FEEDING YOUNG CHILDREN AGED 1-5 YEARS
A Healthy Eating Guide
Feeding Young Children Aged 1-5 Years
By 12 months of age your child should be eating a variety of foods and joining in with family meals.
By this age your child will begin to be more active, it is therefore important to ensure your child gets the right amount of energy (calories) and nutrients they need whilst growing rapidly.
To ensure your child has a good balance of nutrients it is important to give foods from each of the main food groups.
Fruit and Vegetables
Offer fruit and vegetables at each meal. Try to offer 5 child size helpings each day. Fruit and vegetables contain lots of essential vitamins, minerals and fibre.
This group includes:
All vegetables (fresh, frozen and canned)
Salad vegetables (such as tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, celery etc)
Canned fruit (in natural juice or water )
Dried fruit – only occasionally as a snack (small child’s handful)
Fruit and vegetables can help to make meals look more exciting with their bright colours, textures and flavours.
Some ideas to try:
Give chopped vegetables e.g. carrot, cucumber, peppers as snacks. Try adding a low fat dip too such as hummus or natural yoghurt
Mix chopped fruit with yoghurt or low sugar cereal for a tasty treat
Serve sliced salad vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuce or beetroot with sandwiches
Try adding vegetables to soups, curries, casseroles, pasta dishes – great for using up leftovers and if blended can be very well hidden – useful for fussy eaters!
Add cauliflower to potatoes for a tasty mash topping to cottage pie
Top pizzas with chopped tomatoes, onions, peppers and pineapple
Make a milk smoothie by blending fruits with milk – try banana and strawberry for a creamy version
Starchy foods should be included at each meal. These foods provide energy, various nutrients and fibre.
Starchy foods include:
Bread (wholemeal, white, granary), pitta bread
Potatoes e.g. jacket, mashed, boiled
Breakfast cereals e.g. weetabix, shredded wheat, porridge oats
Rice, pasta or noodles
Tortilla wraps Some ideas to try:
Use potatoes in different ways such as jacket, mashed, boiled or try cutting into wedges and baking in the oven
Try sandwiches or toast on wholemeal or granary bread, which are high in fibre. You can also offer muffins, bagels, crumpets and breadsticks
Watch out for the sugar content on a number of breakfast cereals – those with frosted or chocolate flavours are likely to be high
Breakfast cereals are often fortified with vitamins and minerals so are a good choice.
Pasta and rice are a great alternative to potatoes.
Meat, Fish, Eggs and Other Non-Dairy Sources of Protein
Serve foods from this group twice a day. These foods are important for growth and development.
This group includes meat for example beef, lamb, chicken, fish, eggs, TVP, pulses, dhal, beans, tofu, quorn, smooth nuts spreads* such as peanut butter.
Some ideas to try:
Try lean minced beef, keema, turkey, chicken e.g. in curries, spaghetti bolognaise.
Cold meat, tinned fish e.g. tuna, sardines, liver pate, hard boiled eggs are good sandwich fillings
Buy lower fat sausages with a high meat content (80%), and look for lean cuts of meat.
Try to prepare meals using basic ingredients. Try not to use too many convenience foods as they can be high in salt, fat and sugar.
*If you or your child suffers from any allergies, hay fever, asthma or eczema please talk to a health professional e.g. doctor, health visitor, before introducing any nuts. Do not give whole
Your child should be having around 1 pint of milk a day as drinks or in foods. You can continue breast feeding if you wish. Dairy foods are important for growth, healthy bones and teeth.
Foods in this group include milk, cheese, yoghurt, and fromage frais. Use full fat milk and dairy products until your child is at least 2 years old. Semi-skimmed milk can be introduced from age 2, if your child is a good eater and growing well. Skimmed milk is not suitable for children under 5 years old.
Some ideas to try:
Milk can be used in drinks, on breakfast cereals, in puddings or sauces
Cheese, fromage frais or yoghurt can be given instead of some of the milk
Grated cheese, cheese spreads can be used as sandwich fillers on toast or added to a jacket potato
Try yoghurt after meals as a dessert
Young children need the concentrated energy provided by fat in the diet. That is why it is important to give foods such as full fat milk, yoghurt, cheese and oily fish.
Foods such as crisps, chips, fried foods and biscuits are popular with children. But they should be limited to keep your family healthy. Consider these foods as extras and only give them very occasionally.
Most young children enjoy sweet foods e.g. biscuits, cakes, sweets, chocolates. A small amount of sugary foods at mealtimes is ok but when teeth are in frequent contact with sugary foods and drinks they will decay.
Tips to consider:
Try not to give sweet foods and drinks every day. Keep to mealtimes and never give as rewards
Beware of sugars you may not recognise, as these can be just as damaging to teeth e.g.
sucrose, glucose, honey, dextrose, concentrated fruit juices, syrup
Meals and snacks
Have regular meals as a family where possible. Make sure you give regular breakfast, lunch and tea so your child is not too hungry or too tired to eat.
Breakfast is a very important meal. Ideas for breakfast include low sugar breakfast cereal and milk, toast, crumpets or toasted muffins. Try not to give your child cereal bars as these can be very high in sugar.
