Kids Food: Help Your Child Eat Healthy

Many of us are aware of what kids’ food our children should be eating to stay healthy and strong. But the reality is often a different matter: How do we veer them away from fast food and towards a nutritious alternative? Here we’ll look at ways to encourage your children to form good food habits to ensure they have the best start in life. 👏

Disclaimer: The healthy eating topics on this page are discussed from the perspective of general parenting advice. It is crucial that you always discuss child health and nutrition topics with a licensed medical professional or check NHS and government guidance for accurate information.

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Kids food choices


First of all, let’s take a look at the the main food groups most children eat:


Fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables give our bodies fibre, minerals and vitamins. The Eatwell Guide recommends that we ought to be eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day if we want to encourage our kids to eat healthily. And they don’t have to be fresh: frozen, tinned, juiced or dried count too. 

Be aware, though, that juice and smoothies should be limited to one a day and no more than 150ml.


Carbohydrates like potatoes, rice, pasta, bread

Carbohydrates include some of the best energy foods. Kids tend to be active so it’s important they’re getting enough of them. They’re full of fibre, vitamins and minerals which your child needs to grow and develop. 💪


Dairy and dairy alternatives

Dairy and milk give children calcium, protein, fat and vitamins A and D. These help form strong bones. 

If your child needs a milk alternative, make sure it’s unsweetened and calcium-fortified.

Whole milk is recommended for children under two. 🥛 


Proteins like beans, fish, eggs and pulses 

These are full of minerals, protein and vitamins. 

  • Beans, lentils and pulses are a great cheap and filling alternative to meat in chilli and pasta dishes.
  • Eggs are super versatile: you can scramble, boil, poach or use them to make an omelette with a variety of fillings. 
  • Meat contains iron and vitamin B12 as well as protein. Our bodies need iron so that we don’t become anaemic. But try to limit processed meats like bacon and sausages as these contain high amounts of fat and salt.
  • The NHS suggests two portions of fish a week, and one of these portions should be oily fish. The latter contains omega-3 fatty acids which help to maintain a healthy heart. 💗



Any parent who’s given their child sugar before bed doesn’t need to be told that it probably isn’t the best idea! Just as many children are encouraged to form good technology habits, it’s probably good to establish some good sugar habits too.

Sugar intake is dependent on your child’s age:


Daily amount of sugar

4 and under

No guidelines but try to avoid sugary drinks and food with added sugar


19 grams


24 grams


30 grams



Salt intake is dependent on your child’s age:


Daily amount of salt


2 grams


3 grams


5 grams


6 grams


There’s no need to add salt to your meals, but you should try to check the salt content of processed food and to select a low salt alternative if possible. Herbs, spices and peppers are a good replacement for salt when cooking.


How to get kids to eat healthy


So, you know what they should be eating but how do you get your kids food choices to mirror this in reality? Why not try out some of our ideas?


Get your kids into cooking 

By involving children in food preparation, they’ll take pride in it and see the results of their hard work. You could have your own family Come Dine With Me! 😃


Model good eating habits

If you want to encourage your children to make healthy food choices, there’s no better way than being a good role model to them. And try to make kids’ food and mealtimes a positive experience.


Eat together

We know this isn’t always possible, but when it is, there’s nothing like sitting down and enjoying a meal as a family. According to KidsHealth, children who regularly eat together are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables, and less likely to snack on unhealthy food.


Don’t make the dinner table a warzone

Easier said than done, we know, especially if you have a picky eater! The best advice is to give your child a limited choice. That way they will feel like they have some control but within the boundaries you set. And if you make them finish what’s on their plate, they won’t know to stop when they’re full. 


Have healthy food at home

Banning their favourite food probably isn’t wise - just make it something they have once in a while rather than once a day! 

