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Home » Children's Health » The growing importance of healthy eating for children

Laura Street

Senior Nutritionist, M&S

Eddie Murphy

Trading Director, M&S Ireland

Healthy eating and being physically active are particularly important for children. This is because their nutrition and lifestyle influence their wellbeing, growth and development.

Laying down healthy food habits in childhood influences their relationship with food for life. Food provides energy so that they can happily carry out all the activities they enjoy. A huge body of scientific evidence has looked at the impact of breakfast and children’s concentration at school. Childhood is a time to learn a variety of flavours and foods to ensure that main food groups are enjoyed, so variety is key.

Developing a taste for healthy food

Eddie Murphy, Trading Director at Marks & Spencer, Ireland, spoke about the M&S ‘Taste Buds’ food range, saying: “We know how important good food is for everyone. But healthy, nutritious food is particularly important for child development.

We take that very seriously in our role as a retailer for families. That’s why we’ve collaborated with children’s nutrition experts to develop our meal range for children aged 4–10, to ensure that each product provides the key nutritional benefits essential to children’s development. Additionally, 5 cents from every Taste Buds pack sold in Ireland is donated to the Children’s Health Foundation, Crumlin.

“As parents, we’re often so busy that it can be difficult to find the time to provide nutritious food day after day, so the Taste Buds range has been developed as a fuss-free easy dinner range that our customers can trust to be nutritionally balanced and delicious.”

Providing a nutritious diet that children will enjoy is crucial for learning and playing. 

Encouraging a balanced diet

Childhood is an important time for growth and physical and cognitive development. Providing a nutritious diet that children will enjoy is crucial for learning and playing. 

To help parents choose a healthier diet for their children (4–10 years), we’ve focused on a range of children’s food that is both delicious and meets children’s nutrient requirements. Every one of the meals in the range has at least one of your five-a-day and carries our Eat Well health stamp of approval. Our Eat Well flower makes it easier to be healthy — every product has a health benefit and supports a balanced diet.

Parents want to give their children food that is good for them. They want to know what’s in the food they are offering. Therefore, there are no artificial colours, flavours or sweeteners; no added preservatives (excluding deli meats); and there are no salt substitutes and no added salt, wherever possible.

Laura’s top five tips

Whatever age your child is, role modelling has a big impact on eating habits. While many of us are at home, we have a unique chance to sit and eat together for at least one meal a day. Use the opportunity to display the kind of eating behaviours you’d like to see in your child. Whether it’s leaving devices elsewhere while eating or chomping up all our greens, it’s interesting to see how — once we start doing things ourselves — they soon copy.

Get kids involved — if they help prepare meals, they’ll take pride in the food and will be more likely to tuck in.

Try making fruit and veggies the topic of your dinnertime conversation. Discuss which you’ve eaten that day and how you plan to fit in your five-a-day tomorrow.

Most schools talk about the environment and food waste; strike up a conversation to see what knowledge your child has and if they have any creative recipe ideas to use up leftovers.

Get creative! The presentation has a big impact, so make food as appealing and varied as you can — kids will enjoy helping, too.

What is Eat Well?   

The Eat Well health seal of approval makes it easier to be healthy. Every Eat Well product has a health benefit and supports a balanced diet. The Eat Well flower is only given to products meeting evidence-based nutritional criteria — developed by our nutritionists and in line with healthy eating guidelines. So, whether you want to cook a meal from scratch, grab a snack on the go or find something to quench your thirst — just follow the Eat Well flower to make a healthy and delicious choice. 

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