We often hear how important a varied, balanced diet is for both children and grown-ups. But what does that really mean? The food pyramid provides the answer.
Some nutritional facts:
Protein builds muscles. Because the body can’t store protein, we need to eat new protein every day. Sources of protein include milk products, meat, fish, eggs, peas and beans.
Carbohydrates provide energy, which is the body’s fuel. Sources of carbohydrates include pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, fruit, vegetables and porridge.
Fat is an important source of energy, and helps the body absorb certain vitamins. Children need more fat than adults because they’re growing and are very physically active. Some fats are healthier than others, so choose grapeseed or mild olive oil when preparing children’s food.
Minerals are vital to nerve and muscle function. Essential minerals:
Zinc – found in milk, meat, bread and other wholegrain products.
Calcium – found in dairy products and green vegetables.
Iron – found in many foods such as meat, liver and green vegetables. Despite being present in many foods, it's hard for fast-growing children to get enough iron. For this reason, iron-enriched baby cereals are recommended. Iron is most easily absorbed along with vitamin C, so add something rich in vitamin C to your child's cereal, like fruit purée.
Vitamins are vital for children’s growth and general health.
Vitamin A – essential for the eyes. Found in butter, margarine, fish, liver, eggs and milk. Found in fruit (especially citrus fruits), berries, potatoes, vegetables and root vegetables. Found in fatty fish (e.g. salmon) and cooking oils.
The plate model
Kids who eat a varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables don’t need to take any dietary supplements.
But how much should you serve from the different sections of the food pyramid? Follow the plate model - it works for little people who’ve just started eating full meals. According to the plate model, 1/3 of the plate should contain meat or fish, 1/3 should contain vegetables, and 1/3 should contain pasta, rice or potatoes. Finish off with a dessert of fruit or berries.