Figuring out the best way for your child to get the nutrition they need isn’t just about the kind of food they eat but also how much they eat.
The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) recently released a guide to help parents figure out the right way to handle their children’s diet.
What is the guide?
The BNF have released something called 5532, which is a resource for parents regarding questions about portion sizes and health eating, specifically for toddlers.
The 5532 guidelines also include new information on free sugars, as well as more advice on vegetarian and vegan diets, which are rapidly becoming more popular for kids aged one to four years old.
The guide has been developed by the BNF’s team of nutrition scientists, alongside an advisory group of experts in the field of early years nutrition.
What does the guide say?
The name of the guide, 5532, “represents the number of portions across each food group that young children should eat each day” the guide explains.
These portions are:
- Five portions of starchy foods
- Five (or more) portions of fruits and vegetables
- Three portions of dairy foods
- Two portions of protein foods (or three if the child is vegetarian or vegan)
BNF science director Sarah Stanner said, “Meals for children should be based on starchy foods, which provide energy, vitamins, minerals and fibre.
“Starchy foods like oatcakes, breadsticks and fingers of toast can also make healthy snacks.”
Advice for getting children to eat right
The guide also offers tips and tricks for getting children to eat the right amounts of good foods.
The guide says, “One portion of these foods should be offered at each meal and at some snack times. Provide a mixture of white and wholegrain foods (e.g. wholemeal bread) and choose fortified versions (e.g some breakfast cereals) where possible.
“Limit sweetened versions (e.g. sugary cereals, scones, scotch pancakes) where possible. Children who eat well may eat 2 portions of starchy foods at mealtimes and so won't need them at snack times.”
Fruits and vegetables
The guide suggests, “Serve at least one portion at each meal and at some snack times and try to include a variety of different types.
“Children can eat larger portions if they wish.”
The guide also clarifies that fresh, frozen, canned and dried varieties all count towards a portion.
The guide states that children under two years old should have whole milk or yogurt. Where possible, parents should “choose plain, unsweetened or lower sugar versions.”
It also advises that any non-dairy milk alternatives should be unsweetened and fortified with calcium and ideally other minerals, such as iodine, and vitamins.
“Rice milk is not suitable for young children,” says the guide.
“It may be a good idea to talk to your GP about diet and supplementation if you are not offering any dairy foods as these are important sources of vitamin A, calcium, iodine and riboflavin.”
The guide advises, “Fish should be served at least twice a week and one of these should be oily fish e.g salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout etc.”
It explains that parents should try and limit how often processed meat is served to kids, like sausages and ham.
It’s important that young children get enough iron - the guide cites that while red meat is a source of iron, pulses, ground nuts, nut butters and seeds are also sources of iron of kids who don’t eat meat.
The guide is free to access online here.
- The guide offers more general feeding advice for parents as well, such as:
- Try to have regular meal and snack times each day and include your child in family mealtimes where you can
- Offer your child a small, healthy snack such as fruit, vegetable sticks or toast fingers with cream cheese, two to three times a day. This offers an opportunity other than meal times to provide important nutrients
- Keep offering your child new foods as their preferences can change day to day