GROWING UP STRONG AND HEALTHY
If you are a parent, chances are that at some point you will be worried that your kids are not eating a balanced diet or not getting enough exercise. But making sure that your children are living a healthy lifestyle is not that hard if you follow a few simple rules.
A balanced diet is crucial to their development. Providing your little (or not so little) ones with a healthy, varied diet with food from all the major food groups gives them a great start in life. However feeding your children is never going to be an exact science – it can sometimes be hard to know what you should be giving to your child and in what quantities. The amounts will vary depending on the age, size and levels of activity of your child.
Here is a rough guide to what your child needs each day
One portion = the amount that can be held in the palm of their hand.
Fruit and vegetables - 5 portions - Essential for a wide range of vitamins and minerals and fibre for healthy digestion.
Carbohydrates - 4 portions - Includes bread, pasta, rice, breakfast cereals, porridge and potatoes - All essential for energy.
Milk and Dairy Foods 2 - 4 portions Includes milk, cheese, and yogurt - Essential calcium for bone building and fats for energy.
Protein - 2 - 4 portions - Includes lean beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, fish, seeds soy roducts and beans - Essential for growth and repair of the body.
So how can you ensure that your child is getting enough from each food group?
Breakfast - It is really important that children get a healthy ‘non sugary’ start to the day. Sugar can be a drainer of energy which can prevent children from concentrating in class – so out go the sugary cereals, pancakes and muffins and in come the ideas listed below Weetabix with milk and fruit – berries or grated apple 1 Soft boiled egg with 2 pieces of wholemeal toast. Porridge with milk and berries.
Snacks - Children need regular healthy snacks to help maintain their energy levels throughout the day – so foods such as fruit, smoothies, nuts and raisins are ideal.
Lunch - A lunch containing wholemeal bread with lean chicken or ham and lots of salad will keep him/her going through the afternoon. Or a pasta salad with lots of tuna, pasta, rocket and pine nuts.
Dinner - And to finish the day, a dinner of chicken casserole or shepherds pie with lots of vegetables is ideal to rebuild energy levels ready for the next day!
And don’t forget the drinks – lots of water and diluted fruit juices are great for building energy levels.
MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR YOUR CHILDREN'S HEALTH
One of the most common mistakes a parent can make when feeding their child is with the quantity given. It is important that children eat the correct portion sizes to prevent obesity in later life. To convert an adult sized portion into an age appropriate size compare your hand with theirs – this is the relative portion size they should be eating - their stomachs are also much smaller than ours so a smaller portion will fill them up.
Feeding them more food won’t make them grow any faster but will lead to fat being stored and many potential problems in later life. Children are often told to ‘finish their plates’ when there may be too much food on there in the first place. It is much better to give them smaller portions to begin with and they eat it all – they can always ask for more if they are still hungry.
If your child doesn’t eat well at meal times it is worth looking at the amount and type of snacks they are having. Good snack choices include dried fruit, fresh fruit, rice cakes, oat cakes, yogurts and milk – filling and healthy. Unhealthy snacks include crisps, chocolate and cakes – not very filling and will leave them wanting more.
All nutrients required for the growing child can be found in the following 5 food groups and should form the basis of your child’s diet.
• Carbohydrate foods, which are essential for energy, form the basis of foods such as wholemeal bread, pasta and rice. 3 servings per day are recommended – ½ a slice of wholemeal/wholegrain bread provides 1 serving for a 1-5 year old and 1 slice of wholemeal/wholegrain bread provides a serving for a 6-12 year old.
• Fruit and vegetables contain lots of vitamins and minerals which are vital for the growing body. A minimum of 5 portions per day is recommended – 1 portion is a child’s handful of berries or ½ - 1 apple. It is really important to start your child eating vegetables at an early age and to lead by example – they are then much less likely to reject them as they get older. Try ‘hiding’ vegetables in a tomato sauce by cooking them as usual and then blending them into a tomato based sauce. Home made soup is another good option – eaten with a slice of wholemeal/wholegrain bread is a very filling and healthy lunch. Try smoothies made with frozen or fresh berries, a banana and some milk for a healthy nutrient rich drink.
• Dairy products are very important for the growing bones. Eat foods such as milk, cheese and yogurts at least 3 times per day. 1 standard sized yogurt or a small to medium sized glass of milk is an ideal portion size. So put the milk in a smoothie, as above, and offer fruit and yogurt as a snack after school as a means of getting dairy produce into your child’s daily diet.
• Meat, fish, eggs, chicken and nuts are essential for your child’s growth and energy as they provide their main source of iron and should be eaten at least 2-3 times per day. A portion size of chicken for a child between 1-3 years old is roughly a 1/3rd of a small breast and for a 4-12 year old between ½ and 1 small breast.
• Fats in the form of healthy oils are also an important source of nutrients – omega 3 oil found in oily fish – (try making fishcakes with a filet of salmon) - and omega 6 found in nuts and seeds should also form part of your child’s diet.