Nourishing our bodies and those of our families is an essential part of life, growth and health. As an adult – and especially as a parent – selecting the types of food that you offer your family is a great responsibility as you need to ensure that they are eating the right foods, in the right amounts to encourage optimal health. For a diet to be nutritious and well balanced the proportions of foods from each food group should be correct.
When planning meals for your family consider the following:
- Fruit and vegetables should take up half of their meal; aim to include green and orange varieties to get a balance of nutrients.
- Starches or Grains should take up a quarter of the meal. Foods such as bread, rice, pasta, mieliemeel, potato and cereals are included in this group- Aim to use wholegrain alternatives where possible.
- Protein-rich foods should take up the final quarter. They include foods such as meat, fish, pulses, eggs and dairy products.
- Fats must be included in moderation; healthy fats are found in oily fish, avocado, olives and their oils.
- Sugary and salty foods as well as processed foods should be limited.
The correct portion size of your child’s meal will depend on their age and activity levels.
A basic practical guide to use to determine portion size is:
- Protein portion should be about the size of the child’s palm (without fingers)
- Starch portion should be about the size of the child’s fist.
Remember children are very in tune with their satiety and are good at knowing when they have had enough. Their appetites may naturally fluctuate too, meaning there will be days when they eat better than others.
Teach your children about healthy eating, correct balance and portion control so that as they grow up and make their own food choices; they are equipped to choose wisely.
Written by Claire McHugh – BSc (Dietetics) RD – Specialist Paediatric Dietician