Paediatrics: Healthy eating for children
Breast milk is the ideal feed for almost all infants.
Healthy eating for children
- Breast milk is the ideal feed for almost all infants.
- Solids are not recommended until age 6mths (d food allergies).
- Initial solids should be based on baby rice, fruit, and vegetables.
- Gluten is acceptable from age 6mths.
- Following the introduction of solids, infants should experience and progress through a wide variety of tastes and appropriate textures.
- Finger foods should be introduced from age 7mths.
- Continue complementary breast or formula feeds until age 1yr. Normal full fat cow’s milk can then be introduced as the main drink.
- Avoid the addition of salt and sugar to food.
- Low-fat products are not suitable for infants.
- Supplemental vitamins A, C, and D are recommended until age 5yrs.
A well-balanced diet in early childhood is important to establish a lifetime pattern of healthy eating. The key recommendations for healthy eating to be achieved by age 5yrs are the following:
- Decrease fat to 35% energy intake by avoiding excess high-fat foods and changing milk to semi-skimmed at age 2yrs, and skimmed at age 5yrs.
- Include whole-grain cereals and 5 portions per day of fruits and vegetables to increase fibre intake.
- Monitor for (accelerating weight velocity) and avoid obesity.
- Moderate salt intake, e.g. not adding salt to cooking or at the table.
- Avoid iron deficiency anaemia by restricting milk intake to 1 pint per day and including foods rich in iron (red meat, cereals, beans, pulses, egg yolk, dark green vegetables, and dried fruit). Add vitamin C as fruit juice at a meal to increase iron absorption. Drinking tea with meals decreases iron absorption.
- Excessive consumption of fruit juices or squashes can contribute to chronic non-specific diarrhoea of childhood (toddler diarrhoea) and contribute to feeding problems.
Schoolchildren should eat a diet based on a wide variety of foods. Nutritional guidelines relating to school meals have been set out by many UK local authorities and healthy eating forms part of the UK national curriculum. A healthy diet should include:
- At least one starchy food at each mealtime, e.g. wholemeal bread, potatoes, pasta, and rice.
- Five portions per day of fruit and vegetables.
- Two servings of meat or alternatives each day.
- Two to three portions a day of skimmed milk, low-fat yoghurt, fromage frais, or cheese (a portion = 1 yoghurt, 1/3 pint milk, 30g cheese).
- Only small and occasional amounts of sugar and fats