essential for healthy brain, eyes and nerves especially when growing. The average intake of is about 70 mg while the recommended amount is 100 – 250 grams a day.
Omega-3 fats can be found in rich oily fish such as salmon, trout , sardines or mackerel . Omega -3 fats can be also found in nuts and seed such as walnuts , almonds or linseed or flaxseed.
Therefore, it is important to give children and oil rich fish al least once a week.
Healthy food is ?
It is the food that helps us maintain or improve our overall health. A healthy diet is a diet full of nutritious food such as : fresh fruit and vegetables , lean red meat or poultry as well as foods rich in fiber .
How much is enough :
Children aged 1-3 need :
- 2-3 servings of fruit , vegetables
- 3 servings of dairy such as ( yogurt, cheese or milk)
- 2 servings of protein (3-4 year olds 3-4 servings of protein)
- 3 - 4 servings of carbs ( cereal, bread , pasta ,rice , crackers )
Snacks – young children need between 2 to 3 snacks a day. The snacks can be a small piece of fruit , small yogurt, plain rice cake , 2 crackers .
“Treat foods “ – surprisingly small children do not need these foods as they fill their small tummies and stop them from eating nutritious food.
A maximum of ONE treat per week for children aged 1-4
- 1 square of chocolate
- 3 crisps
- half plain biscuit
- Avoid fizzy drinks at all times if possible
Portion size few things to keep in mind :
- Serve their food in children size plates, bowls , cups
- Don’t overfill
Remember large portions can
- put children off eating
- lead to weight gain
- defer fussy eaters
- leads to waste of food and or resources
Examples of child’s portions of different foods would be :
- 1 and half wheat biscuit
- half a cup of cereal
- 200 ml of milk
- 1 rice cake
- half of an apple, orange , pear or banana
- 3 to 4 carrots cooked
- 5 to 6 grapes
- 1 plum , kiwi or mandarin
- 1 egg
- 30 g of cooked beef, poultry ,lamb or salmon
- 2 falafels
- Half a cup of baked beans
- ¼ cup of lentils ,peas or chickpeas
- 1 teaspoon of nut butter
- 1 – 2 crackers
- 2 small pots of yogurt 47 g or one pot of yogurt 100g
- ½ cup of cooked pasta, rice , noodles or couscous
- Limit process foods like ham , bacon
- Children should not have more than 150 ml of fruit juice per day as it is not kind to their teeth.
Is your child a fussy eater ? What is fussy eating ?
Fussy eating is usually a phase where a child does not eat well or refuses to eat certain food. Fussy eating lasts for more than a month. Can be mild or severe. Usually does not affect overall nutrition.
Please remember it is normal for children to dislike some foods like us adults.
Causes of fussy eating
- Choking incident
- Lack of variety during weaning
- Strong sense of smell or touch
- when children don’t meet their needs for nutrition
- when the foods they eat is very restricted
- when its becoming a stressful event for the family or child
Is it fussy eating or they are not hungry
- maybe they are just not hungry
- maybe they have just drank too much milk /juice
- are they not getting enough exercise
- do you have set snack / meal times
- try offer them a drink at least half way through meal time
Is it fussy eating ? Showing independence
- they may be showing independence
- very common around 2 years of age
- usually passes
- they might start to copy their parents
- avoid rows – it’s a natural phase
- try to eat with your kids as much as possible
Tips on how to avoid having a fussy eater :
- set times for meals and snack
- don’t allow grazing
- children rarely need more than two snack during the day
- nibbling on parents food counts as a snack
- not pile the food on the plate
- not force your child to clear the plate
- encourage them to eat slowly
- again try to avoid rows at mealtimes
- don’t engage in an argument about the food with your child
Remember everyone in the family eats the same meal at mealtimes ( try not to give them their favourite food all the time ).
There are no snacks or substitutes if your child does not eat the meal ( they have to wait until the next meal).
Things to try :
New food technique - did you know it takes 16 tries before our body gets used to new food. Offer a small amount on the plate each time at mealtime. Do not make any comments about the food whether it is eaten or not.
Table technique - try eat with your child as often as you can. Regularly serve new or non-preferred food
Dip it – we all know our children love to dip. Offer sticks or pieces of food that they can dip it for example: ketchup , cream cheese ,yogurt, peanut butter
Spread it – children love to be able to do things for themselves. Give your kids a blunt knife or a spoon and get them to spread it. Crackers with soft cheese , bread with some butter
Serve it - try cut your children food into different shapes ,serve the food in unusual containers for example : taco shell, ice cream cones
Just remember fussy eating is not a bad behaviour. It does usually pass but it might take up to a year for it to fully resolve. Remember, no child will always eat everything. Don’t be too hard on yourself or your child.
By Barbara Cunningham- Longfield Academy.