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‘You are what you eat’

How many times have we heard that…Well evidence shows it can be true, particularly in childhood, and those who ‘eat better, do better’.

With ¼ of adults obese and 2/3 overweight in this country, it’s important to have a healthier balance of different foods in the right amounts. Around 1/5 of children age 10-11 in Shropshire are obese according to the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) and youngsters who are underweight may not be getting all the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development.

Conditions known as ‘non-communicable diseases’ have increased hugely, but these could be prevented if we all made healthier lifestyle choices everyday. 9 out of 10 kids today could grow up with dangerous amounts of fat in their bodies. This can cause life-threatening diseases like cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Doctors have seen a very worrying upward trend of type 2 diabetes in children and young people which was, in the past, a condition that only really happened in later life. Those who are an unhealthy weight are far more likely to have weight issues as adults and, as well as physical health problems, are more likely to suffer with low self-esteem and depression.

A healthy, balanced diet along with the recommended levels of physical activity is key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.  Developing children and young people need energy and a range of essential nutrients, including vitamins and minerals from a range of foods to set them up for a healthier and longer life.  It’s also been proven that those who eat better at breakfast or lunchtime are able to concentrate more in class, behave better and achieve more. At this age children and young people will be making more of their own food choices however, if we all have better information about healthy eating those choices are more likely be healthier ones.

So what is a ‘healthy, balanced diet’ ?

There are 4 food groups (often shown as the 'Eatwell Guide'), that we all need in our daily diet. Including foods from all the food groups should give us all the essential nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, that our body needs to function properly. It is not recommended to cut out any of these food groups from your diet.  Here are the food groups:

  • Bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, and other starchy foods or carbohydrates - sources of energy and fibre.
  • Meat, fish, eggs, and other sources of non-diary proteins like meat substitutes, pulses beans, chickpeas etc – sources of protein help growth and repair of the body.
  • Milk and dairy foods give vitamins and minerals like calcium for healthy bones and teeth and are another source of protein.
  • Fruit & vegetables – contain vitamins, minerals and fibre, it is recommended we all have at least 5 portions and a range of fruit and veg everyday day.

Foods to avoid...

Foods high in fats or sugar - These should be avoided or kept to a minimum. We don’t actually need these in our diet and too much of them contributes towards excessive weight gain, especially if we are not very active.  Children should get all their essential nutrients including energy and essential fatty acids from the other 4 food groups.

We should also avoid foods high in salt like crisps, fast food, processed food or ready meals. Too much salt can put us at risk of high blood pressure.

Guidelines around healthy eating for children and young people are pretty much the same as for adults but with a few exceptions:

•    Children’s kidneys are still developing and their bodies can’t get rid of salt so it can build up more than in adults.
•    Limit sugar intake too, particularly in drinks as it can mean more tooth decay and contribute to weight gain.
•    Drinking more water is much better, it keeps us hydrated, more alert and doesn’t fill us up with ‘empty calories’ that we don’t need.
•    Young children also need proportionally more portions of protein per day as they are still developing, sometimes very quickly!

Portion sizes

In many cases much more food is dished up than we actually need or that the body can deal with, especially if we are not very active and burning of the energy taken in. Remember the phrase ‘Me Size Meals’ used by in the media by Change4Life? This gives guidance, tips and ideas around portion sizes and many other healthy lifestyle topics for all the family.

It’s a lot to take in however, there is a lot more specific information out there about what, why and how much or how little we should all be eating and drinking.  There are also great ideas around cooking at home together, healthy lunchboxes and making healthy eating fun!  Follow the links for more information.


If you would like further information, please consult the 'helpful links' section on this page.

Fact Zone

A healthy and balanced diet is very important for development. This means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions.
Help children and young people to make the right choices and take responsibility for their diet. Get everyone involved in cooking and help them to learn about healthy food.
Young people who are an unhealthy weight are far more likely to have weight issues as adults. Help young people to make the right decisions for their health now and in the future.
Encourage young people to start the day with an healthy breakfast. Getting the right nutrients and minerals is essential for concentration and having the energy to get through the school day.
Having a healthy breakfast enables young people to concentrate better in class, to behave better and to achieve more. It makes them less likely to snack too!
Help young people to make good decisions around food and diet. Avoid fast foods and processed meals and encourage young people to cook from scratch using healthy ingredients.


Helpful Links