Expert Healthy Eating Tips: Babies and Young Children

Having a healthy, balanced diet in the early years is important for supporting your child’s mental and physical development. There’s a lot of nutrition advice available to you, but it can often be overwhelming and confusing – particularly if your child has specific food allergies, intolerances and preferences.

At Elmscot Day Nurseries and Nursery Schools, we are vehement believers in good early nutrition. We work closely with Paediatric Dietitian, Susan Pavey to ensure we’re offering wholesome, healthy meals and snacks to all children within our settings.

Here, Susan brings you some key nutrition recommendations she gives to parents and carers during the early years.

  1. Provide a varied diet

Meals and snacks should be based around the four main food groups:

  • Starchy carbohydrates (potatoes, rice, pasta)
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Proteins (beans, fish, eggs, meat)
  • Milk and milk products or suitable fortified alternatives

If you’re including each of these throughout the day, you’ll be ensuring your child is getting the best balance of nutrients and are providing them with the energy they need to grow and play.

  1. Always sit down to eat and drink – and eat together

Children who eat with others will eat better. Mealtimes are also a perfect time to develop your child’s communication and social-emotional development. They are much more likely to develop a positive relationship with food and eating if they have someone to lead by example.

It’s also much better for healthy digestion if they are sitting down to eat.

  1. Regular meals and snacks

Government nutrition guidelines (November 2017) recommend that calorie intake for babies and young children should be spread throughout the day. A typical example is:

  •  Breakfast
  •  Morning Snack
  •  Lunch
  •  Afternoon Snack
  •  Evening meal

Some children are very good eaters at meals though and may not need snacks. It’s all about catering eating habits to your child, while ensuring they have the right amount of energy to get them through the day.

  1. Offer two courses at lunchtime and evening meal 

By offering two courses, if your child isn’t particularly fond of the main course that day, they may eat the second course. This way you ensure they at least have something.

You should never make a different meal if they reject the one you’ve prepared – they may just not be hungry!

  1. Be age appropriate 

Your child’s nutritional needs will change as they grow and develop – and so will their feeding abilities.

  1. Provide appropriate drinks

Water and milk are the only drinks children need and are kind to teeth. You can choose to give diluted pure fruit juice, but this should be limited to once a day with a meal.

  1. Cups are cool after one 

Aim to stop drinks from bottles after the age of one and use an unlidded cup or one with a free-flow spout.

  1. Take age-appropriate vitamins containing vitamin D

Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin, as we get very little from food. Most of it is created when our skin is exposed to sunshine. Children under the age of five are recommended to take a supplement to support this, unless they are drinking over 500ml of formula milk per day.

  1. Do not add sugar or salt to children’s food

Children under the age of five shouldn’t have sugar or salt added to their food. If you’d like to add variety and additional flavours to their food, you can use herbs and spices – as well as fruits to sweeten meals.

Throughout the year, many Elmscot Group Nurseries host workshops for parents whose children attend the nursery. These cover a range of useful topics – including nutrition. To find out more about our upcoming workshops or to register for a nursery place, please call us on 0161 980 0003 or email [email protected].