Jamie Oliver's head of nutrition, Laura Matthews, explains what's important when it comes to children and nutrition.
Child nutrition is a subject really close to Jamie Oliver's heart. A large part of food nutrition and establishing a healthy diet needs to happen in schools. But what kids eat at home is really important too. Home is where kids learn to love food, and pick up most of their eating habits. Now the kids are back at school, it’s a good time to think about what you’re feeding them.
Children have huge nutritional requirements because they are growing fast. What they eat can have an impact on concentration levels. Being fuelled with the right foods can improve their performance at school and help them get the most out of their day.
The balanced plate
Whatever age you are, it’s important to have a healthy, balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread and wholegrain cereals. It’s also important to include lean protein (meat, fish and eggs), and plant-based proteins like beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, and dairy in your diet.
Children – teenagers especially – should make sure they have three servings of dairy foods in their diet each day. This is because calcium continues to strengthen your bones until you reach mid-twenties, at which point your bones only maintain or lose density.
So keep kids topped up with foods rich in calcium while they’re still young – yoghurt, milk-based fruit smoothies and a portion (30g) of hard cheese are all good choices.
Feeding children the right food when they are young helps in two ways. Not only does it set them up for life with a better chance of doing well at school and giving them energy and strong bones, but it also instils good eating habits that will hopefully last a lifetime.