It?s the big question in many households. What should your child be eating? How can you get them to eat a healthy balanced diet, and with so many changing guidelines making it hard to even establish what a health balanced diet for a child might be, it is easy to feel a bit lost.
Balance is the key work here. The best way to ensure that your child gets the nutrition and vitamin content that they need, think of each meal as a balancing act.
Carbohydrates ? carbs are important fuel for kids; whether its pasta, potatoes, bread, rice? whatever you offer your child, try to encourage them to try new carbs. While some children will love their carbs, others might resist. If your child resists carbohydrates, it could be that they feel overfull after eating them, in which case insist on a small portion. They may feel that the flavours are bland. You can easily make carbs more interesting with sauces, herbs and other flavours, or add them to other meals. You can blend potato into soups, add pasta to casseroles and offer bread with other meals.
Protein ? meat is the obvious source of protein but there are other places to find this essential aspect of a healthy daily diet. Some children find meat hard to digest, so make it easy by offering small soft pieces. Eggs are a great way to get protein into those who aren?t keen on meat.
5-a-day ? 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day is a guideline that might look impossible to many parents. Remember that your child?s tastes are developing, and many, many children refuse their vegetables for much of their childhood. Try to offer these foods little and often. Add them to other foods, offer fruit as a snack and make sure your child is aware of the importance of these foods by gently pointing out the benefits of them. Getting tough and insisting that any food is eaten is a sure way to make your child even more resistant to it, so the ?softly-softly? approach works best here.
Try to either use a smaller plate, or keep in mind that your child does not need adult portions. If a portion of meat for an adult is the size of the palm of the hand, then the size of the child?s portion should be the size of their hand. A large plate of food can make a child feel overwhelmed or under pressure, and the natural response for many will be simply to refuse it outright.
Relax and Know When to get Help
If you are worried your child is not eating enough food, not eating enough variation to get the nutrients they need or has real problems with food, then speak to your doctor who may refer you to a specialist who will be able to give you practical help. They may also recommend a supplement to ensure your child is getting what they need. Keep offering new foods and let your child see you enjoying a healthy balanced diet; as their tastes and attitudes change, they may suddenly become more interested or receptive to meals they wouldn?t have even considered a few weeks ago!
The HSE has some further advice on their site