What is a Balanced Diet?

by David Egan on December 14, 2011

Healthy Diet Child

Helping children to eat a balanced diet can protect them from serious illness in later life

Healthy eating isn’t complicated – for most children (and parents!) having a balanced diet boils down to eating more fruit & veg and eating less junk food. By encouraging good eating habits in our children we can help to prevent:

  • Overweight and obesity
  • Heart disease & stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Certain cancers

You might think that these illnesses strike in adulthood – and you’d be right – but they take a lifetime to develop and have their roots in childhood. By helping our kids to eat well, we can help them to avoid these illnesses in the future.

Eat More Fruit & Veg

Eating fruit and vegetables every day is vital for good health. Worryingly, most children (and most adults!) do not eat enough of these essential foods.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reckon that up to 2.7 million lives worldwide could be saved every year if we simply ate more fruit and vegetables. An apple a day really does keep the doctor away!

Experts recommend that we eat 5-10 portions of fruit and vegetables per day – where a portion is roughly a handful. So in the case of a small child, a small apple or a handful of chopped carrots would count as a single portion.

Remember that the recommendation “eat 5 servings of fruit or vegetables every day” is a minimum – 5 pieces per day is not the target, it is the minimum that you need for long term health! Find out more:

Junk Food HealthEat Less Junk Food

Junk food: excessively fatty, sugary or salty food that is low in other nutrients.

Sweets (high in sugar)
Crisps (high in fat and salt)
Fizzy drinks (high in sugar/artificial sweeteners)

Unfortunately, many children eat far too much junk food. Probably the best way to reduce the amount of junk food your children eat is to stop buying it! Take control of the larder – stop buying biscuits, sweets and crisps. See our article on junk food for more info and advice.

Drink Less Junk!

As well as junk food, many children consume too many junk drinks! Fizzy drinks are high in sugar and low in nutrients. Studies show that when children switch from fizzy drinks (like cola) to water, it helps them to manage their weight better. Find out more about the health effects of fizzy drinks here.

Fizzy drinks cause tooth decay and provide unnecessary calories that contribute to childhood obesity. If your child consumes fizzy drinks regularly, this may increase their chances of getting type 2 diabetes. Soft drinks (even diet drinks) have also been linked to osteoporosis, or brittle bones. Instead of junk beverages, go for:

  • Water
  • Milk
  • Unsweetened fruit juice or home-made smoothies

veggie heart resizedEat More Fibre

According to the World Health Organisation, getting enough fibre in your diet can help prevent obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and various cancers. That’s a lot of benefits!

Unfortunately, our modern diet is often full of processed foods like white bread and chips (which are low in fibre). To bump up your child’s fibre intake, encourage fibre rich foods like:

  • Fruit & vegetables
  • Wholemeal bread & pasta
  • Seeds, nuts & wholegrain foods

Get the kids to eat wholemeal instead of white bread can be a great way to increase their fibre intake. Remember, as a parent you are the boss – just stop buying white bread. They might whinge for a while, but they’ll get over it! There are also many fibre-rich healthy snacks that your child might enjoy, such as dried fruit and home-made healthy popcorn. Getting your child used to high fibre options can help them to develop healthy eating habits that will help them avoid serious illness in later life.

More Healthy Eating Advice

Our site contains a range of resources that will help you to ensure that your children eat well, including advice on dealing with fussy eaters, managing mealtimes, healthy lunchbox tips and a range of healthy recipes.

Why not sign up to our free healthy lifestyle tips service? You’ll receive a weekly email that will help you ensure your child develops healthy eating habits. We’ll also send you advice on how to get your child more active – another vital way to keep our kids healthy. Just enter your details on the form below.

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