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Children from about one year of age need to be offered the opportunity to eat five times a day.  So parents or carers need to offer breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. Morning and afternoon tea are just as important as breakfast, lunch and dinner, in making sure your child gets the nutrition they need.

To ensure that each meal you are offering will fill them up till the next meal, include foods that contain protein, fat and carbohydrate at each meal. They may not eat all of what you have offered but you have given the chance to get the nutrients they need and to satisfy their appetite. Appetite varies from meal to meal, so you can’t expect your child to eat the same amount at every meal. However, you can trust that they will eat as much or as little as they are hungry for at each meal. You can always keep what they haven’t eaten for another meal rather than throwing food out.

It’s tempting to give your child food when they ask for it. However if they are ‘snacking’ between mealtimes they will not be hungry for the next meal that you have planned. Even if they haven’t eaten much at the previous meal it is OK to say ‘we’ll be having afternoon tea soon’ rather than giving them a ‘snack’ such as crackers or some other ‘easy’ food. I’m sure you want them to come to the next meal hungry so that they are more likely to eat the foods that you have prepared.
It’s quite remarkable that children know how much food energy (calories or kilojoules) they need. Many studies have shown that this is the case. Of course, like you and me, they will sometimes eat more than they are hungry if they like a particular food. However, they will eat less at the next meal.

Here are some suggestions to try for morning and afternoon tea

  • pikelets and yogurt
  • fruit smoothie
  • melted cheese on toast
  • vegetable sticks and homous or cream cheese
  • crackers and cheese
  • fresh or canned fruit and custard
  • raisin toast and milk
  • fruit and yogurt
  • celery filled with peanut butter or cream cheese and milk
  • pizza sauce and cheese melted on English muffins
  • scones and a glass of milk with Milo
  • crackers with dip such as homous, avocado mashed with lemon juice and yogurt
  • bowl of soup and bread
  • fried rice and a glass of milk
  • leftover pasta with cheese
  • baked beans on toast

Each of these meals includes protein, fat and carbohydrate.

Remember that children have small tummies, so offer small amounts – you can always add more if they want more.

Eve Reed is a leading paediatric dietitian. She started Family Food Works to support parents to take the stress out of  feeding their children. For more information Contact Family Food Works