You probably don’t need to make big changes to the kids’ food you buy to eat a little healthier. Here are our tips:

  • brown rice and wholemeal pasta
  • wholegrain cereals which are low in salt and sugar
  • wholemeal and/or granary bread
  • oven chips
  • low-fat yoghurt
  • whole-grain crackers
  • lots of fruit and vegetables which are available at every meal


Healthy snack options


The Northern Ireland government suggests a traffic light system 🚦 for snacks:


Sugar-free and tooth-friendly - best between meals

Plain breadsticks or rice cakes

Whole-grain cereals

Sugar-free sandwiches - tuna, egg or banana

Toast or bread

Natural yoghurt

Pitta bread or bagel with a small amount of butter



Contain some sugar, salt or fat - best taken at mealtimes when they cause less damage to teeth

Cheese and whole-grain crackers

Cubes of cheese

Processed meat sandwiches




Contain high levels of sugar, salt or fat - best taken at the end of a meal when they cause less damage to teeth



Ice cream




Dried fruit



Neuroinclusive healthy eating tips


Preparing kids’ food is challenging enough, but often more so if your child has ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) which includes conditions like Asperger’s Syndrome. We’ve made a problem and possible solution table with ideas from the National Autistic Society that just might work:


Possible solution

Sensory problems related to sights, sounds, tastes, textures and smells

If your child eats in a noisy place with bright lights, could they be moved to a less stressful environment? A smaller room or dimmer lights? If their seat is uncomfortable, could they have a cushion? Do they prefer food with strong smells or not? If so, can these be given more or avoided where possible? If textures are problematic, could the food be pureed? Try not to tell the child off for spitting out their food. Feeling it in their mouth could be the first step to accepting it. 

Constipation, toothache and heartburn due the kid’s food choices being limited or because of medication

Their reluctance to eat could be caused by physical discomfort. Some medicines such as Ritalin can have an impact on appetite and side effects of antibiotics can be stomach upsets. Support your child through these. Try pain scales or charts, PECS, symbols which represent symptoms or a visual stress scale.

Social setting

Some ASD children eat better surrounded by friends or family. They may enjoy their food more if they see others eating it. Others are the opposite and find eating with others stressful. Preparation is key. If you have friends coming round tell the child what to expect in advance: seating arrangement, conversation topics, what they’ll eat and so on.

Presentation of meals - packaging or position on plate

ASD kid’s food is all about attention to detail and minimal change. This can affect whether the child eats it or not. Is the food in the same place on the plate? Has the packaging of the product changed? Is it over or undercooked?

Pica - eating inedible things

Some ASD children can try to eat things like stones or dirt. This is for many reasons: an iron deficiency, not understanding the difference, liking the texture to name a few. Think about checking imbalances in their diet with your GP, setting up an activity which sorts edible and inedible things, or replacing the object with an edible alternative of the same texture. 

Routines and obsessions

Regardless of whether the child has ASD or not, eating meals at the same time each day with the same cutlery and at the same seat is beneficial and reduces anxiety. Obsessions can lead to a rigid diet or overeating. Involving them in food preparation or using their obsession during mealtimes to encourage them to eat can help. For example, shaping the food like a rocket 🚀 or being able to eat from a Minecraft plate.


And ask your GP to refer your child to a professional with experience of ASD if you feel this would help.


Healthy Kids Food FAQs


What are 5 healthy eating habits for kids?

  1. Eat together as a family when possible
  2. Model good eating habits
  3. Tweak your shopping choices for healthier options
  4. Involve your child in kids’ food preparation
  5. Ensure routine with snacks and mealtimes


Should my child have food or drink that is high in fat and/or sugar?

The general rule is to limit these. Replace juice or fizzy drinks with water at mealtimes, especially if your child has ADHD. According to Additude:

Studies have shown that children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD), whose brains show low levels of dopamine activity, are more predisposed to crave sugar, due to the surge of dopamine that sugar delivers to the brain. A child may push away many nutritious foods, such as vegetables and fish, since they do not deliver the sugar that the ADHD brain craves.


Does my child need to take vitamins?

The NHS states that every child aged 6 months to 5 years old, should take daily vitamin A, C and D supplements. Babies who have in excess of 500 ml (a pint) of formula need not take these as they are already contained in the milk.


What do I do if my child is a picky eater?

Having selective food habits can be linked to psychological disorders and the more fussy a child is, the more severe the disorder. It can also be connected to poor mental health. If you’re worried, try our tips and consult a professional.


What healthy snacks can I pack for my child?

Yoghurt, fruit, vegetables, breadsticks and sugar-free sandwiches are all good options.

When it comes to kids’ food, most healthy habits are started at a young age. But don’t worry if you haven’t started yet, there’s no time like the present! Good luck! 🍀