Your pregnancy and baby guideYoung children and food: common questions

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What are healthy snacks for young children?

You could try:

  • raw vegetable sticks, such as cucumber and carrots, on their own or with hummus
  • a piece of fruit
  • a plain yoghurt with a sliced banana in it
  • a slice of toast with cheese spread, hummus, peanut butter or a slice of ham
  • some crackers, breadsticks or unsalted rice cakes with cheese and vegetable sticks
  • a bowl of unsweetened cereal with whole milk

What can I pack in my child's lunchbox when they go to nursery?

Good sandwich fillings include canned tuna or salmon, hummus, hard or cream cheese, ham, egg or peanut butter.

For egg and peanuts, see advice on food allergies in babies and young children.

You could also pack a few vegetable sticks, such as carrots, peppers or cucumber, as well as a container of bite-sized fruit – for example, a peeled satsuma or washed seedless grapes cut in half length ways. A box of raisins is fine if eaten alongside their lunch.

Examples of healthier sweet options include a yoghurt, fromage frais, a scone or a currant bun. If you include a fromage frais or yoghurt, do not forget a spoon. A piece of kitchen towel is also useful.

You can give water or whole milk in a leak-proof beaker.

If lunchboxes are not kept in the fridge at nursery, use an insulated box with an ice pack to keep food safe and cool.

Always check with your nursey for any food policies (for instance, some nurseries may be peanut or nut free). If your child has a food allergy, make sure to tell their nursery or childminder.

Read more about healthy lunchboxes.

I've heard that high-fibre foods are not suitable for young children. Why?

Fibre is an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. But foods that contain a lot of fibre (such as wholemeal bread and pasta, brown rice and wholegrain breakfast cereals) can fill up small tummies, leaving little room for other foods.

This means your child can feel full before getting the calories and nutrients they need.

It's good for your child to try different kinds of starchy foods, but do not give only wholegrain or high-fibre foods before your child is 5 years old.

My child will only drink sugary drinks. What can I do?

Drinking sugary drinks increases the chance of tooth decay. If your child will only drink sugary drinks, it can take a while to break the habit.

Start to dilute the drinks with water, increasing the amount of water gradually over time, so the change is not too noticeable to them.

Water and whole milk are the best drinks for toddlers. See drinks and cups for babies and young children  for a list of other healthier drinks.

Am I entitled to any benefits to help me buy healthy food for my child?

You may qualify for Healthy Start vouchers if:

  • you have children under 4 and get benefits, like income support
  • you're at least 10 weeks pregnant and get benefits, like income support
  • you're pregnant and under 18

For more information, visit the Healthy Start website, where you can find out if you qualify for vouchers.

If so, you can apply online for Healthy Start vouchers, or get an application form from your GP surgery, midwife or health visitor.

You can also call 0845 607 6823 if you'd like one sent to you in the post.

Further information

Page last reviewed: 04/10/2019
Next review due: 04/10/2022