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Childhood is a time of rapid growth and development, and a time when many habits and behaviours are set.  A healthy lifestyle, including healthy eating, in childhood will help to ensure a healthy future. Remember the healthy eating key: choose mostly eMarks 1 and 2, blue and green, with 3s in moderation.

Guidelines for healthy growth and development

A variety of foods every day
Nutritious snacks
Water and milk every day
Regular physical activity

A variety of foods every day

This includes food from all the core food groups: vegetables and fruit, breads and cereals, milk, yoghurt and cheese and meat and alternatives.

Vegetables and fruit have a low energy density, which means they will help to satisfy your child with fewer kilojoules than most foods from the other food groups. Vegetables and fruit provide carbohydrates, are high in fibre and contain lots of vitamins and minerals, making them the perfect snack food.  Preschoolers need at least 2 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit each day.  School children need at least 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit each day.

Breads and cereals are high in carbohydrates and can be a great source of fibre, vitamins and minerals.  Preschoolers need at least 4 serves a day of breads and cereals, very active school children need 5 serves and older children need at least 6 serves.
Serving sizes for children are approximately 1 roll, 1 medium slice bread, 1 cup cornflakes, 1/3 cup muesli. Children under five years have small stomachs and can’t eat the same amount of fibre as older children or adults, so increase fibre gradually with a variety of vegetables, fruit, and wholegrain breads and cereals.

Milk, yoghurt and cheese and other milk products are an important source of protein and calcium for this age group. Calcium is particularly important for growing strong bones. Children need at least 2-3 serves every day. Serving sizes are approximately 250ml of milk (but will vary with fat content), 1 pottle of yoghurt, 1 thick slice of cheese or 2 scoops of ice cream. Search our database to find the serving size of your favourite milk. After two years of age you can start to introduce reduced and low fat milk and milk products if your child is eating well, and height and weight are following the normal growth curves.

Meat and alternatives including lean meat, chicken, seafood, eggs, dried peas, beans and lentils are great sources of protein and provide important vitamins and minerals such as iron and zinc.  Children need at least one serving a day of these foods: for example, 2 slices of cooked meat or ¾ cup of mince or 1 medium fillet of cooked fish or 1 chicken drumstick.

Plan a day’s meals for your child

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Nutritious snacks

Remember the healthy eating key: choose mostly eMarks 1 and 2, with some 3’s - blue and green.
Fruit, a pottle of yoghurt or a fruit smoothie make great snacks because they will keep your child’s energy levels steady between meals.  You can occasionally include a high fat or high sugar snack as a special treat, but keep the serving size small.

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Water and milk every day

Milk is an important source of calcium, which is essential for healthy development of bones and teeth. If your child doesn’t like milk, you must ensure adequate calcium intake from other sources such as cheese, yoghurt, nuts and calcium-fortified soy products. Your child should also drink plenty of plain water, rather than soft drinks and fruit juice, when they are thirsty. Squeeze a dash of lemon juice or add a splash of fruit juice to water for a bit of extra flavour.  A few ice cubes or chilling a jug of water in the fridge can also tempt the reluctant water drinker.

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Regular physical activity

Physical activity is very important for healthy growth, and to help prevent your child from becoming overweight. Swimming, outdoor games and walking or cycling to school are great ways to fit in regular physical activity. Remember that sitting for extended periods of time is not good. Encourage children to move regularly.

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