Search the whole site for articles and discussions

View a factfile for a specific condition or supplement

Keep up to date with Nutrition Expert

Mind the gap: Dawn Harper's top tips on children's nutrition

Published Date:

Dawn Harper is a GP specialising in preventative medicine and women’s health. She has a number of columns in various magazines and is here to give us some top tips on children’s nutrition.

There is no doubt that a healthy, well balanced diet is the key to a long and healthy life. Instilling good eating habits in your children while they’re young is one of the best things you can do for their future health.

So, let’s take a look at what constitutes a healthy diet for kids.


The only thing your baby needs for the first six months of life is breast milk.

Formula milk is the alternative and is the only thing that should be used for the first year, after that full fat cow’s milk can be introduced. A toddler needs around 350ml a day of dairy based foods such as milk, cheese or yoghurt as a source of calcium and vitamin A.

Semi-skimmed milk shouldn’t be used until the child is two as it doesn’t contain enough fat. Other milk alternatives such as soya, almond or oat drinks can be given, but avoid rice drinks as these contain arsenic.

Starchy foods

These include bread, cereals, pasta, rice and couscous. In adults, I am a huge fan of including as much wholegrain as possible in the diet, but for children under two you may need to hold back a bit, as wholegrains are high in fibre and may fill your child up leaving no space for other nutrients.


Fish, meat, eggs, beans and pulses are all protein rich foods and children need at least two portions from this group each day. Bear in mind, children under 16 should not eat swordfish, shark or marlin as they contain more mercury than other fish.


Young children, especially those under two, need the energy provided by fat, so don’t use low fat options. Between the ages two and five fat intake can be reduced so that by the age of five, your child is eating the same fat content as you.

Fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and fibre, they are an important part of your child’s diet. Your toddler may be keener on fruit than vegetables because they are higher in sugar, but keep offering as many different types of vegetables as you can and include some fruit and veg in every meal.


Children under six should have no more than 19 grams (five sugarcubes) per day. By added sugar I don’t just mean sugar you might add to cereals, this includes the sugar added to prepackaged foods, so get into the habit of reading labels or use the governments sugarsmart app to help you know just how much hidden sugar there is in the foods you buy. You may find yourself changing your shopping lists!


Be careful with salt intake. Children don’t need any added salt to their food and if you do add salt you will only leave them with a taste for salty food, which could lead to high blood pressure in later life. Try using herbs and spices instead to flavour food.


The Department of Health recommends that all children under six are given daily vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, C, and D. This is because children often don’t have the varied diet of adults and may not get enough vitamins from their diet alone.

Children under six need supplements, but it is also worth considering the addition of a good quality supplement to older children’s diets for peace of mind.

Healthspan’s brand new MultiVitality Children’s Gummy Bears offer all three of these vitamins, and more.


Dawn is a GP specialising in preventative medicine, women’s and family health. She appears regularly on TV and has regular columns in various magazines. More from this expert.

Latest Articles

You may also be interested in:


The benefits of Omega 3

Nutritionist Henrietta Norton explains the many benefits...

Dr Hilary Jones

What is Alzheimers?

Dr Hilary Jones discusses Alzheimer's disease and how...

Dr Sarah Brewer

Arthritis and your nutrition

Dr Sarah Brewer explores how your nutrition can help...


Circulation, Heart Health and Nutrition

Discover how nutrition can help keeping your heart...

No statement or article should be understood as providing treatment advice. If you have a health problem consult your GP and check compatibility of new supplements with your GP or Pharmacist if you are taking any prescription medication.

Nutrition Expert sources the latest information and advice from a range of qualified doctors, nutritionists and coaches. We always endeavour to have the most up to date information possible and publish new content weekly. However with the constant research in this field sometimes some of our older articles can become out of date. If you see anything that you believe needs to be updated please let us know via our Contact Us page