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Win the food fight

Fussy eater in the family? Here are Food Coach Helen Halliday's tips to stop mealtime war zones.

Making sure your kids eat a balanced diet is hard. Is it five-a-day or seven these days? I’ve lost count. And if you have a fussy eater in the fam (guilty as charged, m’lud), the last thing you want to do is turn every mealtime into a battle ground. Add into the mix the occasional fish finger or chicken stripper dinner that (eek) hasn’t been made from scratch (who’s got the time?) and you’re left feeling a bit crap really. But help is at hand. The utterly brilliant Food Coach, Helen Halliday, has some top tips to improve your child’s eating habits and avoid a Mexican stand off…

We all struggle with lack of time, iling more pressure on parents wanting to change their family’s food habits, let alone the day to day challenge of trying to encourage their kids to eat more fruit and veg and eat less sugar. The good news is that most parents want to improve the eating habits of their children(1). It’s just a matter of knowing where to start.

The best thing to do? Get back to basics. Understand what a balanced meal consists of (carbohydrate, protein and fat and includes fruit or vegetables) and incorporate it into family life. It’ll be the first step to making a positive change.


The energy source: it comes in different types with different effects on our bodies. Sugar and starch are carbohydrates usually found in biscuits, cakes, white bread, white rice and white pasta which release sugar rapidly providing energy that is short lived and often followed by tiredness, sometimes leading to drowsiness or disrupted sleep(4).

Swap it for other carbs that provide a more sustained release of energy: wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta, brown rice and oat cakes which help to support children’s energy levels for longer.


The body’s building blocks: So important for children’s growth and repair, meat, fish, eggs, milk, yoghurt and cheese contain protein. It’s digested more slowly than carbs helping to create feelings of being fuller for longer and reduce the urge to snack. By simply adding a protein into their children’s meals, parents often find they can help to keep hunger at bay whilst supporting their growing bodies.

Healthy Fats

Energy reserves: These perform various roles in the body. They’re stored until they’re needed and are involved in brain development.

Saturated fats are found in butter, cheese, cream and fatty meats and government guidelines suggest eating these in low amounts to help protect from heart disease in later life. Polyunsaturated fats, found in olive oil, avocados, oily fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, nuts and seeds are classed as ‘essential’ as they can only be acquired through the diet.

Research has also shown that regular consumption of omega 3 fats, a type or polyunsaturated fat, may assist in cognitive sills such as memory and learning(7). As Western diets tend to consume low amounts of omega 3 government guidelines suggest eating 2 portions of oily fish a week to get the benefits they may bring(6).


Fruit and veg

Packed full of vitamins and minerals that are vital to children’s growth and development and general wellbeing. Their wide range of colours represent the various nutrients they contain and act as a good reminder to eat a many different of colours each day. Recent research by BANT (The British Association for Applied Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy) recommends that for optimum health people of all ages, including children, should aim to eat 5 portions of veg and 2 portions of fruit every day(5).


Taking the first step

Knowing what constitutes a balanced diet is one thing but how do parents get their kids to eat more fruit and veg? What parents eat themselves is the key. In a study reported by The British Journal of Nutrition, they found positive parenting roles to be the key to success in improving a child’s diet(3). They discovered that children who eat with their parents or regularly see their parents eating foods, such as veg, were more likely to eat them too. So if parents want their children to improve their diet, they’re more likely to achieve their wish by not just aiming to eat balanced meals but doing so together as a family.

Helen Halliday, is a registered Nutritional Therapist with a passion for children’s health. She runs Children’s Nutrition Workshops in the Ascot area, an interactive course for parents and kids. Her next course is on April 29 and costs £30 (one adult, one child); additional children £10 each. 


  1. NHS. Knowledge and attitudes towards healthy eating and physical activity. 2011.
  2. You gov UK. Consumer confusion over food labelling. 2014.
  3. Scaglioni S. Influence of parental attitudes in children eating behaviour. Br J Nutr. 2008;99(1):22–5.
  4. EFSA. Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for carbohydrates. EFSA J. 2010.
  5. BANT Wellbeing guidelines. 2015.
  6. EFSA. Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for fats. EFSA J. 2010;8(3).
  7. Greenberg J, et al. Omega-3 Fatty Acid. Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2008 Jan;1(4):162–9.



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