The tips below will help you choose healthy food for kids – big and small
- Stock the pantry and fridge with healthy foods only – Children have very little willpower and if biscuits and chips are in the cupboard they will choose those before healthier options.
- Replace sugary soft drinks and juices with water – Remember it’s not just fat, sugar can also lead to weight gain. A two litre bottle of soft drink has 43 teaspoons of sugar, while one 375ml can has around nine teaspoons.
- Avoid takeaway foods which are high in saturated fat – A meal from a well-known hamburger joint can contain as much as 80g of fat. The key is everything in moderation. A takeaway once a month is fine, but it should not be a daily or even weekly routine.
- Don’t overfeed your kids – When serving up meals remember their stomach is much smaller than yours. You should be able to see the difference between your serve and theirs. Don’t ever force them to eat everything on their plate. Let them recognise the signs of feeling full.
- Keep a plentiful supply of healthy snacks – Muesli bars should contain at least 3 grams of fibre per par. Always check labels as prepackaged food can be high in saturated fat, sugar or salt. Allocate a baking day once a month and make healthy my muffins, pikelets and low-fat corn chips. Fresh fruit, high-fibre cereal, yogurt and rice crackers are all good snack choices, while homemade mini pizzas or jaffles are great for hungry teens.
- Pack them a healthy lunchbox each day – Choose multigrain or wholemeal bread for sandwiches as they are lower in GI and have more fibre. Healthy fillings include leftover lean meat, low-fat cheese, egg, tuna and salad. Avoid supermarket spreads as they will not keep children feeling full for very long and offer little nutritional value.
- Get crafty with fussy eaters – If your child won’t eat vegetables, make recipes that hide them, such as my Macaroni Beef from book 1. The carrot and zucchini are grated and therefore well camouflaged. Some children are happy to eat raw vegetables instead of cooked ones, so encourage this.
- Make sure they get a healthy start to the day – Eating a good breakfast kick starts your metabolism and boosts energy and concentration. High fibre cereals, eggs, cheese on toast, bacon short cuts and baked beans are all good choices. My favourite cereals are Weet-Bix, All Bran, Sultana Bran, Vita Brits and porridge because they are high in fibre, and low in sugar and salt.
- Be the boss – Don’t let your child dictate what they want to eat. Given a choice, a child will probably pick a hamburger and fries for dinner as opposed to roast chicken and vegetables. Don’t have an open pantry policy – insist that children ask for food instead of helping themselves.
- Never tell a child they are fat, even if in jest – Little comments like ‘don’t eat that’ or ‘you’ll get fat’ can lead a child into an eating disorder so please think before you speak. Unless your child is obese never put them on a diet, just give them healthy choices and as they grow they will balance out.
A final word on healthy food for kids
Choosing healthy food for kids can seem daunting when the media continually bombards us with unhealthy options. Food labelling can leave a bit to be desired too, spruiking healthy ingredients on the front of the box but the nutritional panel tells the real story. If nothing else, look at the first three ingredients, if one of those is sugar you might want to put the item back on the shelf.
Try not to get too overwhelmed, just do the best you can to feed them healthy choices and hopefully, this style of eating will become a way of life for them when they’re adults.
And… if you’re not sure how much food your child should be eating, grab a copy of my Healthy Kids R Happy Kids eBook where I discuss this in more detail.