This section has been developed by a nutritionist. It covers a range of information on how to ensure that your family eats nutritiously, including dietary needs, vitamins for kids, balanced meal planning and how to encourage your kids to eat the right foods.
Make sure your family eats well
All foods can fit into a healthy eating style, and so when planning your family’s meals and snacks it is the overall pattern of food eaten that counts rather than any one meal or snack.
Try and make sure that everyone eats plenty of fruit and vegetables and remember that everything (dried, tinned, raw, cooked, pureed, juiced etc.) counts!
Base a third of total food intake on foods such as bread, rice, pasta, cereals and potatoes and include moderate amounts of milk and dairy foods, meat, fish and alternatives.
The British Nutrition Foundation encourages people to take ‘A whole diet approach’ to healthy eating and states that ‘No single food can provide all the essential nutrients that the body needs. Therefore it is important to consume a wide variety of foods to provide adequate intakes of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre, which are important for health’.
Balanced meal planning
Planning and preparation is the key to balanced meals and snacks. It is important to decide what meals and snacks you need for the family, write a list of ingredients you need and then go shopping to stock up your stores. Some foods e.g. Peas, bread, chicken etc. can be kept in the freezer and defrosted when needed.
Some foods, such as meat, will need longer to defrost before using than bread, for example which can even be toasted from frozen.
Lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, yoghurt, eggs, and fresh pasta can be kept in the fridge and tinned and dried foods such as long life milk, breakfast cereals, dried fruit, tinned fish, beans and soups can be kept in the cupboard.
To lessen waste, only buy food that you know you will use, not what you think you will use.
Why eating together is important
Singing lessons, swimming training and work schedules are just a few of the reasons people say they find getting the family together at meal times challenging, but rounding up everyone to sit down and eat together is something to aim for.
Family meals give everyone the opportunity to catch up with each other's news and views and time for your family to bond, plan and learn from one another, away from the TV.
It offers a time for you to lead by example when it comes down to trying out new foods and you can encourage your kids to eat new dishes simply by doing so yourself! You don’t have to eat together every day but try and do it as often as you can.