Providing a balanced diet is not difficult. Just ensure that the three main meals include foods from all the main food groups and that the snacks between meals are nutritious and low calorie.
Principles of menu planning Menu planning is the most important step in ensuring that your children are getting nutritionally adequate meals for their growth and development. A step–by–step process to plan good menus includes five basic principles:
Strive for balance Meals should be nourishing and appealing as well as tasty. Different flavours in a menu should be balanced to form a winning combination. Too many mild flavours may make a meal too bland, and too many strong flavours may make a meal unacceptable. You should also balance the content of fats and sweets for your children. Avoid having many higher fat foods in the same week. Use low–fat side dishes to balance a main dish with a higher fat content.
Emphasise variety Serving a variety of foods from the four main food groups is important. Each group offers essential nutrients. A variety of foods make meals interesting and appealing. Avoid repeating the same food items on consecutive days.
Add contrast Strive for contrast in texture, flavour and methods of preparation. Avoid having too much of the same type of food in the same meal. A lunch with too many starches or too many sweets lacks contrast as well as balance. Cut the vegetables in different sizes and shapes to provide a pleasing combination of cubes, mounds, shredded bits and strips.
Think about colour Try and use colour combinations that blend together well, and strive for contrast and maximum colour presentation. A good rule of thumb is to use at least two colourful foods in each menu. Remember that vegetables and fruits are great for adding natural colour to a meal.
Consider eye appeal Foods with eye appeal will be accepted well by your children. Make sure what you serve looks as good as it tastes. Think of the total presentation – consider the colour of the dishes, plates or trays to be used as well as the colours of the food. It is also important to arrange the food on the table in an attractive way.