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Healthy eating for children: how it works!

Children are constantly growing. A balanced diet provides all the nutrients they need for their physical and mental development. Here we have some useful tips for you on healthy eating for children.

Eat a varied diet

Bring as much variety to the plate as possible, as each food offers an individual range of nutrients. This way, your child will be provided with all the vitamins and minerals. The way in which food is prepared can also affect the content of some nutrients and their use in the body. So practice variety: sometimes raw or roasted, sometimes steamed or gratinated.

Appeal to all the senses

Potatoes can both be cooked whole or eaten mashed.
Children use all the senses when eating and drinking. A variety of colours, shapes, tastes, aromas and consistencies arouses their curiosity. Take advantage of this and offer different coloured fruit and vegetables. Different preparation methods also make food interesting. Potatoes can sometimes be soft (mashed potato) and sometimes be crispy (baked potato).

Offer fruit and vegetables every day

A child reaches for broccoli and cauliflower florets.
Fruit and vegetables are part of a healthy children’s diet. So offer them to your child every day. Give preference to different coloured regional and seasonal products. The ideal amount is five portions a day.

Keep regular mealtimes

Fixed structures and rituals are important for children. So serve meals at fixed times. This way, you prevent your child from becoming hungry in between meals and help them to maintain their performance and concentration.

Don’t forget drinks

A jug of water, which is part of a healthy children’s diet
Children should drink about four to five glasses of water a day. Water is sugar-free and does not contain any calories or acids that are harmful to teeth. Water can be easily flavoured using fresh mint, orange and lemon slices or berries. Unsweetened herbal and fruit tea is also a good thirst quencher. In the summer, some ice cubes and a slice of lemon can quickly transform this into a refreshing ice tea.

Tips for when there are eating problems

The next time you are driven to despair at the table because your child is refusing to eat, don’t forget that virtually all parents have to contend with problems at the table. Find out here how to best handle this situation and what to be mindful of beforehand.
When children don’t want to eat fruit and vegetables
Parents are role models – so you yourself should often reach for fruit and vegetables, too. Offer your child fruit or vegetables at every meal, even if they do not always eat them, as new foods are a matter of habit.
Also follow these tips:
  • Serve vegetables with meals that your child likes.
  • Cut fruit and vegetables into small bite-sized pieces or use cookie cutters to cut them into funny shapes.
  • One of the five recommended portions a day can sometimes be replaced with a glass of unsweetened juice (150 millilitres).
When children only ever eat the same thing
Many parents are familiar with this problem: children go through phases where they prefer to only ever eat one and the same dish. But don’t worry – it passes and there’s no need for concern.
As children have a natural aversion to new foods, it can help to keep offering unfamiliar things over and over again. At some point, they are usually accepted, as children’s tastes change. It is also worth trying out different preparation methods: sometimes raw, sometimes pureed or baked.
Don’t force children to eat
We all have certain foods that are simply not to our taste. So don’t force your child to eat something they really don’t like. Force increases the aversion to the food, as a result of which this aversion can continue into adulthood.
When children are not hungry
The natural sensation of hunger and satiety works very well in children. So let your child decide for themselves how much they have on their plate and don’t force them to clear their plate.
There is often a simple reason for a lack of hunger at main mealtimes: frequent snacking. Schedule a small snack between main meals. This way, you will prevent constant nibbling.
You should consult a doctor if your child does not eat properly for several weeks on end.
When children are constantly nibbling on sweet things
A child holds a bowl of sweet blueberries
Children have an innate predilection for sweet things. Breast milk tastes sweet and basic instinct also says that sweet things are not poisonous. There is also room for sweets in a balanced diet – but the right amount is crucial.
So follow these tips when managing sweets:
  • Agree fixed snack times with your offspring. It is best to schedule sweets after a main meal.
  • Sweets should never be a reward or a comforter.
  • Keep sweets somewhere where your child cannot help themselves.
Offer yummy alternatives to sweets, such as:
  • freshly sliced fruit,
  • sweet berries,
  • home-made smoothies,
  • fruit salads,
  • fruit skewers or
  • dried fruits and nuts.

Are eating problems a cause for concern?

Is your child healthy, active, growing normally and gaining weight? Then there is usually no cause for concern. Most eating problems last for only a short time and do not impact negatively on development. Only if a child eats a very unbalanced diet and very little over a relatively long period does it make sense to seek clarification from a paediatrician.

Imparting healthy eating to children: tips for everyday family life

To teach your children about healthy eating, you should act as a role model. Children pick up a lot from their parents – they find what the parents eat interesting and want to try it, too. If you as parents eat a healthy and balanced diet, that will rub off on your children. One particularly good thing is that habits that we develop during childhood usually stay with us for life. Also heed the following tips:
Take time for meals
Whenever possible, eat together at least once a day. The shared meal is a good opportunity to talk and helps children to learn table manners.
A mother bakes together with her toddler
Cook and bake together
If you involve your children in choosing, shopping for and preparing food, this will introduce them to the joys of cooking and baking. A self-made meal often tastes particularly good to a child.
Eat without any (digital) distractions
When the screen is on during meals, it is common to eat too much without realizing it. So don’t eat in front of the television. It is also undesirable to have tablets or smartphones at the dining table. Instead, tell one another about your experiences.
Whether for toddlers, school children or teenagers, a healthy diet is essential to the growth process. If you would like to find out more about a “Balanced diet” or “Healthy eating at every stage of life”, then take a look around our range of guides. Here, you will find further interesting articles such as “Healthy eating with the food pyramid” or “Food preparation to maintain nutritional value”.