As a childcarer you don’t have to provide meals, you can ask parents to send packed lunches. Personally I like to know I’m giving the children a nice healthy hot dinner at lunchtime.

As a parent many of us struggle to know if we are feeding our children the right things, so here are some of my favorites.

Healthy meals need variety

As adults we are often told we nee to cut this and that out of our diet and wonder if the same applies to our children, I would advise not (I would advise not for adults too, but we’ll not get into that).

A healthy diet should consist of food from all 5 food groups;

  • bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods,
  • fruit and vegetables,
  • milk, cheese and yogurt,
  • meat, fish, eggs, nuts and pulses
  • foods high in fat and sugar.

How much of each?

A good mealtime routine for children is very helpful in getting them to eat their meals, I find ours works well;

  • Breakfast
  • Snack
  • Lunch
  • Snack
  • Tea

Food portions are very important, too many times young children are served far too much and then made to feel bad when they can’t clear their plate, I highly recommend serving smaller potions and offering plenty of praise to a child that eats it all then you can always offer more if needed. Below I have included a small range of meal potions but obviously can’t list everything, it’s a good idea to remember when serving your childs food that it is true that their stomach is only about the size of their clenched fist.

Food group 1, bread, rice, pasta etc should be offered with each meal and can also be used for snacks. But remember your portion sizes, a child under 4yrs only need 1/2 – 1 slice of bread, 1-3 breadsticks, 2-5 tablespoons of rice, 2-5 tablespoons of pasta or 3-6 teaspoons of cereal.

Food group 2, fruit and vegetables, offer at least 1 of these with each meal, preferably 2. Also use as snack. Again the portions needed of these are probably smaller than your expecting, a child under 4 may only need 1/4 of an apple or banana but as these foods are highly nutritious you can feel free to let the children eat higher quantities if they want to.

Food group 3, milk, cheese and yogurt. These foods should be offered around 3 times a day, these foods can reduce appetite for iron-containing foods from other food groups so don’t want to be eaten in excess. Typical portions of these would be; 1 cup of milk (100-120ml, 3-4oz) this should be in a cup, bottles are only for children under 1 years.1 cheese triangle, string or babybel is a full portion for a child under 4, and 1 small yogurt is enough.

Food group 4, meat, fish, eggs, nuts and pulses. These should be served twice a day for a young child that includes the meat and fish but 3 times a day if the child is a vegetarian. Typical portions for a child under 4 would be; 1/4-1 small beef burger, 2-4 small nuggets, 1/4 -1 medium sausage. 1/4-1 small fish. 1/4-1 full egg. 1-2 tablespoons of nuts. 2-4 tablespoons of baked beans, 2-4 tablespoons of tofu.

Food group 5, foods high in fat. These foods should only be offered once a day, they offer enjoyment but are low in nutrition and if high in sugar can cause tooth decay. 1/2-1 chocolate coated biscuit, 2-4 tablespoons of cake, 6-8 chocolate buttons, 1 small cup of popcorn are all sufficient for a child under 4.

As far as drinks are concerned I only recommend water, if you have to offer juice I would advise it is highly diluted.

Our favorite meals

  • chicken nuggets, air fried chips with peas
  • tomato pasta with fresh tomatoes’
  • rice and meatballs, with a side of carrot and cucumber sticks
  • lasagna with garlic bread and sweetcorn
  • beef and vegetable stew with dumplings
  • fish, new potatoes and mushy peas
  • chicken pasta with mushrooms
  • beans, sausages and hash browns
  • chicken and vegetable soup with Yorkshire puddings
  • spaghetti bolognaise
  • fish pie with cooked carrots

Our favorite snacks

  • individual fruit
  • chopped mixed fruit (please, please, please slice grapes)
  • toast with a variety of toppings
  • malt loaf
  • carrot and cucumber sticks
  • cheese and crackers
  • celery with peanut butter
  • raisins
  • ice pops
  • bread sticks and hummus
  • nuts
  • popcorn
  • yogurts (although we often use these as desert)

Conclusion

I hope you’ve gained something by reading this, if you have any question please don’t hesitate to ask me, id also love to hear about any of your childrens favorite meals

Thanks for reading,

your childcarer friend,

Samantha xx

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