A well-balanced diet can keep your kids healthy and happy, help them fight infections and give them the energy to tackle daily life with ease. Some foods will give them plenty of energy, whereas others are great at helping to keep them fit. Every food can play an important role but, as we know, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. To make it a little bit simpler, we have worked with a nutritionist, to develop an A-Z of foods to focus on, to help get you started.
Among others we’ve included brain foods, for nourishing and fuelling the brain when they’re learning; energy foods, to keep them going with their sports and activities; and calming foods, for when you need to gently restore their equilibrium.
- The best way to learn quickly and effectively is to be in tip-top condition.
- The brain needs food in the same way as the rest of the body.
- Adequate hydration is essential to keep energy levels up, so ensure that you provide your kids with plenty to drink.
- Omega-3 oils are a group of fatty acids essential for a healthy life and are great for nourishing the brain.
The main antioxidants are found in food as vitamins and minerals. They are a group of naturally occurring chemicals to help keep you healthy and protect your body’s cells from damage. Eat plenty of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables such as red peppers, carrots, green leafy vegetables, mangos and tomatoes, and wholegrain cereals.
Are good source of carbohydrate and a quick and easy snack to help you keep your energy levels up.
A good source of energy. When they are dried they are also a rich source of potassium, essential for maintaining the body’s fluid balance and blood pressure, and for regulating nerve and muscle functions.
A healthy fast food! Eggs are an excellent source of protein which helps your cells to keep healthy. Egg protein contains all the essential amino acids needed by the human body.
Oil-rich fish such as mackerel, kippers, pilchards, salmon and sardines provide the essential fatty acid omega-3. This ‘good’ fat is important at every stage of life and is also important for the healthy development of the brain and the eyes in a developing foetus.
Packed full of vitamin C (weight for weight it contains about 5 times as much vitamin C as an orange) for healthy skin, gums and tissues. Vitamin C can help you absorb iron from plant foods.
Is vital for the manufacture of red blood cells and for the transport and use of oxygen in your body. If you lack iron in your diet you often feel tired and may lose concentration. Foods rich in iron include lean red meat, oil-rich fish, fortified breakfast cereals, green vegetables and dried fruit, particularly apricots.
Juices (fresh and pure) are usually made from fruit or vegetables and are packed full of nutrients to help keep you healthy. They can fuel your energy levels and help to keep you well hydrated – just a small amount of dehydration can make you feel tired, so remember your fluid assets!
Eat your greens! Kale, or curly kale as it is often called, is a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin C and folate. It also contains iron and calcium.
Limes and lemons
Are great sources of vitamin C. Squeeze their juice into water for added flavour and to make a refreshing drink.
Packed full of vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy. A great source of calcium which is not only important for healthy bones and teeth, but is involved in muscle contraction, blood clotting and the transmission of nerve impulses.
A great source of the antioxidant vitamin E which can help protect the cells in your body. They also provide B vitamins which are needed to produce energy in cells. Different nuts provide a range of other good nutrients including calcium (almonds) and zinc (almonds, brazil nuts, peanuts, hazelnuts). PS - Strictly speaking, peanuts are legumes, not nuts, and they grow underground rather than on trees. Important note: Nuts may trigger an allergy in some people so care must be taken when adding them to foods or offering them as snacks. If you have a nut allergy, you need to be very careful to avoid nuts and unrefined (crude) nut oil. Talk to your GP for advice.
A group of fatty acids essential for a healthy life. They are derived from a substance called alpha-linolenic acid which has to be obtained from the diet. Foods high in Omega-3 are oil-rich fish, meat (beef, chicken, lamb), nuts (walnuts, almonds) and fortified foods such as bread, milk, pasta, spreads and eggs.
Pasta really does make you go faster! It is bought in many different colours, flavours and shapes, and is a good source of complex carbohydrates which are broken down slowly in the body to boost your energy reserves.
Is a mycoprotein made from fungi and is an ideal replacement for protein if you are vegetarian. Use in a variety of dishes such as stir-fries and curries.
Are dried grapes and an ideal portable, high-energy snack to keep you going.
A great source of folate (folic acid) which is essential in the manufacture of amino acids and red blood cells.
Is made from soya beans and a good source of vegetable protein. Protein supplies amino acids that are building blocks that build, repair and maintain your body tissues.
The most abundant substance in your body and it is vital to life – you can’t live without it. Almost everything you eat and drink will give your body water as it is found in both food and drinks. Juicy fruit and vegetables have a high water content, whereas solid foods such as bread have much lower water content. You will find it harder to do anything well when you are dehydrated.
