Active, growing children require good nutrition to build healthy bodies and to help them be the best they can be. Many attitudes towards food are
shaped during early school years, forming the basis for future eating habits. As parents we can help our children build healthy foundations by encouraging a love of good food and good nutrition throughout these years. Around the time your child starts school, he or she will suddenly start growing very quickly and becoming more active. Children need a lot more energy and nutrients for their body size than adults. In this section we are providing useful information for a better health of your kids.Healthy eating can stabilize children’s energy, sharpen their minds, and even out their moods. While peer pressure and TV commercials for junk food can make getting kids to eat well seem impossible, there are steps parents can take to instill healthy eating habits without turning mealtimes into a battle zone. By encouraging healthy eating habits now, you can make a huge impact on your children’s lifelong relationship with food and give them the best opportunity to grow into healthy, confident adults.
Developing healthy eating habits
Children develop a natural preference for the foods they enjoy the most, so the challenge is to make healthy choices appealing. Of course, no matter how good your intentions, it’s always going to be difficult to convince your eight-year-old that an apple is as sweet a treat as a cookie. However, you can ensure that your children’s diet is as nutritious and wholesome as possible, even while allowing for some of their favorite treats. The childhood impulse to imitate is strong, so it’s important you act as a role model for your kids. It’s no good asking your child to eat fruit and vegetables while you gorge on potato chips and soda.
A healthy eating pattern
An eating pattern that includes a variety of foods from across the food Food & Fitness of Growing Kids Zyro 31 Food & Fitness groups will provide children with the range of nutrients and fuel they need. This means:
Eating plenty of vegetables, legumes and fruitsEating plenty of cereals (preferably wholegrain), including bread, rice, pasta, and noodles
Including lean meat, fish, poultry and/or alternatives
Including milk, yogurt and cheese (reduced-fat varieties are not suitable for children under 2 years)
While the occasional ‘extra’ foods such as lollies, chips and take away foods are ok, if eaten too often they may result in poor intake of nourishing foods and an increased risk of becoming overweight, as well as an increased risk of tooth decay.To be their best, children also need to be well hydrated. Children should be encouraged to drink water. Try to limit sweetened drinks such as soft drinks, cordials and fruit juice. If consumed in large amounts they can contribute to issues such as excess weight gain and tooth decay. As an alternative, a glass of milk is a nutritious drink that will contribute to the recommended three serves of dairy a day to make sure they get the calcium their growing bones need.
Being physically active is important for growing bodies too. In Australia, 23% of children are overweight or obese. Encouraging an active
lifestyle along with a balanced diet is the best way to ensure a healthy weight. Australia’s Physical Activity Guidelines for 5 to 12 year olds recommend:
- at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. This could be running, swimming, dancing or a type of organized sport such as football or netball or just active play, and
- not more than two hours screen time (television, computer or electronic games) a day
- Be active with your children and include physical activity in family outings and as part of your daily life
Best Foods for Kids
- Optimal Oatmeal:
A fabulous breakfast food, full of B vitamins, iron, zinc and calcium. Oatmeal offers quick energy for busy kids. Eating sweet and sticky foods frequently between meals causes dental decay. Snack foods, such as cakes, biscuits, chocolate and sweets, are often high in sugar and saturated fat, and low in vitamins and minerals.
Eggs are a great source of protein and a host of other nutrients, including the B vitamins, vitamin E, and zinc to name a few
- Nuttin’ Better:
Nut butters are great fast foods for kids. Kids need the fat (it’s a good fat if it doesn’t have hydrogenated oils mixed in it) and they need the protein. And while peanuts can be problematic and even life threatening to allergic kids, other nut butters may be okay (but definitely check with your doctor first).
- Culture Club:
Kick your child’s milk consumption up a notch and include yogurt on the menu. A great source of calcium, yogurt is easier to digest than regular
milk and the cultures (check the label to make sure they’re in there!) are very beneficial to good colon health… especially if your child has been on antibiotics.
Fish, because fish is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals and it is low in saturated fat. Oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon and sardines, also contain omega 3 fatty acids. Aim for at least two portions of fish a week. You can give boys up to four portions of oily fish a week, but it’s best to give girls no more than two portions of oily fish a week. This is because oily fish can contain low levels of pollutants that can build up in the body over the years. For girls, in the future, this could affect the development of an
- Tree Cheers!
Broccoli is one of the best vegetables for anyone, especially growing kids due to its calcium content and a whole host of other nutrients, such as potassium, betacarotene, and B vitamins
- Terrific Tubers:
Sweet potatoes contain 30mg beta-carotene per cup. And with 3 grams of fiber per serving, sweet potatoes deserve a place at the table.
Milk, margarine with added vitamins, green leafy vegetables and carrots – these are all good sources of vitamin A, which is important for good vision and healthy skin. Growing kids need protein to keep growing. Good choices include legumes, beans (combined with a grain to make a complete protein), soy products like tofu, or meat, fish or poultry.
- The Whole Truth:
The best nutrition is found in the whole grain. Brown rice and whole wheat bread are a quantum leap over their white counterparts and offer necessary fiber, minerals and vitamins.
- Fruit and vegetables:
We should all be eating at least five portions of a variety of fruit and veg every day. Try giving your child fruit and veg as snacks between meals, as well as part of main meals. Include salad and vegetable sticks (such as carrots, celery, cucumber and pepper) in your child’s packed lunch. Give your child fresh fruit or some chopped fruit salad Orange juice is full of vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium, folate and zinc. You can buy calcium fortified orange juice too! Dried fruit, such as raisins or dried apricots, can be a good extra for a packed lunch. But the sugar in dried fruit can damage teeth, so it’s best not to eat it frequently between meals. Vitamin C, beta-carotene, bits and pieces of B vitamins and trace minerals and calcium fill every juicy bite.
How much salt should one child is having?
Some salt is found naturally in most foods so there is no need to add salt to your child’s food. If you’re buying processed foods, such as pizzas, pre-packed sandwiches, soups, sauces or ready meals, even those aimed at children, remember to check the information given on the labels to choose those with less sodium (because it’s actually the sodium in salt that can lead to health problems). It’s important for children not to have too much salt because this could affect their health in the future. The maximum amount of salt children should be having varies according to how old they are:
- 4 to 6 years – no more than 3g a day (1.2g sodium)
- 7 to 10 years – no more than 5g a day (2g sodium)
- 11 years upwards – no more than 6g a day (2.4g sodium)
Top tips to promote healthy childhood eating
Have regular family meals. Knowing dinner is served at approximately the same time every night and that the entire family will be sitting down together is comforting and enhances appetite. Breakfast is another great time for a family meal, especially since kids who eat breakfast tend to do better in school.
Cook more meals at home. Eating home cooked meals is healthier for the whole family and sets a great example for kids about the importance of food. Restaurant meals tend to have more fat, sugar, and salt. Save dining out for special occasions.
Get kids involved. Children enjoy helping adults to shop for groceries, selecting what goes in their lunch box, and preparing dinner. It’s also a chance for you to teach them about the nutritional values of different foods, and (for older children) how to read food labels.
Make a variety of healthy snacks available instead of empty calorie snacks. Keep plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grain snacks, and healthy beverages (water, milk, pure fruit juice) around and easily accessible so kids become used to reaching for healthy snacks instead of empty calorie snacks like soda, chips, or cookies.
Limit portion sizes. Don’t insist your child cleans the plate, and never use food as a reward or bribe