Young children often need to eat small snacks in between meals to meet their needs for energy and growth.
Ideas for healthy snacks between meals are:
Fruit such as orange, banana, apple, pear, grapes
Vegetable sticks such as carrots, peppers and cucumber with yoghurt of low fat hummus dips
Small cubes of cheese with crackers or breadsticks
Toast, small sandwiches, crumpets or oat cakes
Milk and water are the best drinks for young children. They are safe for teeth.
You can also give your child diluted unsweetened fresh fruit juice at mealtimes. Fruit juice should always be well diluted one part juice to ten parts water.
Fizzy drinks and squashes are not recommended for young children. Not only are they bad for teeth (even the “diet” versions) but their nutrient content is low and children who drink them a lot can feel too full to eat well at mealtimes.
Do not give tea or coffee as these reduce iron absorption and can increase the risk of anaemia.
Use a cup or beaker for drinks. Drinking from a bottle can slow speech development and damage teeth.
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5
Breakfast Weetabix and milk and banana slices
Grilled mushrooms and
tomatoes on toast and diluted
Cereal and milk and handful of
Scrambled egg on toast
and diluted fruit juice
Porridge and milk
apricot Snack Toast fingers Cream cracker
with cheese spread
Crumpet Toasted bagel
Breadstick and grapes Lunch Shepherd’s pie
Rice pudding with raisins
Corned beef hash with diced
carrots and peas
Chilli and rice
Fruit slices and yoghurt dip
crumble and custard
Fish fingers with broccoli and mashed
and low fat natural yoghurt Snack Slice of melon Chopped fruit
Pear or apple Carrot sticks and hummus
Tea Cheese and
ham sandwich and chunks of
Homemade pizza topped with tomatoes,
sweet corn, tuna, peppers
Homemade chicken and
vegetable soup with bread
Baked beans on toast and orange segments
Bedtime Cup of milk Cup of milk Cup of milk Cup of milk Cup of milk
The amount toddlers eat varies from day to day and will depend how active they are.
Remember that young children need smaller amounts of food than adults. Offer three meals with two or three small snacks per day.
Iron is important for your child’s health. Lack of iron can lead to anaemia which may hold back your child’s development. Children who are poor eaters or on restricted diets are most at risk.
It is important to offer iron containing foods daily.
Good sources of iron include:
Meat e.g. beef, pork, lamb, liver
Canned fish e.g. sardines, mackerel, tuna, eggs
Fortified low sugar breakfast cereals
Dark green vegetables
Beans and pulses e.g. lentils
Try to give vitamin C containing foods at mealtimes as well such as oranges, tomatoes, broccoli and well diluted fruit juice as these help iron to be absorbed from food.
Helping your child to eat well
It is very common for young children to go through phases of being faddy about what they eat.
Remember, fussy eating is a normal part of growing up.
Tips to help:
Offer your child the same food you’re giving your family and eat your meals together whenever possible
Give smaller portions and praise your child for eating even a little food
Try to keep calm. It is important not to turn meal times into a battle ground
Foods that are rejected on one occasion may well be accepted the next, so keep offering a range of foods
Try offering new foods alongside foods they are happy to eat
Never force or bribe your child to eat. If your child refuses to eat, just remove the food without any fuss
If you think your child is allergic or intolerant to any food, talk to a health professional e.g. your health visitor or GP. You may need referring to a Paediatric Dietitian.
Healthy Start Scheme
Healthy Start helps you give your children the best start in life. If you’re pregnant or have a child under four and you’re claiming benefits, you could get vouchers every week to spend on milk, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, plus a coupon to swap for free vitamins.
You can use the vouchers at local shops and supermarkets. You can join Healthy Start at any time- even if you’ve already had your baby. It could add up to as much as £700 if you are on the scheme from pregnancy until your child is four. So it’s well worth doing!
You also get advice on healthy eating and looking after your baby as well as recipes so you can make the most of your vouchers.
Healthy Start Vitamins
Healthy Start Vitamins can be obtained at local health Clinics. Vitamins can also be bought if a family does not qualify for free ones. Healthy Start vitamins are recommended for:
Breastfed infants from age six months (or one month in some cases)
Formula-fed infants who are over six months and taking less than 500ml infant formula per day
Children up to their fourth Birthday
All pregnant women
This recommendation is particularly important for children and women who are not eating well, those of Asian, African, Afro-Caribbean or middle eastern origin and those living in northern areas of the UK
Healthy Start vitamin vouchers can be exchanged or vitamins purchased from any of the Tameside and Glossop clinics listed below:
Albion Drive Clinic Ann Street Clinic Ashton Primary Care Centre Dewsnap Lane Clinic Glossop Primary Care Centre Hattersley Clinic
Hyde Clinic Mossley Clinic
For more information please speak to your Health Visitor/Midwife or you can visit www.healthystart.nhs.uk
Healthy Lifestyle Courses
A fun and friendly course for families with children aged 18 months to 4 years incorporating
Please contact the Children’s Nutrition Team if you have any queries Telephone: 0161 366 2351 or 0161 366 2349 from 9am -5pm
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