A great source of calcium for healthy bones and teeth, and vitamins B2 (necessary for the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates) and B12 (essential for a healthy nervous system, the production of red blood cells and prevention of some forms of anaemia).
Has an antioxidant function and is also an essential component of a wide range of enzymes and vital for normal growth. It assists the immune system and helps wound healing. Good food sources include fish and shellfish, red meat, milk and dairy, poultry and eggs, wholegrain bread and cereals, and green leafy vegetables.
- A varied well-balanced diet that meets the energy demands of growth and activity should also provide adequate amounts of all the nutrients, so its important to ring the changes and offer your kids a wide variety of foods.
- Kids need carbs to give them energy. Carbs are found in a range of foods including bread, rice, pasta, cereals, potatoes, beans, pulses, fruit, some vegetables, milk and yoghurt.
- Adequate hydration is essential to keep energy levels up so ensure that you provide your kids with plenty to drink.
- Iron is an important mineral as it is involved in the manufacture of red blood cells and the transport of oxygen. Good sources of iron include liver, meat, beans, nuts, dried fruit, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, soya bean flour and most dark green leafy vegetables.
A source of beta-carotene, the plant form of vitamin A. Vitamin A has an antioxidant function and is involved in cell division and growth. Dried apricots are a healthy anytime-of-day snack.
A most popular snack with exercisers and athletes and arguably the ultimate ‘fast food’, bananas are packed full of carbohydrate and provide a quick source of energy.
Found in an enormous range of foods from bread and rice to popcorn and breakfast cereals, cereals are versatile and energy-packed.
A handy snack to carry around in school bags and kit bags, and ideal to keep in storage at home. They are high in fibre and a concentrated source of nutrients.
A traditional Mexican dish. Made with a corn tortilla and filled with almost anything you fancy.
Fluid is vital to life. Drinking sufficient fluid is essential for optimising sporting performance and keeping generally healthy.
Sweet, light and easy to eat, grapes are a useful source of potassium which works together with sodium to control fluid balance.
Honey is a mixture of two sugars – fructose and glucose – so is a good source of carbohydrate. Carbohydrate is the key nutrient for energy supply.
Ice lollies are essentially frozen dilute squash or juice – ‘A drink on a stick’ – and provide some sugar for extra energy. An ideal treat on a hot summer’s day when fluid losses can be higher. Why not make a Capri-Sun ice lollie?
Jelly beans are packed full of carbohydrate. They store well so are handy to carry for a small snack when you need to top up energy levels.
Loaded with antioxidants which are essential for good health. Like bananas, kiwi fruit are a good source of potassium which works together with sodium to control fluid balance. Eat on breakfast cereals, with yoghurt or just on their own.
Lean lamb is a superb addition to a healthy balanced diet. An excellent source of protein and easily absorbed iron which is fundamental to carry oxygen in the body.
Milk is an exceptional drink. A great source of calcium to help build strong bones, it can make an important contribution to the diets of kids and teenagers. Encourage your kids to drink it more regularly by letting them choose their favourite milkshake flavour.
High in energy-giving carbohydrate, new potatoes are a surprisingly good source of vitamin C which is essential for healthy skin, gums and blood vessels, and for the production of red blood cells. For a change, serve cold with salads – ideal for lunchboxes.
Oranges are high in vitamin C but eat the whole orange to get the fibre. Eat just as they are, with other fruit or with salads; try and interesting combination such as spinach and orange salad.
So can pasta help you to go faster? Well, combined with good training and as part of a healthy balanced diet it can certainly help. Pasta is packed full of carbohydrate which is the most important energy fuel and carbohydrate foods should be the main focus of the training diet.
All Quorn products contain mycoprotein, a nutritious member of the fungi family. It is low in fat, high in vegetable protein and contains dietary fibre which can help to maintain a healthy digestive system.
Rice is a good source of energy, available in many varieties. Ring the changes and eat all types of rice to add taste and variety to your diet. Serve instead of potatoes or pasta. Choose wholegrain rice, adding it to soups and use in salads.
Thanks to Popeye spinach is probably best known for its iron content. Add a squeeze of lemon juice or eat with red peppers and other foods high in vitamin C to help iron absorption. Iron is essential for the manufacture of red blood cells and the transport of oxygen in the body.
Tofu is soya bean curd and is usually bought in blocks either plain, flavoured or smoked. Soft tofu can be used in dressings, sauces and some recipes while hard tofu can be stir-fried, grilled and steamed.
Made from fermented milk and freely available in supermarkets everywhere, yoghurt is ideal to eat as a snack on its own or with fruit. Eat at breakfast with cereal and dried fruit for a change.
