During the rapid physical and mental growth of childhood, good nutrition is particularly important. Good nutrition in childhood can help prevent obesity and diabetes, ensure full growth potential, and foster healthy habits for a lifetime.

Children may be quite picky about what they will and won't eat, but don't get hung up on any one particular food. Their health will not suffer if they hate broccoli, for example; those nutrients can be found elsewhere. Your child's diet should mainly consist of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat milk products, and lean meats and fish.

Many children don't get enough fibre. Whole grains are a good solution. Try serving bran or wheat cereals, whole grain toast with peanut butter, or high-fibre fruits such as apples or berries with breakfast. Fruits and vegetable intake can be problematic for some children. Experiment with different types and methods of preparation until you find a few your child likes, and then serve those regularly. Fresh vegetables have the most nutrients; try cutting up raw vegetables and storing them in the refrigerator for easy snacks. Your child should consume at least three servings of low-fat dairy products daily; yogurt and cheese are good alternatives to milk. One cup of juice a day is okay, but your child should drink mostly water and milk.

Above all, keep eating enjoyable; eat as a family whenever possible, involve your child in meal planning, and avoid the use of food for bribes or punishments.

Marlene Veloso