Healthy eating in children… for life
Healthy eating is important for everyone at any age. However, it is particularly important for 0 to 6-year-olds when it comes to growth and development. Healthy eating is vital to maintaining a healthy weight and for optimal immunity and disease prevention.
Healthy eating, combined with daily physical exercise, provides our bodies with the proper nutrition and balance of energy output to help us enjoy life.
By introducing good nutrition and healthy eating habits to your child, you set them up for life and lower the risk from diabetes, heart disease and other potential medical conditions.
Following a nutrition-packed and balanced diet provides lots of benefits:
- Improves behaviour
- Helps with concentration levels
- Less sick days, increasing attendance at centre/school
- Good dental health preventing tooth decay
- More energy
- Better brain development
- Improves memory and cognitive function
- Helps grow strong bones
- Enhances wellbeing
Essential nutrients build strong muscles, bones and teeth, healthy blood, assist with absorbing other vitamins and increase energy. These are:
- Protein: meat, dairy, nuts and legumes
- Carbohydrates: bread, cereals, pasta, rice, potatoes and crackers
- Calcium: Milk, cheese, yoghurt, egg yolks, broccoli, spinach and tofu
- Fats: Full-fat dairy products, meat, fish, nuts and avocados
- Iron: red meat, poultry, nuts, beans and iron-fortified cereals (that aren’t filled with sugar)
- And lastly, but not least, lots of fruit and vegetables – a rainbow balance of each provide so many vitamins and nutritional benefits.
Limit these foods:
- Sugary treats including biscuits, cakes and desserts
- Take-away foods such as burgers, pies, fried foods and pizzas
- Confectionery including lollies and chocolates
- Non-nutritional snacks such as chips
- Ice cream and icy poles
- Cordials and soft drinks
The above-listed foods need to be occasional and celebratory foods, to be eaten only now and again and at birthday parties or on special occasions. These types of food generally have adverse effects on growing and developing bodies and impact concentration and energy levels. They can also contribute to a child becoming overweight and developing other more serious illnesses in later life.
Healthy Eating Tips
How you can help to encourage your child to create a healthy connection with food and develop healthy habits:
- Involve your child in weekly menu plans (let them choose one of their favourite meals) and go shopping together with a list.
- Prepare and cook food together at least once a week, whether it is chopping or stirring.
- Have regular meal times where the family gather to eat at the table each night.
- Cook new recipes together – perhaps include some healthy desserts or homemade ‘take-away’ style foods.
- Serve up foods into funny faces or cut sandwiches into shapes using pastry cutters.
- Have a bowl of fruit within easy reach for snacks either in the kitchen or on the table.
- Don’t keep unhealthy food in the pantry that can be eaten freely, such as chocolate, chips, biscuits etc.
- Offer water or milk to your child instead of flavoured or soft drinks.
- Make sure you eat well as a role model – to encourage imitation of your good habits.
- Explain to your child how to listen to their bodies – making sure they eat enough and not too much. (The 20-minute rule to know if you are feeling satisfied after eating).
- Try not to make your child finish everything on their plate – let their natural appetite decide how much they eat every day.
- Offer different foods where possible to make meals enjoyable. It can often take a number of times of serving up a new food as part of a meal before a child will try it – just be patient.
Overall, don’t let food become a battle – just be aware that it is part of your child’s development and if you have any concerns, check with your local GP. Otherwise, have fun and remember the objective is to just do your best with teaching good habits… you may even learn some along the way for you and the rest of the family.
St Joseph’s Family Services Programs
At our centres, we pride ourselves on providing good nutrition with our chef-made meals and snacks. Our meals are designed in collaboration with Mid North Coast Health & a local dietician. The menus are Munch and Move approved. All meals are cooked by the St Agnes’s Food Services team and prepared/served on site.
Here is an example of our meal plans for a few typical days at our centres:
We incorporate healthy eating and nutrition as well as exercise into our daily programs.
One example of this is from our transition to school calendar. It encourages dental health discussions, healthy eating, nutrition awareness and learning.
This is explored through a range of ways, including books, matching games, involvement in nationwide programs, such as The Big Vegie Crunch and dental hygiene week, programs such as Larry the Lorikeet’s ‘Eat a Rainbow’.
For more information, please contact us.