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VARIETY....the spice of life!

The importance of variety in your child's diet

Ensuring variety in your child's diet will not only provide a more nutritious diet and encourage healthy eating habits later (particularly once past the often picky/fussy stage at two years), but also potentially lead to a more healthful diet as an adult.  The essential nutrients we require for growth, development and health are found in varying amounts in a wide range of foods: a diet high in variety will go a long way to ensuring that these nutrients are gained in ideal quantities. 

Because foods within the same food group contain different nutrients, it is important that kids (and us too) consume a variety of food within each food group.  For example, strawberries are rich in vitamin C, whereas bananas are rich in a number of B-group vitamins.  Similarly, red meat provides more iron than other members of the same food group.  Therefore, eating a wide variety of food ensures that you and your children are obtaining the largest possible range of nutrients from your diet.  By selecting a variety of foods each day, over a week and at different times of the year, you as parents are providing a much greater chance of your child obtaining enough of all of the nutrients that their body requires.
In theory this sounds easy, however for adults it can be a challenge, let alone for parents trying to encourage their (increasingly more discerning) toddler to eat a variety of different foods.  Most parents find that at some stage around a child's second birthday, and usually before their third, they begin to move from relative acceptance of foods to rejection.  Exposing your children to a large variety of foods when introducing solids is one of the best ways to encourage acceptance of foods into childhood and beyond.

Ideas for parents on variety:

  • Try alternating cooked with uncooked cereal such as porridge one morning then Weet-Bix the next.
  • Alternate breads including bagels, wholemeal breads, Lebanese, unleavened bread and rye bread.
  • Vary cheeses such as cheddar, Swiss cheese, cream cheese, cottage and ricotta.
  • Fish can be offered as grilled fish, canned fish, fish croquettes, fish fingers as well as varying the variety of fish too.
  • Fruit can be alternated by colour, for example berries such as strawberries, blackberries, blueberries etc, then swap to watermelons such as rockmelon and honeydew; then stone fruit such as peaches and apricots.  Keep in mind that these can be presented fresh or frozen, in smoothies, homemade ice blocks, or blended with yoghurt.
  • Present vegetables as individual vegetables in a variety of ways e.g. kumara chips, pumpkin, swede etc (it is nice to a mixture of these all as chips).  They can also be mashed or grated or eaten alone or added to foods such as frittatas and even scones.
Browse more of Yum Yum Kids articles here.