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Diet Advice for Kids

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

  • Don’t force younger children to eat everything on their plate – kids quickly get tired of the same taste, which is why they often only eat half of their main course but still want a pudding – they’ve simply got bored with the taste of the main course.
  • Avoid using food as a reward – it simply becomes more desirable. But that’s not all – other foods become less desirable, too. In other words, telling children they can have some sweets if they eat their veg simply makes the sweets more alluring and the veg less appealing!
  • Get children involved at mealtimes – younger children in particular are far more likely to eat something they’ve made themselves so let them help you cook healthy meals such as fishcakes, homemade burgers, fruit muffins, wholemeal scones, smoothies and sandwiches. Meanwhile, encourage teenagers to eat with the family.
  • Encourage children to eat regularly, especially breakfast – studies show that breakfast eaters tend to be slimmer than people who skip this meal.
  • Don’t make your child’s weight and size an ‘issue’. To help your child lose weight focus on good nutrition, avoid using the ‘diet’ word, don’t weigh your child regularly and lead by example – if you eat sensibly and exercise frequently, your child will be more likely to do the same.
  • Talk to your child about the benefits of eating well and looking after their body. Health is generally not a priority for children so focus on other issues that are important to them.

    For example, for teenage girls explain that a healthy diet will give them glowing skin, shiny hair and strong nails, give them more energy to go shopping with their friends and help them concentrate so they’ll perform better in their favourite subjects at school.

    For boys, explain that eating well will help to build and tone muscles, give them great skin and help them do well in their favourite sports.
  • Find out what’s on the menu for school dinners and discuss with your child whether they’d prefer packed lunches. If they want school dinners, talk to them about the healthier options they could choose, for example, a jacket potato with cheese and salad rather than a hot dog and chips. If they’d prefer packed lunches, follow the tips for healthy packed lunches.
  • Encourage the whole family to be more active and include plenty of fun activities, for example, playing football in the park, going ten pin bowling or going for a cycle.

    Use sports activities as an opportunity to spend some quality time with your children, too. For example, mums and daughters could go to dance or aerobics classes together, while dads and sons have a game of squash.
  • Take a look at what the whole family are eating – kids rarely have bad eating habits on their own so if your child is gaining too much weight, it’s unlikely the rest of the family is having a healthy diet. If this is the case, encourage a healthy, balanced diet for everyone. This means…

    - Cutting down on sweets, cakes, biscuits and drink

    - Eating fewer fatty foods such as chips, burgers and fried food

    - Eating regularly, especially breakfast

    - Basing meals on starchy foods and choosing wholegrain varieties, when possible

    - Eating more fruit and vegetables
  • If you’re concerned about your child’s weight see your GP for advice before starting any sort of diet. Bear in mind that the standard Body Mass Index (BMI) chart is unsuitable for growing children and so shouldn’t be used to assess a child’s weight.

 Diet Makeover for Kids


MealInstead of this…Give them this…
Breakfast Large bowl of sugary cereal with semi-skimmed milk and a glass of sweetened fruit drink Medium bowl of wholegrain cereal with semi-skimmed milk, a banana and a glass of fresh orange juice
Morning break Drink and chocolate Bottle of unsweetened fruit smoothie and small box of raisins
Lunch Hot Dog with fried onions, ketchup and chips and a drink Jacket potato with cheese and salad, an apple and a bottle of water
After school Large packet of crisps Small packet of reduced-fat crisps and a glass of semi-skimmed milk
Dinner Spaghetti Bolognese with white pasta and a slice of apple pie with 2 scoops ice cream Spaghetti Bolognese (made without oil, less meat and more veg) with wholewheat pasta and salad. Plus canned fruit in juice with 1 scoop ice cream
Evening Cheese and pickle sandwich made with 2 slices of white bread and butter 1 slice wholemeal toast with peanut butter
Nutrition lowdown

3,420 calories
151g fat

9.1g salt

1 portion of fruit and veg

2,150 calories

73g fat

4.9g salt

7–8 portions of fruit and veg

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