Change it up. Healthy food swaps for healthy children


It can be a challenging task to keep children away from unhealthy, sugary food. Concerningly, statistics from Public Health England show that while children aged between 4 and 10 should consume the equivalent of 5 to 6 cubes of sugar a day from their food and drink, kids in the UK are consuming an average of 13. Further down the line, this can lead to issues such as obesity, diabetes and poor dental health. Indeed, the Epidemiology Programme for England have found that tooth decay is one of the most common reasons for hospital admissions in children aged 5 to 9.

With this in mind, we’ve put together some simple food swaps to help get your kids eating healthily. In addition to cutting down sugar, salt and fat, these swaps will show kids just how tasty healthy food can be.

Let’s start with Breakfast

  • Many popular children’s cereals contain more than 30% sugar, so swap sugary cereal for plain cereal. You can also try other alternatives such as making your own granola or overnight oats – made more lively with added fruit.
  • Swap whole milk for semi-skimmed, 1% fat or skimmed milk – don’t tell children you’ve made the switch and they’re sure to not notice. Indeed, the occasional white lie can work wonders with these food swaps!

While we’re often told snacking is bad for you, it’s a good idea to have some options for that post-school hunger. Try to swap unhealthy snacks like biscuits or crisps for:

  • Breadsticks and unsalted rice cakes.
  • Unsalted nuts.
  • While it does contain sugar, fruit also contains fibre, vitamins and minerals and is a key way to meet the 5-A-Day.
  • Choose homemade muesli bars over supposedly ‘healthy’ shop bought bars. The latter are often packed with hidden sugar.
  • Swap crisps for plain popcorn – easy and cheap to make at home!

Sweat treats
We all need a treat or a pudding every once in a while. Great swaps for unhealthy desserts include:

  • Low-fat yoghurt – freeze as an alternative to ice cream! Get children excited about eating healthily by encouraging them to ‘customise’ their pudding with fruit or nuts.
  • Sugar-free jelly.
  • Low fat rice pudding.
  • Home-made cakes and biscuits. Making your own puddings will allow you to closely monitor the sugar content, and can also be a great activity to do with the kids.

And to drink?
As the NHS estimates, sugary drinks make up 30% of the sugar present in the diet of UK children, so they are important to target. Even some fruit juices and smoothies marketed at children can be unexpected villains – research suggests that in many cases, one drink carton can contain a child’s entire maximum daily allowance of sugar. Try swapping for:

  • Not a showstopper, I know, but try adding a slice of lemon or orange to make it tastier. Get hold of colourful water bottle emblazoned with a cartoon character that kids will be proud to show off to their friends, a surefire way to get them drinking more.
  • Not only a great healthy option but provides a calcium boost.

Make some of these simple swaps to give your meals a health boost, and get thinking about some other changes you could try. Also, make sure kids are having ‘me-sized’ meals – they shouldn’t be eating the same size portion as Mum and Dad.

  • Swap white rice for quinoa or brown rice.
  • Swap white breads, bagels and muffins for wholegrain.
  • Make your own pasta sauces. The shop-bought variety will all too often have a sugar or salt content that is far too high for children. It’s easy, healthy, and often tastier!
  • Look to use reduced fat cheese where possible.
  • Choose leaner cuts of meat and swap the frying pan for the grill when cooking meat.

Happy swapping!

If you are concerned about your children’s health and wellbeing, contact a medical professional for advice and help.  With the Qured app, you can see a doctor at a time and location of your choice. Download the app today ->