By Adele Ghraiche
BAppSc (Naturopathic Studies)
PGradDip ( Naturopathy)
As a parent you nurture, guide, discipline and teach your child values and qualities which forms who they become as a person. With an alarming 25 per cent of Australian children being classified as overweight or obese1, teaching your kids positive eating behaviours during childhood can set them up with healthy eating habits for life.
So as a parent what can you do? Whether you have a toddler or a teen, here are strategies
to improve nutrition and encourage smart
- Having regular family meals
- Serve a variety of healthy foods and snacks
- Ensure your child is having breakfast
- Involving kids in the meal making process
1. Having regular family meals
Family schedules can be hectic so making the time for family meals allows you as a parent to not only catch up with your kids but can allow your children to pick up good habits such as sitting down to eat a meal. This is a habit, which you would want to promote. Focusing on a meal allows your child to be less distracted therefore promoting satisfaction with their meal so your child is less likely to overeat and snack later on.
Family meals also promote healthy eating, a child sitting at a table is more likely to eat vegetables and grains and less likely to snack on unhealthy foods.
2. Serve a variety of healthy foods and snacks
The old saying ‘you are what you eat’ can also be applied to ‘you are what you buy’. Kids, especially younger ones, will eat mostly what’s available at home. Ensuring you have healthy snacks available in the household not only reduces the amount of unhealthy eating in the household but also promotes healthy eating.
Making small changes in your children’s snacks can make a big difference. A good start is to slowly introduce whole foods in their diet. For example, replace white bread with wholemeal bread, potato chips with rice crackers, fruit drinks with water and chocolate with seasonal fruits. Even try and make your own sweet treats for the lunch box, like our Kids beetroot brownie stars on page 22. A lunch box with less processed foods and more whole foods is a great start.
3. Ensure your child is having breakfast
In the morning, your child’s body needs to refuel for the day ahead after going without food for 8 to 12 hours during sleep. This is why breakfast is essential; skipping breakfast can make kids feel tired, restless, or irritable.
There has been extensive research in Australia and overseas which has found that not having breakfast may reduce mental performance. Eating breakfast may aid children in learning, as they are able to pay better attention and are more interested in learning. So ensure your child is not skipping breakfast and is having a nutritious meal for breakfast daily. So, why not start your child’s day off with a nutritious breakfast for more energy and better attention levels?
4. Involving kids in the process of making a meal
Most kids will enjoy deciding what to make for dinner or what to have for a meal. However if they were to decide on a meal, which is not appropriate, it does not mean you have to consider it.
Talk to them about making choices and planning a balanced meal. Some might even want to help shop for ingredients and prepare the meal. In the kitchen, select age-appropriate tasks so kids can play a part in this and at the end don’t forget to praise the chef.
Healthy eating for your children does not have to be a battle. Remember you’re the person who will have the most influence in your child’s life. Your nutritional decisions are the ones they will most likely continue with.
Reference: 1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2012. Australia’s food & nutrition 2012. Cat. no. PHE 163. Canberra: AIHW.