Common questions about child nutrition

Content supplied by NHS Choices

How do I get a relative to stop giving sweets to my child?

Suggest they give a small book, pencil or other non-edible gift instead. If your child does have sweets, try keeping them for a special ‘treat’ day once a week. The number of times that teeth come into contact with sugar has as much of an effect as the amount of sugar eaten, so sweets are best eaten in one go rather than over the course of an hour or two. They will do least damage to teeth if you keep them for mealtimes. For more information about caring for your children’s teeth, ask your health visitor.

What snacks can I give instead of biscuits or crisps?

You could try:

  • raw vegetable sticks, such as cucumber and carrots
  • a plain yoghurt with a banana sliced into it
  • a slice of toast with yeast extract, hummus or a slice of ham
  • some crackers, breadsticks or rice cakes with cheese
  • a bowl of cereal with milk
  • a piece of fruit

I’ve heard that high-fibre foods aren’t suitable for young children. Why?

Foods that contain a lot of fibre (like wholemeal bread and pasta, brown rice and bran-based breakfast cereals) can fill up small tummies, leaving little room for other foods. This means that your child gets full before they’ve taken in the calories they need. Bran also prevents important minerals from being absorbed. It’s good for your child to try different varieties of starchy foods, but don’t use only wholegrain foods before your child is five years old.

What can I pack in a lunchbox for my three-year-old when they go to nursery?

Choose two savoury options, some fruit, a sweet option (yoghurt, fromage frais, a scone or currant bun) and a drink. Good sandwich fillings are canned tuna or salmon, hummus, hard or cream cheese, ham or peanut butter.

You could add a few vegetable sticks, such as carrots, peppers or cucumber, to munch on and a container of bite-sized fruit, for example a peeled satsuma or washed seedless grapes. A box of raisins is fine if eaten at lunchtime. If you include a fromage frais or yoghurt, don’t forget a spoon. A piece of kitchen towel is always useful.

If lunchboxes are not refrigerated at nursery, use an insulated box with an ice pack to keep food safe and cool. You can give milk, water or well-diluted fruit juice in a leak-proof beaker.

My child will only drink sugary drinks. What can I do?

Frequent sugary drinks increase the chance of tooth decay. If your child will only drink sugary drinks, it can take some time to break the habit. Start by diluting them really well with water and offering them in smaller quantities in a beaker at mealtimes.

Am I entitled to any benefits to help me buy healthy food for my child?

If you have children under four or are pregnant and on benefits, or if you’re pregnant and under 18, you could qualify for Healthy Start. If you get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Child Tax Credit and have a family income of £16,190 or less (in 2011/12), you could qualify for Healthy Start vouchers and vitamin supplements.

Healthy Start vouchers are worth £3.10 each. Children under one year old get two vouchers a week and older children get one voucher a week. Vouchers can be spent on milk, plain fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, infant formula milk and vitamins. You can’t use vouchers to buy fresh or frozen fruit and veg with added fat, sugar, salt and flavourings such as oven chips and seasoned stir frys.

For more information, see the Healthy Start application leaflet: Free milk, fruit, veg and vitamins for you and your family. You can pick up a copy from your local health centre or clinic, or call 0845 607 6823 to ask for one. For more information, visit the Healthy Start website.


NHS Choices

Published Date 2011-04-05

Last Review Date 2009-07-28

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