Family Nutrition Top Tips

For many of us, eating a balanced diet seven days a week might sound like a challenge. We can all list the foods we prefer to eat so how is it possible to improve our family’s diet if we already know we don’t like certain things? Here we explore ways in which we can start understanding the combination of foods that make a balanced family dinner, and how we can improve meals by adding foods or using them more often.

We hope to arm you with a few simple hints to get you on your way. With a little help from the right places, eating a balanced diet that’s tasty isn’t as tricky as you might think.

How to plan a balanced meal

A balanced diet should ideally contain a variety of different foods from different food groups so that you eat as many of the nutrients needed to maintain good health.

A good teatime meal should ideally contain:

  • Some of your five-a-day. Fruit and veg is a vital source of nutrients - this should make up a third of our diet!
  • A staple food such as bread, rice, pasta or potatoes makes up another third of what we should eat. Keep the skin on your potatoes for extra goodness and try wholegrain or wholemeal varieties where you can
  • Poultry such as turkey, beans, pulses, fish, eggs and other meat provide a great mix of vitamins and minerals
  • Unsaturated oils and spreads are better than saturated fats such as butter and cheese
  • Drink plenty of water

Top Tips:

Did you know that turkey is a great source of vitamins and minerals?

Avoid drinking tea or coffee until 1-2 hours after a meal as these reduce the absorption of iron from food.

Did you know that fruit juice, dried fruit and tinned fruit in juice all count as one of your five a day?

Simple Swaps

Making a few simple swaps in your family’s diet will ensure you’re on the right track:

  • Swap red meats for poultry such as turkey breast which is low in fat and high in protein
  • Instead of serving meals with buttery bread or too many chips, add to your tea a side salad of chopped tomatoes, olives, cucumber, cooked green beans and toss with some olive oil, lemon juice and black pepper
  • Three tablespoons of vegetables count as one of your five-a-day. Take your favourite green veg and blitz it into a puree - add this to a sauce or stew
  • Top your pudding with slices of strawberries and a few berries
  • Instead of sugary drinks, add some blueberries, small orange wedges or thin slices of cucumber to a jug of water – the taste is subtle but the kids will love removing the pieces to eat and are likely to drink more water!
  • Instead of biscuits and tea after your meal, have pieces of fruit to dip into yogurt with honey

How to increase variety

Eat a variety of veg and fruits to get lots of nutrients and fibre.

Use several food groups at each meal because different fruits and vegetables contain different types of nutrients.

Eat poultry, meat and fish daily because these foods are the best sources of iron and zinc.

If there are certain vegetables you and your family prefer, try mixing them with different veg that’s sometimes less appealing, for example:

  • Sneak in new veg by preparing it differently. Dice or cut it into thin julienne strips and mix it in with a handful of your favourite steamed veg
  • Or try roasting different veg and adding your favourite seasoning e.g. chilli, Cajun, fresh herbs, BBQ seasoning
  • Puree vegetables and add to your favourite tomato sauces and stews
  • Blitz either butternut squash, peas, broccoli, spinach and kale and add to your favourite risotto or pasta dish
  • Make pasta bakes with wholegrain pasta, you’re less likely to notice the difference when the pasta is cooked in sauce.