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Healthy eating guidelines

Healthy eating guidelines

Your body needs lots of different nutrients to stay healthy. That means eating a variety of foods from each of the main food groups.

The Food Pyramid is designed to make healthy eating easier. It shows the different food groups and how much of each we need to have a healthy diet. Eating the right amount from each food group is called eating a "balanced" diet.

Eating well is important for all of us. In the short-term, it can help us to feel good, look our best and stay at a healthy weight. In the long-term, a healthy, balanced diet can reduce our risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers.

For adults, teenagers and children aged 5 and over | For children aged 1 to 4



New healthy eating guidelines for children aged 1 to 4

Children need lots of different nutrients to stay healthy. The amounts of food a young child eats changes every day and at every meal depending on their needs. Taller, older children and children who are more active will eat more.

It is important to use your child’s appetite to help you decide how much food to offer them. The Children’s Food Pyramid is designed to help you decide what foods and how much to offer them.

This pyramid organises food into five main shelves - a shelf for each food group.

What's on each shelf of the pyramid?

There are seven key messages that will help us all building good eating habits for children.

  1. Healthy eating habits last a lifetime - Parents should eat a variety of healthy foods at home to lead by example and instill healthy eating habits from an early age. Happy Healthy Mealtimes
  2. Small servings for small tummies - Children aged 1 – 4 years old should be given 3 small meals and 2 to 3 healthy snacks a day. Some examples of portion sizes | Healthy snack ideas
  3. Milk is essential - Offer your child 3 servings of milk, yogurt or cheese every day.
  4. Limit treat foods - To avoid childhood obesity, you should only allow your child tiny amounts of foods high in fat, sugar or salt just once a week.
  5. Forget fizzy drinks - Fizzy drinks and some cordials can damage your child’s teeth. Offer them water or milk instead.
  6. Stick to a routine - Start every day with a healthy breakfast and stick to regular times for meals and snacks.
  7. Top up vitamin D in winter - Young children should be given 5 micrograms of vitamin D every day from Halloween (31 October) to St Patrick’s Day (17 March). More information about Vitamin D

Get the booklet: A Visual Guide to The Children's Food Pyramid

Daily meal plans for children aged 1 to 4.

Meal Plan Age 1 | Meal Plan Age 2 | Meal Plan Age 3 | Vegetarian Meal Plan Age 3 | Meal Plan age 4


The Food Pyramid for adults, teenagers and children aged 5 and over

The Food Pyramid organises food into five main shelves - a shelf for each food group. The most important shelf is on the bottom and the least important on the top. 

The Food Pyramid

Click to enlarge

What's on each shelf of the food pyramid

  • Vegetables, salad and fruit - Eat plenty of these, up to seven servings a day.

  • Starchy foods - Have wholemeal cereals and breads, potatoes, pasta or rice with each meal. Wholegrain is best.

  • Dairy - Have some milk, yoghurt and cheese. Choose reduced-fat or low-fat.

  • Meat and alternatives - Have some meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts. Choose lean options and have fish at least twice a week – one being oily.

  • Fats, spreads and oils - Have small amounts and choose unsaturated or reduced-fat options.

  • We call these 'treats' - foods that have high amounts of salt, fat and sugar. This is the least important shelf. Have a treat once or twice a week. 

You don’t have to get the right balance at every meal. It's fine if you balance it out over the whole day or even a week.

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