Promoting healthy eating habits and behaviours from a young age is crucial for a child's developmental trajectory and lifespan.
A healthy diet of nutritious foods provides the essential fuel needed to support childhood development. Along with physical activity it is also pivotal in preventing childhood illness' and health problems such as diabetes, dental disease and obesity.
Healthy meals should include a wide range of fresh ingredients from the five food groups every day. Processed and foods high in sugar, salt and trans fats should only be consumed occasionally.
Water is often replaced for sugary drinks such as flavoured milks, sodas and juice. Encouraging water with meals, before, during and after physical activity and when thirsty ensures every cell in your body is able to function effectively. It is recommended a child aged 5-8 should drink 1L per day and a child 9-13 should drink 1-1.5L per day.
Below are a few trips and tricks to help you and your kids maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle!
Click on the images below for healthy recipes your kids will love!
1. Maintain good eating habits
Good eating habits start through education and ensuring you know what healthy eating means! Share the responsibility with your child and help them listen to their internal hunger and fullness cues.
2. Keep it consistent & portion food
Ensure your child eats three meals per day, with healthy snacks and eats a variety of foods as seen above. A child will stop eating when full, so don't expect them to always finish their plate! If you have any concerns with weight and or malnourishment, please refer to a GP, paediatrician or dietician.
3. Don't ban foods
Banning specific foods only makes kids want them more! When kids get a taste of something 'forbidden,' they tend to overindulge and may develop a negative relationship with food later in life.
4. Don't offer foods as a reward
A common error is using food as a reward. It is a habit that is difficult to break and undermines the healthy eating habits you're trying to teach your kids. It promotes the perception that 'treat foods' are better than healthy options.
5. Involve them in food choices
Give your children choice with foods so they feel they are part of the decision, such as " Do you want rice or noodles?." Asking an open ended question such as "What do you want for dinner" provides opportunity for them to choose unhealthy choices.
6. Ensure a 5 food group diet
Click on the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating to find out more!
7. Make cooking and eating enjoyable/be creative
Promote your kids help in the kitchen! Ask your kids to plan some weekend cooking ideas or design a menu to make food more enjoyable. If you have a child who struggles to eat a particular food, shape it to make a picture on their plate! Be creative.
8. Offer and re-offer: keep trying foods
Children will eat what they need- they may eat a little in one meal and lots in another. At times they may refuse a certain food altogether. Remember, its important to re-try this food at a later time and not limit this food entirely.
9. Lead by example
Children observe your eating habits! Eating patterns develop in early social interactions surrounding feeding. Parents select the foods in the family diet, serve as models of eating that children learn to emulate and encourage culturally appropriate eating patterns and behaviours for their children.
10. Ensure appropriate eating tools:
Observe how your child eats. What is their posture like? Are they experiencing any difficulty feeding? Do they look comfortable? Are they at the correct height? It may be that they need equipment such as a non slip mat under their plate, a scooped plate, an angled spoon or a supportive chair. Posture whilst eating is crucial and if you have any concerns, talk to your
GP / paediatrician or a dietician.