Cost of living crisis, How to support children’s nutritional needs

In recent years, there has been a steady stream of global events which have had, and are continuing to have a detrimental impact on individuals and families with children. Before COVID-19 and the Ukraine war, we already had seen an increase in food bank usage of 123%.

According to the ONS (Office National Statistics), there are 12.7 million children in the UK. Over a third of these children (an estimated 4.3 million) are living in poverty. These statistics come before the latest wave of cost increases, the energy crisis and all the associated cost implications of our current cost-of-living crisis which look set to make the coming winter months extremely difficult for many.

What does the cost-of-living crisis really mean for children’s health? Put simply, children going hungry has wide-reaching health, wealth and social implications.
When we consider children living in poverty and the associated health issues, we are also potentially forecasting their future health outcomes.

“We could see the first generation of children to be expected to have shorter life spans than their parents if current trends on obesity, nutrition and lifestyle continue.”

Source – The Lancet Volume, 371, Issue 9607.

What can we do?

You are probably feeling the pinch as costs increase as we all know the current stark financial reality felt by many households, with as many as 90% of adults seeing an increase in their cost-of-living.

Source – Children’s society.

When changes need to be made, particularly on menu planning to tie in with increasing food prices, how can we ensure that the overall nutritional balance is not adversely affected?

Cost saving nutrition

It is undoubtedly more expensive to buy healthy food, this is the sad reality. In fact, according to the Food Foundation Broken Plate 2021, “healthier foods are nearly three times more expensive calorie for calorie than less healthy foods”.

When you consider this, it is easy to see how we have such an escalating health and wealth divide in the UK.

It is possible to source nutritious economical foods but it does take some planning. When planning menus, there are several key features to always include whatever the budget. Let’s take a look at what’s needed and how to incorporate these on a budget.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) and children’s brain development

A lot of the energy children consume in the early years goes to building and developing their brains, in fact, 50% of a child’s daily calories are utilised by the brain. The most important nutritional consideration in this brain growth and development is the intake of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). These should be included three to four times a week.

One of the best food sources of EFAs is fish, but many types of fish can be expensive. How can you ensure that you are covering the nutritional needs for brain development on a budget?

Switch from salmon to mackerel. Mackerel is a much cheaper fish making it more accessible but it remains an extremely healthy source of EFAs especially omega 3 fatty acids. As mackerel can be considered a ‘fishy fish’ it will need to be blended and combined with other flavours to make it appealing to young children.


  1. Flake the mackerel fillets, being really careful to remove all bones
  2. Add to a processor
  3. Squeeze in the lemon juice
  4. Add the soft cheese and Greek yogurt and blitz to your desired consistency

This pâté is a great way to get children to eat oily fish, as mackerel tends to have quite a strong fishy taste that can put some children off. This pâté makes it creamy and more palatable to children. Serve on wholemeal toast or with pitta bread with thin cucumber slices.

It is a difficult time for most people and swaps will have to be made but as childhood development depends on the energy and nutrients provided to the brain at this crucial time of life, it’s important that when making economic decisions on the menu, that the nutritional elements remain present.

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