It’s all very well for parents to provide healthy food for their children, but is this enough to instill healthy eating for life? As a Dietitian, I believe that parents who set an example of healthy eating to their children, provides a huge advantage of their children choosing a healthy lifestyle as adults . Additionally, by enabling children to take some responsibility in choosing to eat healthy food it becomes even more beneficial. Children, by nature, enjoy being independent and making their own choices. So, by assisting them in understanding basic nutrition and how to make good choices, then they have the skills to make the best healthy choices.
Children need to know that there are FIVE food groups and that these foods will contain specific nutrients necessary for them to grow and develop. These are big concepts for some kids to grasp and so by explaining these concepts in simple terms you will help them understand it better. For example, explain to your children that our bodies are like cars. Cars need to have gas/petrol in the tank before it can move. And so too, our bodies need food and water inside to help us move. There are other ways to explain nutrition to kids:
- Carrots have carotene and vitamin A to help our eyes see.
- Fish has omega-3 oils to help our brains be smart and happy.
- Milk, cheese and yoghurt have calcium and vitamin D to help our bones become strong.
- Bread and cereals have carbohydrate to help give us the energy to play.
- Fruit and vegetables have fibre to help us go to the toilet without hurting.
- Water helps all the vitamins soak into our bodies to help keep us healthy and not sick.
- Bananas have potassium to help our muscles move well.
- Tomatoes, oranges and kiwi fruit have vitamin C to help our bodies fight germs.
- Meat has iron and zinc to help us feel energetic and also helps to fight sickness.
FIVE Food Groups
1. Breads and Cereals
5. Meat, Chicken, Fish, eggs and Vegetarian substitutes
Each of these groups contain their own unique nutrients and representatives from each groups should be eaten each day to obtain a good balance. Within each of these groups are good- and poor-quality choices. It all depends on the quality of the source of the food and also the way the food have been prepared. Obviously, the more processed the food the poorer the quality. Additionally, the more fat, sugar and chemicals are added to the food the poorer the quality. So children need to know this. They need to know that takeaway food that comes in the form of a highly processed hamburger, with fried potato chips and sugary fizzy drink is not going to give their bodies the nutrition it needs to grow, think, play, be happy or healthy. Even though many kids nag parents to get these popular food stuffs, many children often prefer the taste to good home-cooked meals over these highly processed foods.
Also, the occasional takeaway is not a serious problem to health. But try not to say we are getting takeaway for a “special treat”. Sometimes I slip up and say these exact words and then realize that I’ve just placed takeaway food on my children’s list of highly desirable food. These foods can also be referred to as comfort food, so if your child is feeling down and they want a “special treat” to help them feel better, they remember the food we as parents have made special and comforting. Let your home cooking be known as the “special treat”.
When children feel unwell, are hyperactive, have difficulty sleeping, have regular bad moods, or experience other symptoms, often times it can be directly related to what food they have or haven’t eaten that day. This is a good opportunity to discuss how foods can make them feel and that good nutrition will provide better outcomes.
This poster is designed as a discussion prompt. It lists the five food groups, explains the balance, tells you reasons why good nutrition is important, lists how many serves are needed each day, and a “Think” cloud alerting to poor choices.Download Poster
Healthy Eating Plate
It is also a good idea to show your children what healthy eating compared to unhealthy eating looks like. I came across a great visual from NYC government (USA). It shows two plates with the good and bad options. I have changed this graphic slightly only because I disagreed with some of their placements of food. So I moved the fruit juice and the bowl of rice over to the good side. This is because they have nutritional benefits if consumed in moderation. I also covered up yams, simply because we don’t really eat these in Australia. I added sweets, donuts, fruitloops and biscuits to the “don’t eat” side.
The Healthy Plate is exactly what I use to show my clients the proportion of protein, starchy carbohydrate, and fruit and vegetables we should try to aim for. It would be great to discuss with our children the way a healthy plate can be divided up. See if they can identify what food groups are represented whenever a meal is placed before them.
Notice at the bottom of the poster the different ways to show portion sizes using your hand.
Credit Link: NYC.gov
A great idea to help your children begin to take responsibility for their own nutrition is to compile a collection of recipes. Recipes can be placed in a book or folder binder. Encourage your children to collect their own healthy recipes and to cook them. Recipes can be found at your local library, in magazines, on the internet, pinterest, kindle and online bookstores. Don’t forget to hand down recipes from your family and ask for recipes by friends.
Your children could make a start on their recipe folder with some of my recipes. These recipes are our all time favorites and of course I make sure the nutrition in these recipes are sound. If you would like to purchase my recipes, you can do that below:
This Recipe eBook is a collection of 21 recipes that my family just love to make and eat. They are simple everyday meals and snacks. Each recipe is on a single page for your child to insert into their recipe folder. I have written the recipes in a way that is easy for children to follow. Each recipe has a photo to refer to. There are breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack recipes.
To purchase the ebook for $3.95 simply click on the add-to-cart button and pay by PayPal. You will then be redirected to receive instant access to your recipe ebook. Enjoy!
Teaching our children basic nutrition and how to prepare and cook basic, wholesome meals and snacks will hopefully equip them to make wise choices as they get older. I would dearly love to see a new generation evolve with a better understanding of healthy eating and therefore present with less nutrition-related diseases.