Healthy Diet

It is very important that children have a healthy diet and maintain physical activity. Here are some of the ways in which you can encourage this within your family. 


Fruit and vegetables

To increase your child’s interest and appetite for vegetables, it is a great idea to involve them in the recipe searching and shopping stages. By doing this together your child will become aware of everything that is available and can choose a preference in terms of recipe/ingredients. Your child will enjoy having a say in what your family eats, and you can make a challenge out of trying new types of food.

A similar approach can be used for fruit: take time to explore the supermarkets and talk to your child about all the different types of fruit that exist. Make it a challenge to try as many fruits as possible and listen to what your child says about each one. When they tell you what they like, you could start a game in which you could include fruit in different forms including cereal, fruit bowls or a make your own ice-lolly.  


Start 4 Life can provide you lots of interesting, inexpensive and simple recipes for your baby or toddler. Change 4 Life provides the same quality recipes but for children 1 years and older.  

Food shopping

We understand that it is not possible for many parents, but try and use any opportunity to involve your children in the food shop, as this will give them an idea of where their meals are coming from and it can also spark an interest in a particular food item that they like the look of. The supermarket will open their eyes to many new products, encouraging them to try more, whilst having a hand in the decision making. Sometimes fresh fruit and vegetables can be expensive; you could try frozen fruit and vegetables which have the same healthy effects and can cost less.

If you’re more than 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4, you may be entitled to get help to buy healthy food and milk please visit for more information. 


For fast meal menus and recipes why not visit the Change 4 Life recipe section, where you'll find a lot of suggestions to try out as a family. It's worth cooking in bulk too because this means you will have home-made ready meals available for super quick healthy dinners. There are many stages to cooking a meal and you can get the whole family involved by dividing the cooking into different parts.


It is important to maintain regular meal times so that your child becomes used to eating at certain times around the day. There are many options for healthy snacks in between main meals including carrot sticks, nuts and fruit. Remember not to offer whole nuts to under 5 year olds as they can be choking hazards, and to stick to whole fruit rather than juice as this contains more healthy fibre than juice does.

Healthy Lunch-Boxes

It's just as important to make sure the lunchbox your child takes to nursery or preschool provides a healthy and balanced lunch. This means plenty of good quality foods from the 5 food groups, with few 'processed' or packaged or ready-made foods (as these usually contains fewer good nutrients and often more salt and sugar).

A balanced packed lunch should contain:

  • starchy foods – these are cereals, bread, rice, potatoes, pasta. Starchy foods are a good source of energy and should make up a third of the lunchbox
  • protein foods – including meat, fish, eggs, lentils, chickpeas, beans, nuts, seeds and tofu/quorn
  • a dairy item – this could be cheese, a yoghurt or milk as a drink
  • vegetables, raw and/or cooked
  • a portion of fruit
  • water or milk to drink

Children often like food they can eat with their fingers, so chop up raw veggies such as carrots or peppers and give them hummus or cottage cheese to dip the veggies in. Breadsticks and wholemeal crackers are great finger foods that can be paired with cheese pieces.

Replace chocolate bars and cakes with fresh fruit. Vary the fruit each day and get them to try new things, such as kiwi or melon. You could also make up a tasty fruit salad. Be inventive and encourage your children when they try something new. Some good ideas can be found here

Note that dried fruit is no longer recommended as a between meal snack as it's high in sugar, and can be bad for teeth.

How much sugar should children be eating?

  • Children aged under 4 no more than 12g or 4 teaspoons of free sugars per day
  • Children aged 4 to 6 should have no more than 19g or 5 teaspoons of free sugars per day
  • Children aged 7 to 10 should have no more than 24g or 6 teaspoons of free sugars per day
  • Children aged 11 years and upwards, as well as adults, should have no more than 30g or 7 teaspoons of free sugar per day

An example of the sugar content of common lunchbox items includes:

  • A petit filous fromage fraise (80g) contains 2.5 teaspoons of free sugar
  • Barney bear cake bar (chocolate) contains 2 teaspoons of free sugar
  • No added sugar fruit shoot drink (apple and blackcurrant) contains 1 teaspoon of free sugar

This calculated together is 5.5 teaspoons of sugar in a standard lunchbox, meaning in one meal, a child under 4yrs, will have exceeded their daily intake by 1.5 teaspoons.

Click here for more information from Change4Life

Fussy eating

We know that fussy eating (not just for toddlers) is not uncommon. Children refuse to eat certain foods, eat a very limited range of food or refuse to eat at all. The following things may help: 

  • Eat together as a family and eat the same meal, ensuring that your child has an appropriately sized portion and that their food does not have any added salt
  • Keep trying with new foods and offer them in different ways (e.g. offering carrot cooked, uncooked, grated, mixed in a sauce etc.)
  • Praise your child when they try something new
  • Aim for no more than two snacks a day

What if I need more help?

If you need further help and support, speak your health visitor and/or GP.

Further information: