Why do young children need a variety of foods?





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he early childhood years are a critical time for experiencing new foods and developing eating behaviours and food preferences. The greater the variety of foods that children are exposed to in their early years, the more likely it is that they will enjoy a variety of foods as adults.

Mealtimes should provide a safe environment for children to try new foods. Offer and encourage new foods regularly, and include a variety of tastes, textures and colours. Include familiar foods as well as new foods, and encourage children to taste the new ones. Even if your child doesn’t taste a new food on the first few occasions you offer it, continue to make it available. Being around other children at mealtimes can also encourage your child to try new foods, as they see others eating and enjoying them.

What do the five food groups do for our children’s health?

Breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles and other grains Breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles and other grain-based foods provide carbohydrates, which the body uses for energy. The best choices from this group are wholemeal and wholegrain breads, cereals and savoury biscuits. Other good choices include brown rice, couscous, wholegrain pasta and polenta.

Vegetables, legumes and fruit: Fruit and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals and fibre, and should be included in meals and snacks each day. Choose a variety of fruits, vegetables and legumes (including different colours, textures and flavours) to provide a wide range of vitamins and minerals.

Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives: Plain milk, cheese and yoghurt are the most common dairy foods, and main dietary sources of calcium. Having enough calcium is important for healthy bones and teeth.

Lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts and legumes: This group includes red meat (such as beef, lamb and kangaroo), white meat (such as pork, chicken and turkey), fish and eggs. Non-animal products in this group include nuts, legumes and tofu. Meat and its alternatives are rich in protein, iron and zinc, and essential for children’s growth and development. It is best to choose lean meat and skinless poultry to ensure children’s diets do not contain too much fat.