Children and young people are not mini-adults - their needs are slightly different in terms of both eating well and moving more, because their bodies are still growing and developing.
It is important that children and young people have access to a wide and varied diet to provide them with all the nutrients they require to ensure they build muscle, bone density and grow.
It is also important to participate in regular activity which helps to strengthen muscles and bones, as well as owing the development of important skills from communication and social to mental well-being and weight management.
If you are concerned about your child's weight and growth then please speak to your GP or school nurse. You can also find out about which local sources of support are available to help your child maintain their weight and grow into it (the preferred option) or lose weight - if medically advised.
Children over the age of five should be following the normal nutrition advice for adults as set out in the NHS' eat well guide which illustrates what a balanced diet should look like.
The only difference should be around portion size, which needs to be reflective of the child's age or size, to ensure kids are eating appropriately sized meals.
Diet not only affects long-term health, it can also affect how you look and feel. Often as children get older they start to make more and more food choices for themselves which is why it's important they are encouraged to eat a wide range of foods from a young age and understand the importance of a balanced diet.
Healthy eating as teens is vital as their bodies are going through lots of changes with the onset of puberty. Teenage girls particularly need to ensure they get enough iron and stay away from fad diets in a bid to maintain a healthy weight. Instead they should be opting for a healthy balanced diet and regular exercise.
Eating well helps not only with appearance (improved skin, hair and nails) but also helps to maintain a healthy weight.
Download the leaflet below for ideas for breakfasts for teens.
Pack a punch for lunch
If you decide your child will to take a packed lunch to school, it is important to make sure their packed lunch provides a healthy balanced lunchtime alternative to a hot school meal.
Lunchboxes should ideally contain a combination of the following:
- starchy foods to provide energy - such as bread, pasta, bagels, wraps, pittas or rolls - preferably the wholemeal variety of each for extra fibre and to keep your child full up for longer. Bread sticks, rice cakes or malt loaf may be included
- protein for growth and repair - meat such as sliced ham or chicken, oily fish, egg, hummus
- dairy for healthy teeth and bones - small cubes of cheese, small pot of yoghurt or fromage frais
- vegetables, salad or fruit - this may be a selection of vegetable sticks, chopped up fresh fruit, a small whole piece of fruit, tinned fruit in natural juice or dried fruit
Water should also be provided at lunchtime to ensure children stay hydrated, which helps concentration. Keep food in a small insulated cool bag with a frozen ice pack - especially during the summer months. Portion sizes will vary depending on the age of the child.
Free school meals