Healthy eating for families

Children grow and develop fast, so they need food to give them the right amount of energy, protein and other nutrients.

Eating the right amount of a variety of good foods can help children grow, learn, and play well. It can also help to reduce their chances of developing health conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer in later life.

You can use the food pyramid to plan meals and snacks for children over 5.

Food pyramid
Food pyramid

How to eat well

What a healthy day looks like

Eating well everyday can sometimes be difficult for busy families. But good habits that children learn in the home will stay with them for life.

What eating well looks for a child like when you use the food pyramid as a guide:

Jakub, an active boy aged 5 who loves being outdoors playing with his friends (PDF, 781 KB, 1 page).

Niamh, a very active 10-year-old, plays GAA and loves to dance (PDF, 955 KB, 1 page).

Recipe ideas

Read the recipe book 101 Square Meals for some simple but tasty meal ideas using everyday ingredients (PDF, 4.18 MB, 119 pages).

Healthy eating for babies

All parents want the best for their baby as they grow. What babies and young children eat and drink is important for their health both now and in the future.

Baby foods: homemade and shop bought

Weaning: starting your baby on solid foods

Finger foods and healthy snacks after weaning

What a healthy school lunch looks like

It can be challenging to create a healthy and interesting lunch that school children will enjoy. Lunches provide around one-third of our daily nutritional needs, so it’s important to put some thought and planning into them.

Get some tips on how to prepare a healthy lunchbox that your child will eat and enjoy (PDF, 1.46 MB, 8 pages).

How to start making healthy changes

Everyday life often gets in the way of making healthy changes. It’s not about being perfect. It's about starting with a change, sticking with it and getting a small daily win. The good habits that our children learn in the home will stay with them for life.

Making small changes to your children's diet and activity could make big differences in their future health. If you’re regularly active and eating healthily, it’s also more likely that your children will be too.

Get some advice on how to make healthy lifestyle changes for your family (PDF, 300 KB, 20 pages).

Knowing if your child is a healthy weight

Lots of children in Ireland (about 1 in 5) are overweight. Many parents don’t know that their child is carrying too much weight. For most children, if they eat more food than their body needs for growth and activity they will gain extra weight. Being overweight as a child can cause health problems later in life.


Ask your GP or nurse to measure your child’s weight and height at your next visit. They will be able to tell you if your child is overweight or obese.

They will use a growth chart to find out whether your child is currently a healthy weight or overweight. If your child is overweight, making changes to what your child eats and how active they are can help get a better balance.

Check your child's body mass index (BMI) on the NHS healthy weight calculator. You can also use this calculator to check your own BMI to find out if you are a healthy weight.

Talking to your child about their weight can be difficult. When talking about weight, it’s important to keep the focus on health.

Page last reviewed: 30 January 2019
Next review due: 30 January 2022