The risk of allergies, obesity, infections, skin conditions and juvenile-onset diabetes may be increased by a poor diet. They also won’t get to learn about how fantastic good food can make them feel, and will fail to develop a taste for healthy options. If you want your children to be strong, content, alert and healthy, it’s essential that they have access to a good diet.
Reducing their risk of developing conditions such as obesity, cancer, diabetes and heart disease, studies have found that proper nutrition in early childhood can have a massive impact on your child’s chances at a long and healthy adulthood. Whether you’re a parent, carer, playgroup leader or teacher, providing healthy meals and teaching what makes a good diet is one of the ways you can protect and support the children you look after.
There are five main strategies you should think about introducing if you want to encourage smart eating habits and improve nutrition, whether your child is a teenager or a tot.
- Serve a variety of healthy foods and snacks.
- Eat family meals as often as you can.
- Eat healthily yourself to set a good example.
- Encourage your children to take an interest in choosing and cooking meals.
- Avoid battles over food.
Grab-and-go convenience food is readily available, and a family’s timetable can be difficult to match up. It’s essential that mealtimes do not become battlegrounds. Eating healthily is not always easy, but if your busy household can make room for these five changes, you’ll be well on your way.
Our hearts and souls are nurtured by the ways in which we eat, while the things we eat feed our physical bodies. Children and the adults that care for them can easily fall victim to nutritional imbalances caused simply by eating the same, limited number of foods week in and week out.
Serve a variety of healthy foods and snacks.
What Do I Feed My Child?
To help your child stay healthy, you’ll need to give them a healthy balanced diet which features foods from each food group so they have access to a wide range of nutrients.
It’s important to provide appropriately sized portions: your child’s appetite will vary depending on recent growth spurts, how active they’ve been that day and their age. If a child is still hungry after they’ve cleared their plate, offer them a small second portion. This is much healthier than starting with a large portion, which can encourage overeating.
Every stage of a child’s development makes fresh demands on their body, be that protein for healing, essential fatty acids to support a growing brain or vitamins for boosting immunity to infection. And that’s only the beginning!
A Healthy Diet Starts with Breakfast
From higher scores on tests to better memories and stabler energy and moods, kids who enjoy breakfast every morning enjoy a wealth of benefits. If weight is an issue in your household, you might even find it easier to shift the pounds if your family eats a breakfast packed with quality protein – such as yoghurt, cheese, meat, fish, eggs, milk or enriched cereal. Remember:
- Breakfast doesn’t need to make you late. If you boil a supply of eggs at the start of the week, you can store them in the fridge and give them to your kids each morning alongside a piece of fruit and some healthy cereal.
- If needs be, your child can take their breakfast on the school run! A pot of cottage cheese or natural yoghurt, peanut butter on whole grain toast or an egg sandwich are all car-safe options. It’s not quite as good as sitting down to a healthy meal, but it’s certainly better than skipping breakfast!
- On your day off, freeze some breakfast burritos filled with cheese, chicken or bacon and scrambled eggs.
Keep in mind that if your child becomes accustomed to breakfast foods that are high in sugar, saturated fats and salt, their risk of poor health both now and when they grow up can be increased. It can be confusing to track down what counts as “healthy” foods, but once you get in the flow of choosing healthy breakfast options it gets much, much easier.
Is My Child Eating Enough?
As a general rule, a child will eat if they’re hungry and stop eating once they’re full up. When comparing a child’s intake to adult portions, it’s common for parents to worry that their young child isn’t eating enough because they eat such small amounts of food. Pay attention to your child’s food choices to keep an eye on their eating patterns.
- Every meal should feature food from each food group. Your child might struggle to get enough nutrients if their meals exclude a certain food group for too long. Try your best not to leave out any food group – but don’t worry if it happens every now and then.
- If your child is growing properly and is a healthy weight for their age and height, they’re most likely getting enough to eat.
- Even within a food group, different foods provide different nutrients. Encourage your child to eat a variety of foods within the food groups by modeling good eating yourself.
Need2Know have some great books about child obesity, and children’s nutrition. Whether your child is newly diagnosed, you’re concerned about their weight or just curious, we have all the information you need!