Encouraging your little ones to eat a healthy balanced diet can help them build healthier habits for the future and is important for your child’s growth and development.

From the age of two, children can start to have the same healthy foods as the rest of the family. By age five, children should be eating the same as the rest of the family, in the same proportions as shown in the Eatwell Guide.

At this stage, your child is growing and developing quickly, so it is important to help them get all the energy and nutrients they need.

  • By sitting together and eating the same meal, you are setting a good example. Seeing you eat might encourage your child to try new tastes and textures.
  • More information on how to cook family meals in a healthier way can be found on our in the kitchen pages.

Different foods can be offered at each mealtime so your child gets a range of different nutrients and experiences.
  • As a rough guide, one portion of fruit and vegetables is the amount they can fit into the palm of their hand. Aim to provide at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day – tinned, frozen, dried and fresh all count.
  • Skimmed, rice based and 1% milk are not suitable for children under 5 years.
  • Just like you, children should eat oily fish like salmon, trout and mackerel once each week, but girls should have no more than two portions and boys no more than four.
  • Starchy foods like bread, rice, pasta, cereals, and potatoes are important and should make up around one third of your child’s plate.
  • You can start to include wholegrain foods for children over two.
  • As long as your child is growing well, at the age of two, you can gradually introduce lower-fat dairy foods and cut down on fat in other foods, like the rest of the family.
  • Children can be good at eating intuitively, so it is normal for your child’s appetite to change a bit from day to day.


When preparing one meal for the family, it is important to limit the addition of salt. Children under five need only a very small amount of salt each day.

  • Store bought meals can be high in salt, so cooking from scratch at home can help you control the amount in your child’s diet.
  • Salt can be hidden in products such as bread, pasta sauces, breakfast cereals, so make sure to check food labels.
  • Some foods, like cheese, stock cubes, processed snacks, processed meat and potato products can be particularly high in salt.

If you have a child under three, you may be entitled to get help to buy healthy food and milk through Best Start Foods.


In Scotland, the top contributors of sugar to children in this age group are snacks like biscuits and sweetened yogurts.

  • Choosing plain dairy products and swapping biscuits for breadsticks when you can, will help prevent a preference for sweet foods developing.
  • To protect your child’s teeth, rather than offer fruit squashes, fruit juices, flavoured milks or fizzy drinks, it is best to only provide water or milk to drink, at all times.
  • If providing sugary drinks such as fruit juices try to only give these to your child at meal times, this will help reduce tooth decay.

Making a change

How to make small, manageable changes to what you eat and drink.

Make a change