School mealsSchool food

Schools are encouraged to provide healthier foods throughout the day to promote a consistent message about healthy eating to children. This means meals and other foods served throughout the day should be nutritious and of good quality. Government regulations guide the majority of schools to provide healthy and balanced meals and healthier snacks with a wider choice of options. See Food Provision for more information on school food.

If you choose to give your child a packed lunch see Healthy packed lunches for healthy ideas and tips. Many schools have introduced packed lunch policies so make sure you are aware of these before you prepare your child’s packed lunch.

 Vegetarian and vegan diets

If your child does not eat much meat or you choose to give your child a vegetarian or vegan diet, it is important to make sure that the diet is varied so that he or she gets all the nutrients for growth and general health.

Energy - Particularly for children on a vegan diet, foods that are nutrient dense may be needed to give them enough energy, protein, vitamins and minerals. You could try avocados, tofu, bananas and nut and seed butters (such as tahini and cashew or peanut butter). For extra energy, you could add vegetable oils or vegan fat spreads to foods.

Protein - Good choices of protein include lentils, beans, soya and soya products, milk, cheese, nuts and eggs and they’ll need 2 to 3 portions of these a day.

Iron - Meat is a good provider of easily absorbable iron so you will need to offer alternative sources to ensure your growing child gets enough. Foods that provide iron include wholegrain cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, beans, lentils, bread, fortified breakfast cereals, dried apricots and figs. Remember vitamin C helps our body to absorb iron from non-meat sources so try to include fruit and vegetables at every meal time.

Calcium - Be particularly careful that vegan children get enough calcium to support their growing bones and teeth. Milk, cheese, yogurt, tofu, some dark green leafy vegetables such as kale all provide calcium. Fortified soya drinks, as well as other dairy alternatives, often have added calcium but remember to check the label.

Vitamin B12 - Vitamin B12 is typically found in products from animal sources. Milk and eggs are important sources of vitamin B12 for vegetarians. For vegans, who eliminate animal products, useful dietary sources include fortified foods such as some fortified breakfast cereals and yeast extracts.

For more information about healthy eating for vegetarians and vegans click here.

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Last reviewed November 2015.