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What to feed the kids? Getting to grips with healthy eating

In today’s kitchen there is a crisis in cuisine: with food intolerances/allergies, conflicting information on nutrition, fussy kids, and rise in obesity, deciding what to feed your children is not only a pain but a highly charged political act. One day certain foods are healthy, the next, your children are being dragged off to child services after you gave them a lunchbox full of raw carrots. So how do you cope with all the information?

We can spend money on nutrition books, pour over online recipes/ food articles (like this one) that insist they have all the answers or we can scramble to learn about the next ‘superfood’.
We can persist in trying to force feed broccoli into the winging five -year-old’s face in earnest, or we can give up, hand them a burrito and go back to bed. However, doctors, researchers and nutrition experts all agree that there are a few simple rules to follow when feeding your kids the proper stuff: That we must eat a majority of fruit and vegetables and that education on healthy eating must begin at home.

‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’ Michael Pollan

Food and nutrition writer, Michael Pollan has an amusing yet practical list of what foods we should and shouldn't be eating. He believes, like others, that eating healthily starts with educating our children on food and from early-on, promoting a lifestyle based on a balanced diet.

Some tips to help vary your child's diet

Start young and be persistent. Before kids become fussy eaters ( at around three years old they have already developed a taste pallet so you have a relatively short window) their first bites of food should be varied. Younger children may need to try foods at least ten times before they like them - so be patient and keep going.

Be a role model. If you don’t like eating your greens then don’t expect your kids to. Babies and small children learn by mimicking their parents. Remember, as parents our food bad habits (skipping breakfast, eating snacks) will send a conflicting message to the kids. Don’t talk negatively about certain foods around them. Talk positively about the nutritious elements of your food even to your young babies. Teach them about different vegetables, their colours, textures and how they will make them grow.

Try preparing meals together and making dinner a family event. We admit not every meal time can be a perfect sit-down experience as the morning time rush can be complicated. Having a sit-down meal once a day, prepared with the older kids help, will teach kids how to prepare meals, and reinforce the importance of home cooking. Finally, if all else fails, my personal favourite rule, ‘Hunger is the best sauce.’ is a great reminder that sometimes hunger will make children more accepting of new foods. Now, we're not advocating the starvation of your children into eating healthier but if you try preparing the food a little later than usual, you will be surprised how easily healthy dinners can quickly satisfy empty stomachs.

Modern living has given our children food intolerances and allergies. Peanuts are now a no-go in schools and camps. Dairy, shellfish are off the menu and wheat and gluten free foods are fast becoming the norm in our kid’s lunch boxes and on the dinner table. If you or your child have issues with certain foods, chances are you've already begun educating yourself on alternatives.

For more advice and information on ensuring your child maintains a well-balanced diet, see our dedicated section on Food and Nutrition.

Article sponsored by Glanmore Foods,
Award Winning Healthy Irish School Lunches


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