What Does “5-A-Day” Mean When It Comes To Cooking For Kids?

Image courtesy of bant.co.uk
Five what? Nutritionist Mary van der Westhuizen decodes the government's Five-A-Day campaign for children.

For many people the government’s “five-a- day” campaign has firmly conveyed the message that everyone should be eating five portions of fruit and vegetables each day.  But is this all there is to it? And what does a portion size look like?

Here are five steps to understanding “five-a-day” for children:

1. Let’s review that number: Recent research by BANT (The British Association for Applied Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy) recommends that people of all ages,including children, should in fact be eating 5 portions of vegetables and 2 portions of fruit every day. So, 7-a- day is in fact the ideal.

2. Let’s check the ratio: we’re not trying to get our children to eat 7 portions of fruit each day (we should be so lucky; that would be a lot easier!). The ratio of fruit to veg should very much be weighted towards the vegetables. So, 2 portions of fruit and 5 portions of vegetables would be perfect.

3. Let’s look at portion size: the easiest way to think of a portion of fruit or veg for your child under 5 is to look at the palm of your child’s hand. Their palm size is roughly the size of one portion of fruit or veg. As children get older, portion size moves away from their palm size and into adult portion size so more like 80g per portion.

4. Let’s think about variety: Tempting as it is to stick with your children’sfavourites, it’s best for you and your child – as far as possible – to eat a variety of fruit and vegetables so that you’re consuming a range of nutritional benefits. We all know that it can, at times, be tough to get your children to eat their veg. Don’t worry too much about it.

5. Let’s not worry too much. All these guidelines I’ve spoken about are ideals and targets to aim for. If you/your child has an off day (or more!) don’t stress. Just keep on plugging away, presenting them with veg at meals and for snacks and eventually you may persuade them….

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