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Importance of Healthy Eating for Children

Blog

7 July 2023

Eating healthy food is of utmost importance for children as it plays a significant role in their overall growth and development. The food choices children make in their early years can have a profound impact on their well-being and future health. 

A balanced and nutritious diet provides children with the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that support their physical and cognitive (thinking or conscious mental processes) development, boost their immune system, and lay the foundations for a healthy lifestyle.

Importance of healthy eating for children

Physical

First and foremost, a healthy diet is essential for proper growth and development. During childhood, children experience rapid physical and cognitive growth, and they need a variety of nutrients to support this process. A diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins ensures an adequate intake of essential vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients. These nutrients are vital for building strong bones and muscles, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Cognitive

Furthermore, a well-balanced diet promotes optimal brain development and cognitive function in children. Nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and nuts, and antioxidants, abundant in fruits and vegetables, are essential for brain health. Studies have shown that children who consume a healthy diet perform better academically, exhibit improved memory and attention span, and show enhanced problem-solving skills. Proper nutrition not only fuels their growing bodies but also nourishes their developing brains, enabling them to reach their full cognitive potential.

Wellbeing

Finally, it influences emotional wellbeing. Research has indicated a strong link between diet and mental health in children. Consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, along with limited intake of sugary foods and beverages, can help reduce the risk of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. A well-nourished body supports the production of neurotransmitters that regulate mood, and a balanced diet contributes to overall emotional stability and resilience.

importance of a healthy diet for children

Get children involved in the kitchen

Getting children to eat a healthy and balanced meal can sometimes feel impossible, especially if you are trying to introduce them to new food. However, one way to combat this is by involving them in the meal planning process. By involving children in meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking, they can be educated about the nutritional value of different foods, which will help them develop essential life skills.

Benefits of involving children in the kitchen

Bonding

Having your children cook in the kitchen with you can bring numerous benefits that extend far beyond the delicious meals you create together. Involving children in the kitchen empowers them with valuable life skills, fosters family connections, encourages healthy eating habits, and promotes their overall development.

Cooking with your child provides an excellent opportunity for you to spend quality time together, strengthening the parent-child bond and creating lasting memories as you work collaboratively on a shared project.

Enhancement of motor skills

Cooking in a kitchen provides numerous opportunities for children to enhance their motor skills in a fun and engaging manner. From measuring ingredients, to stirring, chopping, and whisking, each culinary task contributes to their overall physical development. The multifaceted nature of cooking contributes significantly to their physical development in a fun and interactive way.

Cooking also encourages motor skills through activities such as carrying pots, lifting bowls, and stirring ingredients. These actions require strength, balance, and coordination as children engage their large muscle groups to perform tasks like stirring a thick batter or transferring a heavy pot from stove to countertop. 

Encouragement of self-care

Allowing children to take on age-appropriate cooking tasks fosters independence and responsibility. They gain a sense of accomplishment and develop self-reliance as they contribute to meal preparation. It also cultivates essential life skills, as they will learn about nutrition, food safety, and how to follow instructions. 

How Kids Planet encourages healthy eating

At Kids Planet Day Nurseries, nutrition is a key focus and we strongly encourage a positive relationship with food, aiming to make every mealtime a social and engaging experience. 

All of our nurseries are equipped with on-site, qualified chefs with extensive knowledge in nutrition, food hygiene, and menu planning. Diverse menu plans are created each season, incorporating flavours from different cultures to expand the children’s horizons. They prioritise whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and dairy products. The meals are balanced and provide essential nutrients for children’s growth and development.

A large majority of nurseries engage children in gardening activities, where they learn about growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs. They may have small gardens or even participate in community gardens. Children can enjoy hands-on experience with the food production process, fostering an appreciation for fresh, healthy foods.

We also organise cooking activities or food-related crafts where children can participate and learn about healthy ingredients. This approach encourages children to develop a positive attitude towards nutritious foods and can help expand their food preferences.

5 healthy & easy recipes for children

A healthy diet provides essential vitamins and minerals to ensure that children have the necessary antibodies to fight off infections and diseases. Below are 5 of our favourite healthy, easy and versatile recipes.

