The ABCs of healthy diets


A kid’s guide to improving nutrition

We choose the food we eat based on many different things: the time we have to cook or eat it, what others eat, the occasion, our culture or religion, what we like or dislike and our knowledge and cooking skills. ©FAO

26/07/2019

Every creature on earth – including us – needs food to live and grow. Food is important because it gives us the energy and nutrients we need to lead healthy and active lives. Because we need food to survive, it’s one of our basic human rights. Every one of us should always be able to get the food we need to lead healthy and active lives. 

Aside from getting enough exercise and drinking enough water, a very important part of being healthy is having a good diet. A healthy diet means eating enough nutritious, safe and varied food every day so that you can grow and live an active life (run, play, learn, grow and climb trees). 

The food we choose to eat is based on many different things: the time we have to cook or eat it, what’s easiest to eat, what others eat, the occasion, our culture or religion, what we like or dislike, our habits, and our knowledge and cooking skills too. But two very important things help us to decide what we eat: how much it costs and how easy it is to find.

We all have a role to play in keeping ourselves (and our planet!) healthy. ©FAO

Being healthy is everyone’s responsibility – including yours! Here are the different ingredients, or main food groups, that make up a healthy diet.

1. Fruits and vegetables give us vitamins, minerals, fibre and natural sugars. You should eat as many seasonal fruit and vegetables as possible every day.

2. Cereals are everything made from wheat, rice, oats, maize, barley or other grains. They are called ‘staple’ foods as they are eaten every day. They contain carbohydrates, which are your main source of energy.

3. Tubers and plantains include potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, cassava, and malanga, and they too are a source of carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Plantains (like bananas but not very sweet) are also an important staple food in many countries.

4. Legumes and nuts are crucial sources of proteins. They come from plants, cost less than other protein-rich foods, are high in fibre, low in fat, and have other key minerals and vitamins.

5. Dairy products are all made from milk (cow, goat, sheep, buffalo, camel, yak, horse and even moose) and include milk, cheese, yoghurt, curd, and buttermilk. They have plenty of calcium, protein and fat.

6. Meat, fish and eggs contain iron and proteins, which are what make you strong and help to fix your body when you get hurt.

7. Fats and oils help our bodies to stay healthy, but only if they’re the right kind. Choose vegetable oils, nut butters and avocado over fats in meat, butter, cream, or palm oil, and avoid fried or processed foods high in unhealthy fats. 

There’s more to a healthy life than just the food you eat – you also want to drink lots of water and get plenty of exercise. ©FAO

You, your parents, your teachers, friends and anyone you know can do something to make sure you eat a healthy diet and lead a healthy life. Here are just a few tips on how to start changing your eating habits. 

  • Follow the one-third veg rule - Try filling a third of your plate with veggies each meal, or maybe eating an all-veggie meal once a week. Focus on eating fresh fruits and vegetables, especially those that are grown locally and organically.
  • Help out in the kitchen - Watch and learn as your parents cook meals, and offer to help in the kitchen when you see that they’re tired. There are plenty of easy, quick and healthy recipes on the internet to inspire you. Go to your local markets and ask your parents to buy local, seasonal fruit and vegetables and to choose fresh over preserved or tinned foods. Did you know? Organic farming helps our soils to stay healthy!
  • Get involved at school - Good nutrition doesn’t stop at home. If you have a school cafeteria or vending machine, look at the food they provide and see if there are enough fruits and vegetables. If not, talk to your teachers about changing the food choices. 
  • Be a critical consumer - Take time to read the list of ingredients on a label and try to identify those that aren’t good for you. You need to pay attention to the nutritious value of food, not what it looks like, or how cool the packaging is. And look out for words like ‘zero’, ‘low in’ and ‘light’. They’re often used to make food sound healthier, and it isn’t always true! Don’t let the packaging fool you!

By learning which foods are good for us – as well as for the environment – we can make sure that we’ll have enough resources for a happy, healthy and a #ZeroHunger future. 

Want to get involved? If you are between 5-19 years old, design a poster and enter the World Food Day Poster Contest by 8 November 2019!


Learn more:

2. Zero hunger, 3. Good health and well-being