Eating well is important for our physical and mental health. To ensure children and young people eat well, to grow and develop healthily, they need a balanced diet.
A balanced diet provides the full range of essential nutrients that the body needs. It provides children and young people energy for growth and activity, and will help them concentrate and sleep well. These factors are all important for encouraging good physical and mental health.
The Eatwell Guide can support you in providing a healthy balanced diet: www.foodstandards.gov.scot/consumers/healthy-eating/eatwell
Eating well isn’t just about what we eat, it is also important to think about how we eat. Encouraging children and young people to have healthy attitudes and behaviours around food and eating can help improve their wellbeing. So as well as providing a balanced diet, it is important to:
It’s sometimes challenging for children and young people to manage and express their emotions. Food shouldn’t be given as a way of comforting them, for example, giving them chocolate when they feel anxious or sad. This may lead to them using food to manage their emotions, which can become a problem if it happens all the time or is the only way they feel they can cope.
On some days a child or young person may eat a lot and on other days they may hardly eat anything. If they are growing and thriving, there is generally no need to worry. There are some more tips at: www.readysteadytoddler.org.uk/everyday-routines/food-and-diet/index.aspx.
It’s important to be a good role model and show positive attitudes and behaviours towards food and eating, e.g. by eating healthily and trying new foods yourself. Children and young people can then follow your positive example. On the other hand, if you show negative attitudes and behaviours, e.g. you worry about eating ‘bad’ foods or about body weight, or comment negatively about other people, they may pick up on this and do the same.
Being involved in cooking can help improve children and young people’s independence, confidence and communication skills. When they are involved in preparing food, they may also be more likely to eat it. Depending on their age and ability, they can wash or chop vegetables, crack eggs, grate cheese, put toppings on pizza, weigh and mix ingredients, shape meatballs or mash potatoes. Remember to supervise them whenever necessary.
There are many benefits to family mealtimes. Although it may be a challenge to get the family together for a meal, try and do this when you can. Ideally, sit round the table and make sure TVs, phones etc are switched off. Eating together can:
Mindfulness can help everyone to enjoy eating. Eating mindfully is about being aware and paying attention while we eat, which can help us to:
Here are some activities and resources to encourage children and young people to eat well:
The Center for Mindful Eating:
Pick your own
Visit a ‘pick your own’ farm. This can help them see how food is grown, picked and delivered to the shops. Picking their own fruit or vegetables can make them feel they have contributed to a meal and may make them more enthusiastic about eating it.
Grow your own
Try growing some herbs or salad vegetables in pots on the windowsill. Seeing things grow is exciting, and can help children understand where food comes from.
Plan a meal
Help your child to plan a meal. Think together about what ingredients are needed and write a shopping list. Then you can go to the shop, prepare the food and cook it! Being involved in the process from start to finish can be really rewarding, and can help them get excited about food and eating.
Make fun models of your favourite meals.
What you need:
What you do:
Some things to talk about together: