The importance of a balanced diet for children

Why do children need a balanced diet from an early age?

A healthy, balanced diet for children provides essential vitamins, minerals and other nutritional goodies that kids need for healthy growth and development. Vitamins and minerals are vital for our bodies to function properly and each one plays a specific role in the body.

For example:

  • Calcium – is vital for strong, healthy bones and teeth. Good sources of calcium include dairy products (milk, yoghurt and cheese), green leafy vegetables and bony fish.
  • Vitamin C – supports little immune systems and is also needed to form collagen, which is essential for the development of healthy bones, gums and blood vessels. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits (lemons, limes and grapefruit), strawberries and broccoli.
  • B vitamins – work together to help the body convert the food we eat into energy and provide the support kids need to stay active. Good sources of B vitamins include whole grains, poultry and eggs.
  • Iodine – is a mineral required for normal brain development, concentration and learning ability, making it crucial to support young brainiacs. Good sources of iodine include seafood and fortified bread.
  • Zinc – is needed for normal growth and development in infants and supports healthy immune function in kids. Good sources of zinc include seafood, meat and beans.

If children develop healthy eating habits from the start, it will set them up for a healthier adulthood.

How can I help my children get the vitamins they need?

To ensure kids are getting the vitamins, minerals and other goodies they need, it is important that they eat a wide variety of nutritious foods from all the different food groups. As a general guide, children should eat lots of fruits and vegetables, wholegrains (such as brown rice , wholegrain bread and wholemeal pasta), beans and lentils, moderate amounts of lean meat, fish, nuts and dairy products (cheese, yoghurt, milk) and only occasional consumption of biscuits, lollies and chocolate.

Different colours of fruits and vegetables usually contain different combinations of nutrients. So put a rainbow of colours on your child’s plate (green, white, yellow, orange, blue, purple, red) to get the most nutritional value out of the meal.

How can I encourage my children to eat a wide range/variety of foods?

To encourage kids to eat a wide variety of foods, first and foremost, it is important to be a role model yourself. As parents, we are an important influence to our children and can do many things to help them develop healthy eating habits for life. Show by example – eat fruits, vegetables and wholegrains with meals or as snacks, keep fresh fruit on the bench or table, try new foods yourself and carry a bottle of water around.

You could also get creative in the kitchen and make food fun, by cutting it into shapes with cookie cutters, naming a food your child helped create, for example “Avas’ salad”, making funny faces on then plate with fruits and vegetables, making vegetables taste better by serving with dressings or dips like hummus or making your own ice cream from frozen bananas.

You could also get kids involved in the food shopping and discuss where fruits, vegetables, meats and grains come from. Let your child make healthy food choices themselves.

What can I do if my children won’t eat the foods they need for growing bodies?

Sometimes it is just not possible to get kids to eat a wide variety of nutritious foods every day, which is why a good, quality children’s multivitamin might be beneficial. A good multivitamin for kids with nutrients such as B vitamins, calcium, vitamin C, iodine and zinc, may help top up your child’s diet and help fill any nutritional gaps to support growing bodies.

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