We often hear how important a varied and balanced diet is for both children and adults. It can, however, be difficult to understand what this diet entails. The food pyramid may seem a little old-fashioned, but it provides some useful guidelines about what foods to feed your family and how to ensure that you and your family are receiving a balanced meal.
The different sections of the pyramid represent the different food groups’ adults and children need to eat daily.
The five main food groups on the pyramid are:
Each food group benefits the body in a different way. For example, protein is responsible for building muscles. The body can’t store protein which is why we need to eat new protein every day. Sources of protein include milk products, meat, fish, eggs, peas and beans.
Carbohydrates provide energy, which is the body’s fuel and can be found in foods such as pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, certain fruits and vegetables and porridge.
Fats are an important source of energy for the body and also help the body absorb certain vitamins. Children need more fat than adults because they’re growing and are very physically active for the majority of the day. However, it is important to note that some fats are healthier than others. Natural fats that can be found in grapeseed oil or mild olive oil and are healthier choices when preparing children’s food.
Vitamins and minerals are vital in all diets. Minerals help nerve and muscle function and Vitamins are vital for children’s growth and general health. A few of the essential minerals that you should include in your and your child’s diet are Zinc, Calcium and Iron.
Zinc is found in milk, meat, bread and other wholegrain products while Calcium is found in dairy products and green vegetables. Iron can be found in many foods such as meat, liver and green vegetables and although it is a common vitamin to find in foods, it is difficult for fast-growing children to get enough of it in their diets. For this reason, iron-enriched baby cereals are recommended. Iron is most easily absorbed along with vitamin C, so add something rich in Vitamin C to your child's cereal such as fruit purée.
Vitamin A is essential for the eyes and is found in butter, margarine, fish, liver, eggs and milk. You can also find it in fruit, especially citrus fruits, such as berries, potatoes, vegetables and root vegetables. It is also found in fatty fish such as salmon and cooking oils.
If your child eats a varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables they may not need to take any dietary supplements, however, you need to ensure that your child’s plate is balanced with all five food group.
In order to do this, you can follow the plate model. It is useful for little people who’ve just started eating full meals. According to the plate model, one-third of the plate should contain meat or fish, another third should contain vegetables, while the last third should contain pasta, rice or potatoes. Don’t forget to include a yummy dessert every once in a while! Finish off your child’s meal with delicious fresh fruit or berries.
Cuddlers recommends consulting a dietician to assist in finding the perfect balance for your family’s diet.