Make healthy meals for children that the whole family can eat. When you sit down to dinner, show your children that eating the right food is good for them and you too. You can also make eating healthy meals more enjoyable by preparing it together.
Young, growing bodies need proper nutrition as nutrients develop babies’ and toddlers’ brains and eyesight. Not getting the right diet can result in obesity or malnourishment and tooth decay. Starting good eating habits early will lead to happier, healthier children.
Set a good example by encouraging your child to eat nutrient-rich meals. It will set them up for a lifetime of healthy eating habits. And just because a meal is healthy, it doesn’t mean it lacks taste or exciting textures. Healthy meals for children can suit every type of eater.
Read on to discover wholesome ideas for:
- Preschooler and toddler lunches
- Healthy snacks for babies and older children
- Healthy food for fussy appetites
- Easy meals you can make together.
Preschooler and toddler lunch ideas
Mornings can be busy times, especially if you have to get yourself and the kids ready for a day away from home. There are some meals that you can prepare the night before. As well, keep your fridge and pantry stocked with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, yoghurt and cheese.
If your child is at daycare, but they don’t offer prepared meals, you’ll need to come up with toddler lunch ideas that are nutritious and abide by your childcare centre’s policies. Keep in mind that daycare centres disallow some foods because of allergies or low nutritional values.
Mix the five food groups and the daily recommended serving sizes for your child’s age to create delicious lunch ideas for your early learner. The daily servings below are for toddlers aged 2-3 years:
|Food Group||Examples of a single serving|
|1 serve of fruit||A medium-sized apple, or 3 plums, or 1 cup of strawberries|
|2½ serves of vegetables||½ cup of cooked broccoli, sweet corn or carrots, or 1 cup of green peas, or 1 cup of diced cucumber|
|4 serves of cereals and grains:||½ cup of cooked rice, pasta or noodles, or 1 slice of bread, or 3 crispbreads|
|1½ serves of dairy:||2 slices of cheese or 1 cup of milk (250ml) or a tub (200 grams) of yoghurt|
|1 serve of meat & alternatives||1 serve (65 grams) of beef, veal, lamb or pork or 2 large eggs or 1 cup of cooked lentils|
Healthy snack ideas for kids
Between meals, your growing child is bound to get a little hungry. While it may seem easier to reach for packaged treats like biscuits, processed meats or pastries, these types of foods should be limited. Instead, choose healthy snack alternatives from the five food groups.
This is where fruits and vegetables come in handy. Toddlers should have 1 serving of fruit a day, or up to 2½ serves of vegetables. A juicy snack idea could be a fruit platter or a chickpea dip with carrot sticks.
On a hot day after playing outside, fruit popsicles made together are especially refreshing. While cooler days call for warmer snacks like parsnip fries or home-baked mini pumpkin muffins.
When cooking, watch the oil, spreads and dressings. Dietary guidelines recommend a total of a ½ serve of unsaturated fats a day.
Healthy food for kids with fussy appetites
Babies and toddlers both need to eat a balanced diet from all five healthy food groups. Babies won’t start straight away, but once you introduce solid foods into their diet, start to familiarise them with different food groups at different meals.
Children can be particularly fussy when it comes to some types of food, either the texture or taste isn’t what they expected. Children with fussy appetites are often more accepting of different fruits and vegetables if they see you eating them too.
Being a good role model for your early learner also means eating the right portions of food. Other ways you can encourage healthy food for kids with fussy appetites include:
- Eating regular family meals at the dinner table
- Letting your children invite a friend to dinner
- Avoiding battles over food, so it doesn’t become a source of conflict
- Not using treats to reward good behaviour or to show your affection.
Easy kids meals that you can make together
Children love helping parents in the kitchen. Get your child excited about healthy meals for children by making the food together. Expose them to a wide variety of nutritious foods for them to eat. Take them shopping with you and make them part of the family’s healthy food decisions.
There are many ways children can help prepare kids meals. Washing leafy greens is a fun way to start, and it helps to spark their interest in the different types of vegetables they may enjoy eating. Teaching them where food comes from will encourage their curiosity to try new things.
Involve your toddler or preschooler in:
- Measuring and mixing
- Picking herbs
- Assisting batch cooking on weekends
- Gardening in the veggie patch
- Collecting eggs
- Whipping up fruit smoothies
Excite your child’s senses and curiosities with food. While it’s okay not to like everything and to eat sweets and takeaway foods occasionally, show them it’s good to give new fresh food tastes and textures a try. Lead by example and prepare healthy meals for your children and for you.
Meet our chef at your nearest Petit Early Learning Journey centre
At Petit ELJ we provide healthy meals for children. Every meal is prepared daily in the centre with seasonal menus designed by Dr Chris Beer. We offer morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and a late afternoon snack in all our centres, with breakfast also offered in Melbourne.
Are you concerned about your child’s eating habits and healthy food choices? Talk to your Centre Director, take a peek in our kitchen and meet our chef when you come for your tour. We always welcome feedback about our menus and can accommodate your child’s dietary needs.