Food and Fitness for Children

Active, growing children require good nutrition to build healthy bodies and to help them be the best they can be. Many attitudes towards food are shaped during early school years, forming the basis for future eating habits. As parents we can help our children build healthy foundations by encouraging a love of good food and good nutrition throughout these years.

Growing bodies

Primary school years are busy ones and children need good nutrition to help them concentrate at school and to fuel their day to day activities (play and sport). Children of this age are also constantly growing. As well as providing enough fuel for day to day activities, a child needs nutritious foods to grow and develop normally.

A healthy eating pattern

An eating pattern that includes a variety of foods from across the food groups will provide children with the range of nutrients and fuel they need. This means:
  • Eating plenty of vegetables, legumes and fruits
  • Eating plenty of cereals (preferably wholegrain), including bread, rice, pasta, and noodles
  • Including lean meat, fish, poultry and/or alternatives
  • Including milk, yogurt and cheese (reduced-fat varieties are not suitable for children under 2 years)
While the occasional ‘extra’ foods such as lollies, chips and take away foods are ok, if eaten too often they may result in poor intake of nourishing foods and an increased risk of becoming overweight, as well as an increased risk of tooth decay.
To be their best, children also need to be well hydrated. Children should be encouraged to drink water. Try to limit sweetened drinks such as soft drinks, cordials and fruit juice. If consumed in large amounts they can contribute to issues such as excess weight gain and tooth decay. As an alternative, a glass of milk is a nutritious drink that will contribute to the recommended three serves of dairy a day to make sure they get the calcium their growing bones need.

Get moving!

Being physically active is important for growing bodies too. In Australia, 23% of children are overweight or obese. Encouraging an active lifestyle along with a balanced diet is the best way to ensure a healthy weight. Australia’s Physical Activity Guidelines for 5 to 12 year olds recommend:
  • at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. This could be running, swimming, dancing or a type of organized sport such as football or netball or just active play, and
  • not more than two hours screen time (television, computer or electronic games) a day
Be active with your children and include physical activity in family outings and as part of your daily life.

Try some of our great family recipe ideas for your evening meals.

Nutrition Australia would like to acknowledge Dairy Australia as the original author of this resource.
Published: January 2018
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