Information on eating healthily for the whole family, the benefits of healthy diets, feeding and eating habits, and managing difficulties with these. Links to local and national supporting videos, information, advice, and support groups.
During pregnancy, throughout breastfeeding, and whilst raising your child, a healthy diet and lifestyle is important for you and your family. Living a healthy lifestyle and eating well will make you and your family feel better and reduce your chances of getting both short and long term health complications such as obesity, diabetes type II, heart disease and cancer. Healthy eating and exercise as a family will help demonstrate the importance of a healthy lifestyle to your child.
A healthy, balanced diet will provide your child with the vitamins, minerals and nutrition they need to grow and develop their minds and their bodies, to be able to concentrate in their lessons and to be physically active.
There’s lots of information available on healthy eating and nutrition, but the main things to remember are plenty of fruit and vegetables, some proteins such as meat, fish, eggs and milk, and lots of water. You don’t have to buy fresh; tinned fruit and veg is also fine, and buying food in season means it not only tastes better but is cheaper too.
NHS Eatwell Guide: nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-eatwell-guide
NHS Change4Life website: nhs.uk/change4life
Food banks – The health visiting service works closely with the Torbay Food Alliance and dispense vouchers to families in need. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org leaving your telephone number and a Health Visitor will call you back.
Healthy Start vouchers – If you are pregnant or have a child under four years old you could get Healthy Start vouchers to help buy some basic foods. This important means-tested scheme provides vouchers to spend with local retailers. Pregnant women and children over one and under four years old can get one £3.10 voucher per week. Children under one year old can get two £3.10 vouchers (£6.20) per week. Find out more at: healthystart.nhs.uk/healthy-start-vouchers/how-to-apply
Some children may be referred to as ‘fussy eaters’, in other words they are very particular about what, or when, they eat.
Some children might occasionally refuse to eat, or only eat in certain environments, whereas others can be limited in their tastes or be reluctant to try new things.
Fussy eating might seem alarming or difficult to deal with as a parent but you can be reassured that it is quite common, particularly in younger children. Children with restricted diets can still eat a balanced and healthy range of foods.
What’s causing fussy eating in my child?
This depends on their age. In toddlers, refusal of foods that they have previously eaten is normal. At this stage, they might not eat a piece of fruit if it has a different appearance than usual or refuse a biscuit if it is broken. Most children grow out of this stage, but for some it can take longer than others.
It’s important to remember that everyone is affected differently by sensory information, such as taste or smell. Something that tastes or smells good to you might not to your child, and vice versa.
Some children might even be hypersensitive (oversensitive) to sensory information, and this might make it more difficult for them to eat certain foods. They could reject food due to its taste, texture, smell or appearance. Some environments might even cause some children with sensory hypersensitivity to lose their appetites, such as eating in a kitchen where there can be an overpowering range of smells.
There could be a medical reason for your child’s fussy eating, such as a sore throat or tooth pain, particularly if there is a sudden onset of food refusal. If you are not sure, it’s often best to speak to a GP. Appetite may also be affected by stress, such as an upcoming maths test or starting a new school.
How to manage fussy eating
- Make sure mealtimes are relaxing and judgement-free environments when your child is trying new food. You can also help to reduce any worries they may be experiencing by letting them know that they are allowed to leave a new food if they do not enjoy it.
- Ensure your child is enjoying mealtimes by talking as a family whilst eating
- Let your child see that you enjoy eating healthy foods, they may be more likely to try foods that they have seen you eating.
- Provide your child with foods from the four main food groups, these are: fruit and vegetables; potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates; dairy or dairy alternatives; and beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins. The NHS has a food scanner app that you can use to find healthy food alternatives.
- Be patient if your child is a slow eater.
- Keep mealtimes to a set time period
- Encourage them to finish what is on their plate if they do not want to, this can make the problem worse.
- Leave your child to go hungry. Ensure that they also have other foods they enjoy when you’re trying to introduce something new.
- Use food as a reward, your child might then associate foods such as sweets or chocolate as good and fruit and vegetables as bad.
- Give your child a portion size that is too large for them. The amount of food a child needs depends on their age, body size and the amount of exercise they are doing, but one portion is roughly the amount that they can fit into the palm of their hand.
Here’s a handy video guide to portion sizes:
ChildFeedingGuide– An app developed by Loughborough University giving parents support and tips on promoting healthy eating.
Young children love to be active and explore their surroundings.
By the time children can walk they should be physically active for about 3 hours a day. This should include a mixture of different activities.
Playing with our children is great fun and allows us to build a special bond with them. At the same time you will be building healthy habits that can last a lifetime.
Physical activity and exercise are a really important part of every child’s development. There are national guidelines on how active our children should be:
Under 5 years
Being active every day is important for the healthy growth and development of babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Activity of any intensity should be encouraged. Download these factsheets for further information; infants who are not walking, or infants who are capable of walking.
From 0-6 months you can start encouraging your baby to spend 30 minutes a day enjoying tummy time:
- Start with short periods of tummy time and build up the amount of time slowly.
- You need to get down on the floor with your baby or hold them on your arm for support, so they can practice lifting their head.
- Playing, talking, cuddling, reading, and singing together can help distract baby while they are on their tummy.
Find out more about baby moves, tummy time, crawling and playtime at Start for Life