Good food sources are fish, shellfish, red meat, milk and dairy, poultry and eggs, bread and cereals and green leafy vegetables. Zinc has an antioxidant action and assists the immune system; it also helps wound healing.
- There is increasing interest in the link between food and mood.
- The precise cause-and-effect relationship between food and moods has yet to be scientifically established.
- Oil-rich fish and fruit and vegetables are known to be beneficial.
- It is important to stay well hydrated, eat breakfast every day and eat regular meals and snacks.
- Choose carbohydrate-containing foods that raise blood sugar slowly and keep it steady for longer periods of time e.g. oats, some fruit and vegetables and pasta. Fluctuations in blood sugar levels are associated with changes in mood and energy.
- Whatever foods you feed to your kids to help calm their mood, overall healthy eating and regular activity are vital.
Apples are available all year round and can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes. Apples keep well, and are extremely portable making them an ideal choice for a lunchbox.
Bread is a starchy food and is a good source of energy. Starchy foods should make up about one third of the food we eat. Buy a range of types and choose wholegrain varieties quite frequently. Use for sandwiches or toast and as an accompaniment to meals.
Couscous is a partially cooked grain made from rolled semolina. It can be eaten hot or cold either as a main dish or as an accompaniment. Stir cooked vegetables, chopped nuts and/or dried fruit into it and flavour with a pinch of a favourite spice.
Fresh and dried dates offer a useful source of fibre and are ideal to be eaten just as they are as an anytime-of-day snack and after a meal. Stuff them with cream cheese and/or nuts for a change. They keep really well in a cool dark cupboard and can be frozen.
Eggs are an important source of protein, essential vitamins and minerals,and can make a significant contribution to a healthy diet. Contrary to some opinion, there is no recommended limit on how many eggs people should eat.
We should all be eating at least two portions of fish a week including one of oil-rich fish, but most people aren’t eating enough. Fish is rich in protein and minerals. Oil-rich fish such as salmon and sardines is rich in omega 3 fatty acids and a good source of vitamins A and D.
A dish usually made of flaked smoked haddock, boiled rice and eggs, and traditionally eaten at breakfast.
Lentils (along with beans and peas) are often called a ‘pulse’. They are a low-fat source of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, and they count as one portion of the recommended 5-a-day of fruit and veg. Soak dried lentils well before boiling. Incredibly versatile, add them to stews and soups and serve with rice and veg.
A glass of milk is a quick and nutritious snack for kids and teenagers, and is an important source of calcium, which as part of a healthy balanced diet helps to build strong bones. Drink milk straight or in milkshakes, and use it on breakfast cereals and in custard, rice pudding and savoury sauces.
Nuts are a tasty source of protein and other nutrients. Unsalted nuts are a convenient and nutritious snack eaten on their own or with seeds and/or raisins. They can be toasted and added to salads and as a garnish to curries.
A good source of carbohydrate and fibre, oats are a wholegrain that helps keep energy levels even so they are an ideal food to eat at breakfast. Eat oats in porridge, snack bars and crumble toppings.
Peanuts actually grow underground and are in the legume or dried bean family. Peanuts are a good source of protein and contain many vitamins and minerals. Use peanut butter in sandwiches and on hot toast.
Originally from Peru, this grain is related to spinach and contains iron and protein. Use in salads or serve instead of rice and potatoes.
A rich vegetable stew made with courgettes, sweet peppers, tomatoes, aubergines, onions, garlic and herbs. Eat it hot or cold, as a main course or served as a side dish in main meals.
The World Health Organisation recommends that we each eat 400g of fruit and vegetables every day, 30g of which – that’s about a large handful – should be pulses, nuts and seeds.
Tzatziki is traditionally made of yoghurt, cucumbers, olive oil and plenty of garlic. Garnish it with an olive and eat it together with hot toasted pitta bread as a snack or as a starter to a main meal.
Recognise it by its distinctive, thick, mottled green and yellow skin, which peels easily. It tastes rather like grapefruit. Eat it as it is or use it in fruit salads or other fruit-based desserts.
Most people know that we should be eating at least 5 fruit and veg a day, but most of us aren’t eating enough. Eat your vegetables fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or juiced, they all count, although potatoes don’t because they’re a starchy food.
Colourful to look at and tasty and refreshing to eat, one slice will give you one portion towards your 5-a-day.
High in calcium, drink your yoghurt rather than eat it for a change. Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth, muscle contraction, blood clotting and the transmission of nerve impulses.
The Italian and American word for courgette. Zucchini are very versatile to cook. Serve raw with dips or cooked as part of a meal, or in vegetable dishes such as ratatouille and vegetable curry.