The NHS 5-a-day and Eatwell Guide campaigns encourage us to choose a variety of foods drawn from a list that includes bread, cereals and potatoes, fruit and vegetables, milk and dairy products, meat, fish and their alternatives. Doing so, it says, will help ensure children obtain the wide range of nutrients their bodies need to remain healthy and function properly. Your child may resist your efforts to help them eat better, so use our stealth health tips to covertly include what he needs to develop a strong, healthy body and ward off common illnesses.
Calcium: Essential nutrient for healthy bones
Dairy foods are the best sources of calcium, a mineral that's vital for bones and development in growing children, promoting normal heart and muscle function. Dairy foods are the best calcium sources; most children need three servings a day. Children under two need whole milk and full-fat cheese and yoghurt. Over 2, you can give them semi-skimmed milk, and skimmed and 1% fat milk is fine after the age of 5.
- Serve a bowl of whole-grain cereal topped with milk and fresh fruit for breakfast or a snack.
- Make smoothies with milk, yoghurt, or calcium-added orange juice or soya beverages and fruit.
- Top pancakes or waffles with a mixture of yoghurt and fruit instead of syrup.
- Serve cheese and fruit for snacks or dessert; add a slice of hard cheese, such as cheddar, to sandwiches.
- Stir reduced-fat grated cheese into scrambled eggs.
- Serve milk with every meal; flavoured milk and lactose-free milk have just as much calcium as plain milk. Non milk drinkers should sip calcium-fortified soya beverages or orange juice. You can add whole milk to food, but never give it as a drink to a baby under 12 months old.
- Make desserts with semi-skimmed or skimmed milk and serve it to children instead of biscuits, cake, and sweets.
Stealth health tip: Microwave porridge with milk instead of water.
Fibre: Essential nutrient for digestion
Fibre does more than keep a child's digestive system in working order and help to avoid constipation. Getting into the habit of including fibre-rich foods may reduce your child's chances of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes later in life, too. Whole grains, pulses, fruits, and vegetables are generally fibre-rich.
- Serve sliced, raw or cooked vegetables with peanut butter or a yoghurt-based dip.
- Include a fruit or vegetable with every meal and snack.
- Swap white bread for whole-grain types, and refined cereals for whole-grain choices, including porridge.
- Add chopped vegetables such as broccoli and carrots to tomato-based sauces. If your child is a fussy eater, try sneaking vegetables into meals as a puree or finely chopped.
- Try whole-wheat pasta and brown rice as side dishes.
- Focus on whole fruit for the most fibre, and limit juice intake.
Stealth health tip: Prepare your favourite chilli recipe with twice the beans and half the meat.