Veggie Pasta Bake

A simple and easy dish that gives your child two of their five a day. While the current recipe contains broccoli and cauliflower, it is a versatile dish, so you can add any two vegetables that you or your child want!

vegan pasta bake

Serves: 4

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 mins

Ingredients

  • 150g grated cheese
  • 150g uncooked pasta
  • 150g broccoli (chopped)
  • 150g cauliflower (chopped)
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • 25g of dried breadcrumbs
  • 3 tbsp of yeast
  • 1 tbsp of paprika
  • Black ground pepper

How to cook

  1. Mix all the ingredients together apart from the breadcrumbs and yeast.
  2. Transfer the ingredients to an oven-proof dish and sprinkle the bread crumbs on top along with the yeast.
  3. Put the dish in a preheated oven (180 degrees Fan, or 200 degrees non) for 20-30 minutes. Wait until the sauce is bubbling and the breadcrumbs are golden. Ensure pasta is cooked thoroughly.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Macaroni Cheese

A twist on the classic man ‘n’ cheese. As with all our dishes, it is very versatile and so you can add as many vegetables as you want! .

macaroni cheese

Serves: 4

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 mins

Ingredients

  • 1tsp garlic puree
  • 2 punnets of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • 250g dried macaroni cheese
  • 4 large spring onions, finely sliced
  • Small tub of mascarpone
  • 100g of cheese
  • 50g of parmesan cheese
  • 300ml double cream

How to cook

  1. Roast the cherry tomatoes in an oven-proof dish with the garlic, dried basil and olive oil. Then cook your pasta.
  2. Fry the onions in a pan until they begin to soften, then add the cream and all the cheeses to the pan and gently heat.
  3. Once the tomatoes have cooked, take them out of the oven and flatten them down (take care not to burn yourself!)
  4. Mix the cooked pasta and tomatoes into the cheese and onion mix and serve.

Napoli Sauce

A good sauce is the cornerstone of any healthy diet – once mastered, you can add whatever other ingredients your children enjoy eating. Whether it is added veggies for vegetable pasta sauce or adding mince for a tasty and nutritious bolognese.

napoli sauce

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 mins

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp garlic puree
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 sticks of chopped celery
  • 1 chopped carrot
  • Pinch of brown sugar
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 4 tins chopped tomatoes
  • Black pepper

How to cook

  1. Fry all the vegetables in a little olive oil until they are a nice brown colour.
  2. Add the tomatoes, herbs, and garlic, and bring to the boil. Turn down to simmer until the veg is soft, then the sauce is ready.
  3. You can make the sauce in multiple batches and freeze it for future meals as well!

Chicken and Sweet Potato Curry

If you are looking for a dish that has a slight kick to it, then look no further than this curry. While it does take longer to cook than the other dishes, it will be worth it!sweet potato and chicken curry

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 20 mins

Ingredients

  • 1 finely diced onion
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 baby spinach
  • 4 tbsp of curry powder
  • 2 large sweet potatoes cut into cubes
  • 600g of skinless and boneless chicken thigh cut into bite-sized pieces

How to cook

  1. Fry the chicken and onions in a little olive oil until the onions are soft and the chicken has started to brown.
  2. Add the curry powder, ensuring that all the chicken and onions.
  3. Add the tomatoes and coconut milk.
  4. Bring to the boil and turn down to simmer, then leave until the sweet potatoes have softened and gone fluffy.
  5. Add the spinach and cook for another 5 minutes. We recommend serving this dish with either naan bread or rice.

Italian Chicken Tray Bake

This quick and simple recipe is perfect for when your day has been a little hectic and is guaranteed to give your children 2 of their five a day. Make it even tastier by adding a little lemon juice to it once it is cooked.

italian chicken tray bake

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 mins

Ingredients

  • 2 fennel bulbs, cut into slices
  • 600g new potatoes, cut into quarters
  • 2 punnets of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp of dried rosemary
  • 2 tbsp garlic puree
  • Olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • 6 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, quartered

How to cook

  1. Preheat the oven (180 degrees Fan, or 200 degrees non).
  2. Pour all ingredients into a large bowl and mix well. Once mixed, transfer to a large oven proof dish.
  3. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, turning everything over halfway through, making sure to coat the ingredients with the juices.
  4. Once cooked, serve and pour juices from the dish over the food.

Summary

The significance of children eating healthy food cannot be overstated. A balanced and nutritious diet is crucial for their growth, development, and overall wellbeing. It helps them maintain a healthy weight, supports brain development and cognitive function, strengthens the immune system, and sets the stage for a lifetime of good health. By providing children with nutritious meals and educating them about healthy eating habits, we equip them with the tools they need to thrive physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Learn more

Jennifer Gordon, Quality Manager for Kids Planet, and Stacy Stewart, Chef at our very own Worsley Nursery, chat about all things meal-time and nutrition in early years. From 5-a-day, impact on sleep, and sweet-tooth cravings, to food hygiene and the essential nutrients for children, they serve a fantastic cocktail of takeaways!

children cooking with male
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