It can be challenging to know what balanced nutrition looks like.
Take a look at these ideas on breakfast, lunch, and dinner for your family.
The bottom of the page has links to help fussy eaters and cut back on sugar.
Healthy breakfast ideas for children
This page has links to information in other languages.
A healthy breakfast will give your child a good start to the day. Breakfast will give them energy to be active and learn better. Eating breakfast will also make it easier for your child to achieve or stay a healthy weight.
- Weet-Bix with low-fat milk and canned peaches.
- Scrambled eggs and sliced tomato on toast.
- Mashed banana on toast with a glass of low-fat milk.
- Porridge with milk and grated apple, chopped banana or frozen berries.
- Toast with a thin spread of peanut butter and a healthy fruit smoothie (see the recipe idea below).
- Leftover rice with vegetables and a glass of low-fat soy milk.
- Baked beans on toast and a glass of low-fat milk.
- For more breakfast ideas and recipes see Breakfast ideas from My Family Food.
Choosing a healthy breakfast cereal
Look at the nutrition information panel and aim for less than 10 g fat and less than 15g sugar per 100g. If the cereal contains dried fruit you can go up to 25g sugar per 100g. Good options include Weet-Bix and porridge.
Tips for children who won't eat breakfast
- Eat breakfast with your children. They are more likely to eat breakfast if they see you eating it.
- Encourage your child to choose their own healthy breakfast options when you're out shopping.
- Have your main meal earlier in the evening and make sure your child is not having snacks after dinner. This may improve their appetite in the morning.
- If it's rushed in the morning try getting your child up a little earlier. You can prepare for breakfast the night before by setting the table and getting the bowls and cereals ready. You can also give them something to eat on the way to school, such as a banana wrapped in wholemeal bread or a sandwich.
- If your child is not hungry in the morning, try a healthy fruit smoothie (see the recipe idea below) instead of the usual cereal and milk.
Download breakfast idea posters: Health Promotion Agency – Pacific breakfast posters
The posters include easy, low-cost breakfast ideas and can be ordered or downloaded as PDFs. They are available in Samoan, Tongan and Cook Island Māori.
Healthy school lunches
A healthy, balanced lunch gives children everything they need to play and learn well. Involve your child in choosing and making lunches. This will make them more likely to eat and enjoy their lunch.
Lunch box checklist
A healthy lunch box should include items from the following food groups.
- Grain foods – they give children energy and brain power. Choose high-fibre and wholegrain bread. Try mixing it up by using wraps, flatbread, pita bread, grainy rolls and crackers.
- Vegetables and fruit – they provide fibre and important minerals and vitamins without too many kilojoules. Cut vegetables into manageable pieces such as carrot, cucumber or celery sticks. You can also add vegetables to sandwich fillings. Use fruit that fits easily in a lunch box such as mandarins, small apples, grapes, or a pottle of diced fruit.
- Milk and milk products – they provide calcium which helps to build strong bones and teeth. Cheese slices and yoghurt (pottles or pouches) are great snacks in lunch boxes. Include a small ice brick or a frozen water bottle to keep them cool and at a safe temperature.
- Lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts and beans – they provide protein to help build strong muscles, and key nutrients such as iron and magnesium for growth. Peanut butter, chicken, tuna, eggs, or hummus make great high-protein sandwich fillings.
- Bottle of water – try adding fruit or vegetables like lemon, cucumber, oranges or berries to make flavoured water. See Make your own flavoured water from My Family Food.
For healthy and tasty lunch box ideas see the following links.
- Community & Public Health – Healthy lunches made easy: Tips for making healthy lunches.
- Heart Foundation Fuelled 4 Life:
- My Family Food – Lunch box love: Tasty lunch box ideas and recipes.
Healthy dinners for children
Most children don't need as much food as adults. Use your child's hand as a guide for serving sizes.
- Give them a palm-size amount of protein food such as meat, chicken, seafood, eggs or legumes (cooked dried beans, split peas or lentils).
- Give them a fist-size amount of carbohydrate food such as potato, pasta, rice or bread.
- Give them two cupped handfuls of colourful vegetables.
- You can also use the healthy plate model as a guide (see the image to the right). You can follow this model even if you are making meals such as stir-fries, casseroles and salads. See the example below for chicken and vegetable stir-fry.
- See Meal planning and healthy recipes for ideas to help you plan and prepare tasty, fast, easy and low-cost meals.
What if my child doesn't like vegetables?
- Be a good role model. If your child sees you eating and enjoying vegetables they are more likely to do the same.
- Involve your child. They are more likely to eat vegetables if they have been involved in buying, preparing and cooking them.
- Serve vegetables like carrot, celery and capsicum (pepper) raw.
- Keep offering vegetables. Some children will need to try a new food up to 15 times before they like it.
- For more tips see Vegetables for children (link downloads a PDF) from Vegetables.co.nz.
Tips to make meals healthy
- Making small changes to the way you prepare and cook your meals will be good for the whole family.
- Add grated or finely diced vegetables to mince dishes or casseroles. This makes the meal healthier and the meat go further.
- Serve potato boiled, baked or mashed (with a little low-fat milk).
- Grill, steam, dry bake, casserole, stir-fry or boil instead or frying or roasting in fat or oil.
- Trim the fat off meat and remove the skin from chicken before cooking. Drain or skim fat off the top of mince, stews, soups and gravies.
- Limit sausages to once a week. They are very high in fat. Grill or barbecue sausages and prick them first so that the fat can drain away.
- Use small amounts of lite or reduced-fat coconut milk instead of coconut cream.
What about dessert?
Desserts such as cake and most types of ice cream are high in fat and sugar. They are best kept as occasional treats.
Fruit makes a healthy and tasty dessert. Make fruit kebabs by chopping fresh fruit into cubes and putting it onto skewers. Or cut up lots of different fruit to make a fruit salad or a colourful fruit platter. Try the healthy homemade banana ice cream recipe here.
For more information on healthy eating with your child, see other useful Healthinfo pages:
- Smart snacking for children: Snack ideas and tips for healthy snacks for kids
- Fussy eaters: It often takes 10 to 15 times for a food to be offered before it is accepted. Find out more about how you can deal with fussy eaters.
- Parenting healthy & active children: A short and actionable article on how to teach children to eat well.
- Tips to help your child be healthy & active: A helpful checklist to cover off the basics. No surprises: this summarises many of the aspects of the Healthy Heroes challenge!
- How to cut down on sugar: The rundown on sugar, what’s a normal amount to aim for, what to look out for, and tips to cut back.
Other helpful resources:
- Kids are more likely to eat healthily if they're involved in the preparation and understand how healthy food helps their bodies. Pick an activity or food idea in Kids’ Kitchen to do with your child.
- Let Lindsay tell you why she loves salad. It saves her time, mess and money
- Eat for health is a website with many resources, posters, and brochures on eating guidelines