Healthy eating habits/Healthy Eating for Primary School Children

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Healthy Eating for Primary School Children (Celia)

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This Wiki page is designed as a guide for healthy eating for primary school aged children only. It is not for specific individualised care. If a nutrition issue is suspected please seek specific advice from a health care professional. An Accredited Practising Dietitian can be contacted through the Dietitian’s Association of Australia (DAA) webpage at

Recommendations for Healthy Eating for Primary School Aged Children

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The Australian Dietary Guidelines (NHMRC, 2013) recommend that children eat a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five food groups every day. Choosing fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meats, low fat dairy products and wholegrain cereal products are encouraged. Choosing and drinking tap water as the first choice is beneficial for general health and also dental health.

Providing nutritious foods for your children is important, as well as providing education to your children on the benefits of consuming these types of foods can lead to positive food choices as adults. As boys and girls grow their nutritional requirements vary. Boys generally have slightly higher nutrient recommendations than girls for quantities of food, but the quality remains important for both boys and girls.

Currently in Australia children are not eating enough fruit or vegetables, and are drinking fruit juice in place of eating actual fruit (Australian Government, 2007). Australians as a whole population are also eating more potatoes than what is needed, and often other types of vegetables are being left out because of this (Australian Government, 2007).

Children are encouraged to only choose foods and drinks from the ‘discretionary foods’ section occasionally and in small quantities. These should not be an everyday part of your child’s diet. These foods are high in sugar, fat and sodium, and are often considered to be quite tasty by children. Pre packaged foods and snacks are often considered quick, easy and convenient by parents, but there are often better choices for your children. A selection of fruit and nuts can be tasty and filling, as can a homemade milkshake with fresh fruit.

The following two tables show the recommended serves per day per gender and age group for each of the five food groups. These are to be used as a guide only and if children are significantly tall for their age or have higher energy requirements due to sporting or other commitments, then additional serves may be added in order to meet the increased requirements.

Fruit Vegetables Dairy Lean Meat Cereal Products
4-8yo boys 1.5 4.5 2 1.5 4
9-11yo boys 2 5 2.5 2.5 5
Fruit Vegetables Dairy Lean Meat Cereal Products
4-8yo girls 1.5 4.5 1.5 1.5 4
9-11yo girls 2 5 3 2.5 4

What can happen if my child does not eat the right amount of nutritious foods?

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Children who do not eat a varied diet from the five food groups may miss out on some of the nutrients required to maintain good health and well being. They may suffer fatigue and reduced concentration levels. Adequate and appropriate nutrition is vital throughout childhood to ensure appropriate growth and development is being achieved into adolescence when their bodies undergo many vital changes (Brown et al., 2011). Inadequate nutrition can lead to cognitive impairment and faltering growth (Stewart, 2012). Providing a variety of nutritious foods from the five food groups will assist in achieving ideal development.

What is at risk if my child consumes too many discretionary foods?

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Children who consume more discretionary foods than recommended risk a high intake of saturated fat, sodium and sugars. These can all have an impact overall health, but may increase the risk of suffering from obesity, Type 2 Diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Obesity as a child is a leading cause of obesity as an adult, and obesity is a leading risk factor for both Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Twenty-three percent of Australian children are currently overweight or obese. Excessive sodium (salt) intake may put increased pressure on developing blood vessels and could lead to the onset of high blood pressure (hypertension) or kidney disease (Wahlqvist, 2011).

Tips for encouraging your child to eat nutritious foods

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Provide nutritious foods for your child, including the foods in their school lunch box.

Provide a safe and calm environment for your child to eat in.

Model good eating patterns for your child.

Encourage nutritious foods for breakfast, and provide variety if it is a struggle.

Encourage your child to be involved in food planning and preparation as it can lead to increased interest in different flavours and textures.


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References: AIHW (2012) A picture of Australia’s children. Retrieved from:

AIHW (2008) Risk factors for CVD, Type 2 Diabetes, and chronic kidney disease. Retrieved from:

Australian Government (2007) Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey. Retrieved from:$File/childrens-nut-phys-survey.pdf

Brown, J. et al. (2011). Nutrition through the life cycle (4th Ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, CENGAGE Learning

NHMRC (2013) Australian Dietary Guidelines. Retrieved from:

Stewart, R. (Ed.), (2012). Paediatric nutrition and dietetics. Brisbane, QLD: Australian Publishing

Wahlquist, M., (2011). Food and Nutrition: Food and health systems in Australia and New Zealand. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen and Unwin