By Sara Jackson
If you are reading this article, then hopefully you already understand why a good balanced and varied diet is such a crucial key to your child’s well being now and in the future. If you need a little helping hand to get started on a better approach to eating for your family, then here are some simple ideas you can start today.
1. Start with a positive mind-set and the right approach. If you want your kids to enjoy healthier more nutritious foods and exercise, they should see that these things are important to you too, so lead by example. Try to choose a meal you will all enjoy and eat together as a family at least three times a week. I know that it’s not always possible for both parents to be present, but one parent should try to stick to this. It makes your little ones feel important and if they see you eating it, it should encourage them too.
2. Set specific goals. When it’s in black and white, you’re more likely to follow through with your good intentions. Be realistic and set attainable targets with your children in mind, and try to include them in the process even if you think they may be a little young to understand the process they will enjoy being involved and it becomes a team effort. Try to offer choices to help action your goals and listen to what your kids have to say. So if you’re trying to cut back on refined processed food then giving options usually gets a better result, so instead of saying ‘Sorry Lola, you’re not having frozen chicken nuggets tonight’ say ‘would you like to help me make some delicious home made chicken strips or fresh fish cakes tonight’ then let them choose which veggies they can have on the side.
3. Know your fats. In order for our brains and bodies to function properly we need to eat the right fats in the right proportions.Try to steer clear of foods high in saturated (hydrogenated) or trans fatty acids found in highly processed foods and go for those containing either natural saturated fat like coconut oil, monounsaturated like olive oil or natural polyunsaturated fats like nuts and seeds. Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) found in oily fish like wild salmon are crucial to the structure of your child’s brain and they influence behaviour and the way the brain actually functions as some EFA’s regulate the hormone balance, blood flow and immunity. You should be aiming to include at least two portions of oily fish into your child’s diet weekly.
4. Up your fruit and veg game. Most guidelines suggest we need five-a-day but the truth is we should be aiming for even higher than that, but most people sit at around two and a half portions of fruit and veg a day. Ideally
vegetables should be included in every meal including breakfast and we should all eat two portions of fruit a day. Try to get your kids to get involved with your grocery shopping and try a ‘new colour a week’ game and let them pick out a few new seasonal fruit and veg in that week’s coloured theme. Kids love colour and in order to get all the essential vitamins and minerals they contain, we should be eating the rainbow!
5. Avoid too many sugary foods and refined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates include processed breakfast cereals and almost all shop bought cakes, pastries and biscuits but also white flour products and white rice. In order to get more sustained and balanced energy, you should opt for ‘slow release foods’ instead like wholegrain, unrefined starches when you can. Instead of a junky afterschool snack, you could offer toast and jam, then gradually move onto better quality wholegrain or rye bread (less refined with no additives) with real fruit spread, avocado, houmous or nut butter.
It’s always important to remember a couple of guidelines – healthy eating is a way of life and not about going on a diet, and it’s better to focus on what you and your children can have and introducing some new foods and ideas, rather than what you can’t have.
Taken from the March issue of Geek Parenting, out now!