As the new year begins, one of the resolutions of most parents is to provide a healthier lifestyle for their children, specifically through diet and exercise. Dr. Paloma Gil, endocrinologist and expert nutritionist, tells us the keys to improving the nutrition of the little ones.

“Child and youth nutrition has changed a lot in the last 50 years. This is one of the reasons why “More than 40% of children and more than 20% of Spanish adolescents are overweight or obese,” says the author of the book. Children do eat vegetables (Dome).

And he continues: “Supermarkets and food stores have been filled with pproducts made to catch our attentionto stimulate our gastronomic pleasure, but not always to offer us necessary nutrients. This is especially common among all those foods that are manufactured and advertised for children and young people.”

Girl eating dairy.


In the book, which contains more than 80 recipes, Dr. Gil makes the reader aware of the harm, present and future, to the health of malnourished children and shows, in a simple and easy-to-understand way, what science currently says about how to feed and provide a healthy lifestyle for children.

These are the 15 tips that Dr. Paloma Gil, an expert in child nutrition, proposes to improve child nutrition in this year 2023.

Plan menus based on your needs

Although we are in a time when children eat what they want, we must not forget that it is very important for a child to eat what they need, both in quantity and quality, even if it is not always what they want the most. We as adults know what is good for them, and it is our responsibility to feed them well.

Food is not a reward or a punishment

It is common to reward or pamper children with unhealthy foods and even threaten them with not being able to eat them if they do not behave well or do what we want. In this way, we are encouraging their consumption and making them see these types of whims as something positive and recommended, since we give them as a reward. I am referring to sweets, pastries, sugary dairy desserts and similar ultra-processed products.

Eat as a family and avoid screens

The time of meal is important and for the child the ideal is to eat with his family. It is essential that they do not eat alone while looking at the phone or television. It is a time to pay attention to food, savor food and chat, as well as enjoy a pleasant and relaxed moment.

Preach by example

Our children learn more from what they see than from what we tell them. We cannot expect them to eat healthy if we do not. Therefore, it is important that everyone in the family eats in a similar way, although each one adjusts the quantities and proportions to their needs.

Start the day with energy, not sugar

Let’s forget the breakfasts that have been sold to us for years as ideal for our children with the so-called “breakfast cereals”, made with refined flours, sugars and soluble chocolates with little cocoa. Even fruit juices have more sugar than soft drinks. And the same goes for cookies, muffins and all industrial pastries.

Breakfasts to give energy to children must be nutritious and not ultra-processed. Let’s return to more traditional and much less elaborate alternatives.

Be careful with excess salt

The WHO recommends that children consume less than a teaspoon of salt per day, that is, less than 5 grams per day (equivalent to less than 2 grams of sodium).

Taking into account that many foods already contain sodium among its nutrients, it would be good if meals in houses in general were not salted almost, and even more so if there are children. In addition, most pre-cooked foods, cold cuts or children’s menus, have more salt than recommended.

And you have to be especially careful with the salty snacks that they like so much, such as potatoes, croutons or similar products.

Children do eat vegetables

Antioxidants are substances that slow down the natural wear and tear of our cells and help us prevent diseases. They are mainly found in foods of plant origin. Every day, there is more scientific evidence about the importance of eating vegetables daily. Its consumption is essential for your growth, for your brain development and for your health.

Therefore, it is important that vegetables are part of your daily diet. As I explain in my book Children do eat vegetables, the palate is educated. It is not necessary to force a child to eat something. It is enough to offer it to them every day in different ways to educate their tastes.

More nutritious and less processed snacks

A study recently published in the scientific journal Obesity shows that overweight and obese young people consume higher calorie and lower quality snacks. That is, products rich in refined flours, added sugars and low-quality fats. Therefore, it is important that, like breakfast, children have nutritious and healthy snacks and snacks.

To know food is to love it

Cooking in the company of the little ones and letting them help us when possible, is an excellent way to involve them in their own menus, as well as getting them to know the food, appreciate what is put on the table, and make them want to to try new flavors.

Avoid children’s menus

Going out to eat is an excellent opportunity for them to try new flavors, and to enjoy the company and the food. In general, children’s menus are not usually the best on the menu, and are limited to offering foods that children are supposed to like, even if they are not always the most nutritious. It’s a shame that we think that a child should always eat French fries, breaded chicken or pasta with tomato and minced meat, when there are better and healthier alternatives.

Don’t buy baby food

Supermarket shelves are full of products for the little ones in the house, which are not necessary and, in many cases, their consumption is not recommended. They tend to be products made to please children, but not very nutritious. The little one needs to eat food and not products.

We talk about health, not kilos

Any child should eat in a healthy and balanced way regardless of weight. Foods may be more or less caloric, but what is important is the quality and not the quantity of calories. Any child’s unhealthy indulgences must be limited, regardless of weight. A child should not diet, he should eat well.

Don’t force him to finish the plate

In general, children eat according to their appetite and tastes. The important thing is not that they eat everything, but that they try what is offered to them. If he doesn’t want to finish a plate, don’t force him to do so. Either he’s not hungry or he won’t like it very much. It is important that meal time is not a daily struggle.

If he doesn’t like something, don’t give him another alternative.

Children soon learn the power they have over us at mealtime. Few things are as overwhelming as a child not eating. Therefore, we usually end up giving in to the whims of children and if they don’t like something, we offer them an alternative. This is the reason why in many homes, children eat worse every day.

Don’t throw in the towel before trying

In my clinical practice, I see every day how many parents or family members throw in the towel regarding their children’s nutrition from the first moment. It is assumed that healthy food rich in vegetables is something that our children will reject and we end up making ‘special’ and unhealthy menus for them.

In fact, many children eat better away from home, since they know where they can do, or not, what they want. Therefore, do not give up and feed your child well because good nutrition is one of the best gifts you can give them for their physical and emotional health, present and future.