Food and health

​​About food and health

This page contain simple ideas to help children learn about food and how this might affect their health.

As your child or young person matures and becomes more independent about their food choices they will learn about the many factors that can influence the choices they make.

These include: cost, peer pressure, media, advertising, religious beliefs, culture and availability of foods due to the season. Young people will explore current ethical issues such as fairly traded goods and organic produce.

These activities will help them to become better informed consumers.

Early years

Note: Children in their early years and Primary 1, as well as some older children, will be working at the Early level of Curriculum for Excellence. Find out more about curriculum levels.

  • Plant some seeds and try growing some vegetables or fruits. Get your child to water the plants, take some photographs as the plant grows. Talk about the things that help a plant to grow. Talk about the reasons for washing hands after working in the garden/vegetable bed and before we start working with food in the kitchen or eating.
  • Let your child help prepare fruit and vegetables for snack or meals. Encourage them to try little bits of the foods they are preparing – put little bits into a small container for them to eat when they have finished. Talk with your child about where the food comes from, how it got to the shop, the colours, textures and tastes of foods.
  • Encourage and support your child to brush their teeth properly. Find out how much toothpaste to use and how to brush. Your child may be taking part in tooth brushing at nursery, ask for some advice if you aren’t sure.
  • Help your child understand why taking care of ourselves is important and that it's okay to have some help to do this if we need it. Talk about how you took care of them as a baby, and all the things they can now do for themselves and the changes that have already taken place.
  • At meal times, ask your child why they think you or another adult has a bigger serving than they do. Talk about the different amounts of food we need as we grow. 
  • Encourage and support your child to wash their hands properly.


First level (approximately P2 to P4)

  • Before putting the shopping away, ask your child if they can identify the foods that are high in fat, sugar or salt. Find out if they know what foods give them energy/build muscle and repair the body/help their bodies to work well and grow.
  • When putting foods away, show your child what goes where on fridge shelves and why. Follow hygiene and safety advice.
  • Encourage your child to make snacks for themselves and friends. For example, help them to work out how much fruit to prepare and which items to serve. Get them to think which drinks to offer and how to prepare and serve these.
  • Look at the labels on fresh foods and see which countries they come from. Find these countries on a map of the world and talk about the journey they have taken to get to your house. Find out with your child what the weather is like in these countries compared to Scotland.
  • Ask your child if the food/toy/item advertised looks anything like the real thing they have seen. What are the differences? Which one looks better? How did they feel about the advert when they saw the real item?
  • Encourage and support your child to wash their hands properly.

Second level (approximately P5 to P7)

  • Try working out a menu for the evening meal for a week, with the help of your child. Use the Eatwell plate to come up with a menu that gives variety and a balance of all the food groups.
  • Using the menu created, go shopping with your child, enlist their help to only buys items that are on the shopping list. Get them to count how many offers they spot for things that are high in fat, sugar or salt.
  • Look at foods sections for baby food/gluten free/vegetarian choices. Find out if your child can find specific foods around the shop that are for babies, gluten free or vegetarian products. Does your child know anyone who would need these foods and why won’t they eat some of the foods you have bought?
  • Experiment with the brands you buy. Select a brand below or above your preferred brand. Have some fun and do a blind taste test together with your child. See if you can detect your favourite brand. Talk about the way it is packaged and advertised, does this influence your buying choice?
  • Explore and celebrate different customs and festivals with your child. Ask them to think of the foods that they associate with significant festivals/events. Find out if they can think of other times that people have specific types of food as part of an event/celebration/ceremony.
  • Read labels, look at packing and watch adverts on television and in magazines/online. What is the purpose of a sell-by date? How much is too much salt/fat/sugar in a product? Where is this information found?
  • Encourage and support your child to wash their hands properly.


Third/Fourth level (S1 to S3)

  • Set your child a challenge to produce a balanced meal for a set number of people, within a set budget and shopping for the ingredients themselves.
  • Ask your child to do a safety check on the contents of your fridge to ensure foods are stored safely.
  • Encourage your child to take notice of the standard of hygiene they can see before consuming food from an unknown source.
  • Set your child a challenge of taking responsibility for planning a family meal suitable for vegetarians/food intolerance/specific allergy.
  • Discuss the latest report on dietary advice/research findings and how this might/might not influence a change in eating habits.
  • Encourage and support your child to wash their hands properly.

Senior phase/post-16

  • Encourage the consumption of a balanced diet by asking for help in preparing meals.
  • Discuss difficulties such as changes in meal times due to studying/work/travel and what your child might do to cope with these and still eat a varied diet. 
  • Encourage and support your child to wash their hands properly.

Related links

Eat Better Feel Better​ -​ can help you make changes to how you shop, cook and eat.

Food Standards Scotland​ - Eatwell Scotland - Lots of information around food and health especially for different ages and stages. There are also interactive games and quizzes.

Childsmile - Parents and carers - This NHS Health Scotland website provides information on caring for your children's teeth.

Take Life On - Healthy eating for kids - Advice on healthy snacks and meals for your child.