During the year, balancing work commitments and your children’s schooling and other activities, life can get rather hectic. Therefore it is hard to ensure that your children get all their nutrient requirements in their diet. Here are some food tips on how to keep your children happy and healthy.
- Involve your child.A child is also more likely to eat what they help prepare, so encourage them to get involved in simple tasks, for instance making sandwiches. And try to diversify the choices they are allowed to make. This way they are less likely to get bored with their food. Also try to encourage your child to make decisions about what they eat. For instance, ask your child to choose what fruit they may prefer to pack in their lunchbox.
- Start with a good breakfast.Breakfast is an absolute must for children, and preferably a healthy one that includes complex carbohydrates and protein to keep them going. A healthy breakfast is associated with a better attitude towards school, improved memory, concentration, and learning. This also helps prevent hunger and reduces the risk of over-eating later in the day.
- Be organised.Plan your child’s lunches in advance and include the required ingredients in your shopping list. The more organised you are, the better the chances that your child’s lunchbox will be stocked with healthy food, rather than relying on processed foods, or the school canteen.
- Use quality carbohydrates.Include low glycaemic index (complex) carbohydrates in meals. This assists children to maintain their stamina. Such foods include multigrain or wholemeal bread, or you can use a high fibre white bread if your child doesn’t like bread with seeds. Also include other complex carbohydrates such as pasta, rice and potatoes.
- Include lean protein.Use lean meats such as fish (fresh or canned), chicken, and red meats including beef, lamb and pork, with the fat removed. These are preferable to smoked and boiled meats like ham, salami, pastrami, corned beef or devon as these are often treated with preservatives. Oily fish, such as tuna, is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA. DHA provides the building blocks for brain and eye development, health, and function. Other protein alternatives you may include are peanut butter, hummus, and white cheeses such as ricotta and feta.
- Be sneaky, but not too sneakyCut vegetables up really small and put them in a stew, soup or pasta. Line your salad sandwiches with a bit of avocado, hummus or tomato paste or serve some veggies up as a puree. Avoid masking the taste of fruits and veggies, with sugar and chocolate. While it might be a short-term fix, it encourages them to develop a sweet tooth while they are developing the rest of their taste buds. This might make it harder for them as they get older to enjoy anything that isn’t packed with sugar.
- Stay fresh.Try to only use fresh foods in meal preparation. And for your child’s lunches, keep them fresh by wrapping sandwiches in plastic wrap or snap-lock plastic bags. Keep it cool and free of bacteria by freezing drinks such as milk, watered down juice or water and use the frozen drink bottle as an ice brick in their lunch box.
- Limit the “lolly” drinks.Try to provide your children with water or skim milk, and avoid soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit juices or cordial. Unless your child is lean and very active, they don’t need the sugar-loaded empty kilojoules that are contained in these drinks.
- Snack on fruit.Fruit is sweet and tasty, and a much healthier alternative to potato crisps, biscuits, chocolate and lollies. Other fruits that are easy to eat are mandarins, grapes, cherries, apples and pears, or cut and wrap fruit such as oranges, mango, kiwi fruit and pineapple.
- Be creative.Be adventurous with your fruits and veggies; make them look exciting and fun! Experiment with the grater to make carrot strings; help them make a sandwich face using different fruit and veggies. Place fruit on a skewer (sharp ends cut off) or an icy-pole stick, to be dipped into vanilla yogurt. Warm homemade mini pizzas are also a strong favourite. But keep your creativity and designing simple so it can be easily replicated. Otherwise they might start expecting it every meal and refuse to eat a potato because it’s not designed like a spaceship.
Following these tips will help to ensure that your children are living on a balanced diet. A child’s diet is reflected in their behaviour. A child with a poor diet is less likely to develop properly, mentally and physically, and have behavioural problems, with difficulty in learning and concentration. This can lead to other problems later in life.
A balanced diet is the best start and support you can provide for your child’s development.