How do I encourage my children to eat a balanced diet including all of the vitamins and minerals they need?

Healthy eating: how to encourage your child to make healthy food choices

How do I encourage my children to eat a balanced diet including all of the vitamins and minerals they need?

There are many positive ways in which to encourage kids to eat a healthy, balanced diet. The most important way is to adopt these healthy eating behaviours yourself. You don't have to be perfect all the time, but if kids see you trying to eat right, they will take notice of your efforts. The pay‐off will not only be healthier kids, but a healthier you!

Try to:

  • Eat fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains with meals and snacks
  • Always have a healthy breakfast and sit down to eat it
  • Carry a bottle of water around
  • Display fresh fruit on the bench or table
  • Make dinnertime family time
  • Try new foods yourself

Another positive approach to healthy eating is to make food fun for kids.

  • Make fruits or vegetables into faces on their plate or cut them into shapes.
  • Involve your child in the cooking. They are more likely to eat something they were involved in preparing. You can even name a dish that they helped prepare, for example sweet potatoes.
  • Play the rainbow game – how many different coloured fruits and vegetables can your little one eat in a day? Write down their score on the fridge.
  • Take your child food shopping. Teach them about the different fruits, vegetables, grains and meats and encourage them to choose healthy food options themselves.
  • Keep things positive. If they don’t like something the first time, don't force them to eat it. Serve it a few days later and encourage them to have tiny tastes each time.

You could also start a fruit, vegie or herb garden and get kids involved in the process of growing their own food. Not only will this encourage them to make healthier food choices, but it will also get them outside and away from the TV.

What are the three most important vitamins my children need daily?

There are many different nutritional goodies required for healthy growth and development, however a few stand out as being essential for growing bodies.

Calcium is important for strong, healthy bones and teeth and is needed in higher amounts during times of rapid growth and development. Skeletal tissue is constantly growing in young children so they have high calcium requirements. Ensuring your little one receives adequate calcium in their childhood can set them up for optimal bone health as adults. The family of B vitamins help our bodies produce energy as well as support healthy nervous system and brain function, making them essential for active, growing bodies. B vitamins are not readily stored in our bodies and need to be replaced on a regular basis. B vitamins are also quite delicate and are easily destroyed by cooking and food processing. Vitamin C can help boost immune system function and support minor wound healing. Children are more susceptible to infection because their immune systems are still developing. Vitamin C is also required to form collagen, which is needed for the development of healthy bones, gums and blood vessels.

How can I ensure my children get enough calcium, vitamin C and B vitamins?

The best way to ensure your kids get enough calcium, B vitamins and vitamin C is to encourage a healthy, balanced diet with a variety of different foods from all food groups. Calcium is found in dairy products such as cheese, yoghurt and milk as well as broccoli, bony fish, dried figs and sesame seeds, so try and include some of these foods each day. Good sources of B vitamins include chicken, whole grains and eggs, and vitamin C is present in citrus fruits (lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit) as well as strawberries, capsicum and broccoli. Strawberries are a great, healthy kids snack and can also be added to yoghurt or smoothies providing the added benefit of calcium. Try to include a mixture of these foods in your child's diet every day.

How can I top up my children's vitamin intake?

A good, quality kid's multivitamin can be a valuable addition to your child's diet, especially if they are picky eaters! Multivitamins for kids usually contain important nutrients such as calcium, vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin A and iodine to support healthy, growing bodies. Kid's multivitamins are often available in fun formats that make them more appealing for kids including jellies, delicious chewable tablets and fizzy drinks.