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What is a balanced diet for a young child?

Eating a balanced diet is important for everyone. If you’re wondering what your two to eight year old child should be eating to stay healthy, then consider this list:

The basis of your child’s diet should be carbohydrates, in the form of grain based foods, like rice and pasta, bread, cereals and starchy vegetables like potatoes. One or more of these should be served with all meals.
Young children often have small appetites so fibre rich carbohydrates can be bulky. Gradually introduce higher fibre carbohydrate foods such as higher fibre breakfast cereals, breads and wholewheat pasta and rice so that by the time your children are 5 they are eating the same fibre rich foods of the rest of the family.

Fruit and vegetables are another important part of your child’s diet, and your child should be eating as many different colours as possible. From dark green leafy vegetables to orange ones, red ones and even purple, all have important nutrients that your child needs. Aim for at least 5 servings a day where a serving is about a handful in size.

Choose fresh, canned, dried, or frozen fruits, and again, make sure that you’re including a variety of colours. If your child doesn’t like vegetables try disguising them by mashing or pureeing them into soups, casseroles and pizza toppings.

Milk and dairy foods are an important source of calcium and protein. From the age of one, cow’s milk can be used as the main drink. Use full fat milk and yoghurts for toddlers - semi skimmed can be given after the age of 2 years.

Meat, fish or beans and pulses are an important source of protein .When it comes to meat, fish and poultry, choose lean cuts, and pay attention to cooking methods. Don’t fry or sauté meats – rather grill, bake, steam, or boil them.
Foods high in fat and sugar such as chocolate, spreading fats, cooking oils, ice cream, cakes and biscuits should be given in moderation.  Many of these foods can affect your children’s intake of more nutritious foods.  Try to limit sweets and chocolates to occasional treats.

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