The information provided on this page is aimed at healthcare professionals and affiliated audiences. Please seek advice from your medical professional before making dietary changes.
Tips for parents
Families want easy to follow, practical advice from health professionals. Here are some tips, taken from independent health organisations, to encourage healthy eating habits:
1. Encourage children to enjoy fruits and vegetables with each meal and as tasty snacks1
Fruits and vegetables are among the most important foods in terms of nutritional value. We should all aim to eat at least 5 servings a day and a good way to do this is including a different serving or two at each meal plus some in between. For example, a glass of fruit juice at breakfast, perhaps an apple or banana as snacks and one or two vegetable servings at each meal time helps children reach – and surpass - their total.
Starter activities to introduce fruit & veg: Ask children how many different kinds they can spot in the supermarket. Why not try some new ones? How many can they try in a month?
2. Hydration is key – children need plenty to drink1
More than half of our body weight is water, so as well as eating the right food to stay healthy, people generally need at least five glasses of liquids a day. It is particularly important to drink plenty if the weather is very hot or after exercise. Plain water is great of course, and a small glass of 100% fruit juice - which is 90% water - is also OK once a day. As well as hydration, 100% juice contains essential nutrients (for example orange juice is rich in vitamin C and a source of folate and potassium).2
3. Mix food and drink in different ways3
Carers can present food in a different way, and get creative. If children will not eat a particular whole fruit, try chopping it and using the pieces to make funny faces or shapes on a plate. Mix it with other chopped fruits and encourage the children to make a ‘fun fruit cocktail’ or play games to get them interested in eating fruit. If they don’t like fruit at all, including juice, try taking a small amount of juice and mix with carbonated water to make it fizzy, and over time reduce the amount of carbonated water in the mix. The key is to keep trying new ideas! Fruit and vegetable consumption is an important habit to start at a young age. Research suggests that drinking 100% juice can help children become used to the taste of fruit and vegetables which may lead to long-term positive health choices.4
4. Set a good example5
Modelling positive behaviour is an important part of motivating children to eat fruit and vegetables. If children can see that adults enjoy drinking juice and eating fruit, they are more likely to try the foods themselves. Additionally, if fruit and vegetables are readily available for the child and on display in the home, this may increase their consumption.
- Always include vegetables as part of every meal
- Offer fresh fruit and raw vegetables as snacks
- Provide fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season
- Offer 100% juice with meals (once a day)
- Vitamin C in juice helps iron absorption from foods6
5. Trying new foods7
The more a child is exposed to new foods the more likely he/she seems to try and become familiar with them. Children can need 10–15 tastes of a new food to develop a liking for it so a key message for parents is to keep trying, and not give up after a few attempts. Don’t force children to have large quantities of new foods, but instead praise them for trying small amounts of one or two new foods – over time continuing to do this will lead to familiarity with the new fruit or vegetable and a greater desire to eat it. 100% juice may help this – research suggests that by drinking juice, children become used to the taste of fruit and vegetables which may lead to long-term positive health choices.8
1. EUFIC. 10 healthy lifestyle tips for kids, European Food and Information Council, 10/2015. Available at: http://www.eufic.org/article/en/page/TARCHIVE/expid/10-healthy-eating-tips-kids/#anchor3 [Last accessed 21 April 2017]
2. UK Department of Health. Nutrient analysis of fruit and vegetables. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/167942/Nutrient_analysis_of_fruit_and_vegetables_-_Summary_Report.pdf [Last accessed 8 February 2017]
3. Voedingscentrum.nl Dutch Information platform for a healthy balanced diet.
4. CREDOC. Comportements et consommation alimentaire en France 2010. Enquête CCAF 2010.
5. EUFIC. Encouraging young children to eat different vegetables, Eufic Food Today 3/2010
6. Pisoschi et al. Ascorbic Acid Determination in Commercial Fruit Juice Samples by Cyclic Voltammetry. Journal of Automated Methods and Management in Chemistry. 2008.
7. EUFIC. Encouraging young children to eat different vegetables, Eufic Food Today 3/2010
8. CREDOC. Comportements et consommation alimentaire en France 2010. Enquête CCAF 2010.