Healthy eating for under fives
Between being weaned off milk to the age of five years old, children grow extremely quickly and are very active. Because of this it is important to ensure that their diet is healthy, which means monitoring calorie, food and nutrient intake.
Milk and Food
It is important that your child has a diet which provides an adequate amount of calories and nutrients. Young children, especially those under two years old, need full-fat milk, yoghurt and cheese rather than low-fat varieties.
Up to the age of three, your child needs at least half a pint (250-300ml) of milk a day (breast milk/formula for children under one year old and full-fat cows' milk or a combination for one year and above).
In terms of food you should include the following in your child's diet. By doing this you will be providing them with the vitamins, protein, fibre and minerals they require:
- dairy products
- bread, cereals, rice, pasta and potatoes
- meat, eggs, beans and lentils
- oily fish such as fresh tuna, mackerel, sardines and salmon (no more than four portions a week for boys and two for girls)
- fruit and vegetables
By the time your child reaches the age of five years old they should be eating family food. However, you should ensure that their diet doesn't contain too much saturated fat, which is found in butter, spreads, fatty meat products, biscuits and cakes. Other things you should avoid are:
- raw eggs and foods that contain partially cooked eggs
- whole or chopped nuts (to eliminate the risk of choking)
- shark, swordfish or marlin (they contain high levels of mercury)
- raw shellfish
- food containing high levels of salt, and food and drink containing high levels of sugar
Vitamin drops containing vitamins A, C and D are also recommended for children up to the age of five. You can get these from a chemist or from child health centres. If you qualify for help under the Welfare Food Scheme you may be able to get them for free.