Healthy living

Food for kids

The right start to healthy eating for pre-primary and primary school children.

Things are changing!

When your child starts pre-school and primary school you will notice plenty of changes, including the foods he or she wants to eat.

No longer is it just the family who decides which foods will be served. There are many new influences on their food choices. Schools will teach new skills in preparing and choosing foods. Other children will give your child ideas about foods to try. Messages from TV and food companies marketing to children play a big part in setting trends and promoting particular foods.

You might not always be happy about some of these influences, but children can learn to make healthy food and lifestyle choices with your help.

Experts say …

The world is beginning to open up for children as they start their school life. They learn quickly and there are many influences extending beyond the home environment. Physically, children continue to grow steadily. They need a wide variety of nutritious foods, and to be given plenty of opportunities to be physically active.

Foods children need

Regular meals and a wide variety of different foods will ensure that they have the nutrients needed to grow and develop. Appetites will vary along with their activity, and this influences how much your child will eat.

Breakfast is an important meal if children are to be alert and able to concentrate in school.

Snacks at morning recess and after school are usually needed by busy, active children.

School lunches need to be appetising, nutritious and convenient to eat. Some schools have canteens but your child will probably need some help in choosing a healthy and satisfying lunch. If you are not happy with the choice of foods on the menu you can talk to the school about some healthy alternatives.

Family evening meals are important times for talking and sharing the day’s news and activities. Plan to have meals together without TV or telephone interruptions.

Water and milk are the best drinks for children. Fluids are important for children throughout the day. Thirsty or dehydrated children cannot maintain concentration and activity.

10 tips for feeding healthy children

Follow these tips and encourage your kids to eat healthy.

  1. Give your children a variety of different foods at all meals and snacks.
  2. Snacks are important. Offer nutritious foods like bread, crackers, cheese, yoghurt and fruit.
  3. Provide breakfast and allow time for your children to eat it.
  4. Eat together as a family at least once a day.
  5. Pack your child’s lunch from home. Involve your child in the selection and preparation from a range of healthy options.
  6. Don’t make a fuss when your child refuses a new food, but try again several times.
  7. Let your child tell you when they are full.
  8. Encourage children to drink plain water when they are thirsty.
  9. Involve children with planning and preparing healthy meals.
  10. Plan physical activities for all the family to encourage a healthy balance between food eaten and energy needs.

Where to get help

Local community, school or child health nurse

  • See inside your baby's purple All About Me book.
  • Look in the phone directory under child health centres.
  • Visit your nearest child health centre.

Local family doctor

Dietitians Association of Australia

Meerilinga

Raising Children Network

Remember

  • Children need to eat from each of the five different food groups in the recommended amounts.

Acknowledgements
Child and Adolescent Health Service

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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