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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Dinners for children

Ngā kai pai mō ngā hapa o te pō

Meal containing half vegetables, quarter carbohydrates and quarter proteinThe healthy plate model (see the image) is a great guide for creating family dinners.

You can follow this model even if you're making meals such as stir-fries, casseroles and salads by using the 2:1 ratio – twice as many vegetables as protein (meat, chicken and so on).

See the following chicken and vegetable stir-fry example.

Include more vegetables with your dinner by adding grated or diced vegetables to pizza, mince, pasta, hamburgers and casseroles. This makes the meal healthier, and the meat go further.

See Meal planning and healthy recipes for ideas to help you plan and prepare tasty, fast, easy and low-cost meals.

Chicken and vegetable stir-fry example

Serving dinner

Dinner time can turn into a battleground if the focus is on what children eat and do not eat. Do not comment on what children eat and do not eat – talk about their day instead.

Children are born with the ability to know when they're hungry and when they're full. As parents, we need to trust them. Parents are in charge of what, when and where children eat, but children can decide how much.

Some whānau/family like to serve meals family style, laying the dishes in the centre of the table and letting children serve themselves. This gives children control of what they eat and how much. It might seem counter-intuitive but over time, children who eat this way usually start to try different foods on their own – including vegetables.

An alternative to family style dining is for parents to plate up meals. You can plate up meals using your child’s hand as a guide:

If you choose to plate up your child's dinner, it's important to still give them control over what they eat on their plate and how much. If they ask for seconds, that is okay. If they do not touch their peas, that is okay, too. Keep serving it. It can take up to 15 times before our taste buds accept new flavours.

What to do if your child doesn't like vegetables


Desserts such as cake and most types of ice cream are high in fat and sugar. They're best kept as occasional treats.

Fruit makes a healthy and tasty dessert.

Make fruit kebabs by chopping fresh fruit into cubes and putting it onto skewers. Or cut up lots of different fruit to make a fruit salad or a colourful fruit platter.

Try the healthy homemade banana ice cream below.

Healthy banana ice cream (Serves 3 to 4)


4 bananas, peeled, sliced and frozen.


  1. Put the frozen bananas into a food processor and blend until the bananas begin to break into small pieces.
  2. Continue blending until the bananas become smooth and creamy.
  3. Eat straight away or refreeze for later.
  4. If freezing for later, take it out of the freezer a few minutes before using so that it softens.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed September 2021.

See also:

Reading food labels

Stir-fry image courtesy of

Page reference: 298112

Review key: HIHEC-62690