Nutrition guidelines

Recommendations for children and healthy families.

3 main meals + 2 snack times is the ideal according to official nutrition guidelines.

Summary of the four food groups and the nutrients they provide.

Food groups
Examples of
food included

Main nutrients
Recommended servings

Starchy foods

Bread, potatoes and sweet potatoes, starchy root vegetables, pasta, noodles, rice, other grains, breakfast cereals

Carbohydrate, fibre, B vitamins and iron

Four portions each day

Provide a portion as part of each meal (breakfast, lunch and tea) and provide as part of at least one snack each day

Fruit and

Fresh, frozen, canned, dried and juiced fruit and vegetables, and pulses

Carotenes (a form of vitamin A), vitamin C, zinc, iron, and fibre

Five portions each day
Provide a portion as part of each main meal (breakfast, lunch and tea) and with some snacks

Meat, fish, eggs,
beans and nondairy
of protein

Meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, meat alternatives, pulses, nuts*

Protein, iron, zinc, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins A and D

Two portions each day
Provide a portion as part of lunch and tea (Two to three portions for vegetarian children)

Milk and
dairy foods
Milk, cheese, yoghurt, fromage frais, custard, puddings made from milk

Protein, calcium, and vitamin A

Three portions each day

provided as part of meals, snacks and drinks

Source: Children’s Food Trust, Eat Better Start Better.

Water. Offer water or heavily diluted juice 6-8 times a day.

Salt. Family meals can be slightly salted, however watch out for salt content in ready meals, sausages and cheese. The recommended daily salt intake for children is as follows:
  • 7-12 months, 1 g salt/day
  • 1 to 3 years: 2g salt a day (0.8g sodium)
  • 4 to 6 years: 3g salt a day (1.2g sodium)
  • 7 to 10 years: 5g salt a day (2g sodium)
  • 11 years and over: 6g salt a day (2.4g sodium)
    Note: 1 teaspoon = 6 grams

Carbohydrates. Bread, pasta, rice, couscous, potatoes, breakfast cereal etc. give us energy. Each meal should be based on foods from this group; they should make about 1/3 of a meal.

Milk and dairy products provide calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and protein, which are all essential for healthy bone growth and development as well as healthy teeth.  Children over 12 months should have 3 servings/day. One serving can be one glass (or bottle) of milk, one yoghurt, or a cheese sandwich with 2 slices of mild cheddar.

Eggs. Are a good source of protein and zinc.

Butter, oils and margarine. Using a good variety of different fats in family cooking is best, with a limited amount of saturated (butter, coconut, palm oil) and trans fats (hard margarines).

Oils. Use good oils like olive and rapeseed oil. They contain Omegas 3, 6 and 9, essential fatty acids known to reduce cholesterol and maintain heart health, joint mobility and brain function.

Margarine. is also better than butter to use for family cooking. However, you should check the ingredients and go for soft fortified margarines containing Vitamin A, E and D.

Combine foods rich in protein, iron, zinc and calcium with vegetables and fruit rich in Vitamin C, which will help to absorb them better.

Protein, Iron, zinc and calcium. Proteins and minerals are needed to build and maintain the cells in our body and are therefore essential for a healthy diet. Good sources are beef, veal and pork, eggs, dairy as well as grains and pulses. (1-2 small servings/day)

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Unsaturated fats are essential for a growing child. The best source is oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna. (1 serving /week). Other rich sources include meat, milk products, walnuts, olive oil, and rapeseed oil, which is great for cooking.

Vitamin C protects cells helps the body to absorb iron, which is needed by our muscles and bones. It’s found in fruit and vegetables, especially green and red vegetables.
(5 small portions/day)

Vitamin A and E are important for growth. They help preventing infections; maintain good vision and healthy skin. They are found in oily fish, liver, vegetable oils and walnuts.

Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium. Our main source is sunlight, however there are a few food sources which include oily fish, fortified breakfast cereal, margarines.

Beta-Carotene is an antioxidant t, which is converted in the body to vitamin A. Good sources of beta-carotene include dark green and orange-yellow vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach, broccoli, romaine lettuce, apricots, and green peppers.

Potassium is important for fluid balance in the body. Rich food sources are fruit and vegetables like celeriac but also cocoa and chocolate.

Carbohydrates. Bread, pasta, rice, couscous, potatoes, breakfast cereal etc. give us energy. Each meal should be based on foods from this group; they should make about 1/3 of a meal.

For further information visit