Healthy Eating Habits for Children

Getting children to eat healthily can be hard work.

The amount of packaged food that is available these days is overwhelming. It’s just as easy to grab a banana, blueberries or dried biscuits though, as it is a bag of chips or tiny teddies. Preservatives and additives seem to be in everything; the nasty No. 200 and 202 are the ones to look out for and avoid like the plague.  Be aware of colours such as red and yellow food dyes also. These are in foods like jellies, coloured cakes, icing and confectionery. Children with behavioural or concentration issues should especially avoid these.

The recommended 4-6 teaspoons of sugar per day for children is far too easy to consume with so many added sugars in yogurts, breakfast cereals and muesli bars; foods that are all targeted as ‘healthy foods’ for our children to be consuming.  It’s easy to consume the daily quota of sugar by breakfast, with just a bowl of cereal, a yogurt and some fruit. Other alternatives for breakfast, as opposed to the bowl full of sugar that you get with some cereals, are chia puddings or granola. Sometimes school kids like to help make their breakfast, so get them to mix up a big container for the week with the fruits and grains etc that they like such as oats, dried fruit and coconut. 

Applying the 80/20 principle over the week, works well in most households, aiming to eat healthily 80% of the time, then 20% of more indulgent foods.

Try the ‘one treat per day’ rule, and choose the days that will be treat days. That way children know that when they’ve had their one treat, only healthy food is available. Rewards charts also work well for fussy eaters. Often giving children a choice of only two foods, makes life easier and is an effective solution for both adults and children.  

Essential fatty acids are so important for growing bodies and healthy brains and are often overlooked in children’s diets.  Making healthy fish fingers from white fish is an option, as is tuna sushi. Chia seeds are loaded with essential fatty acids also, which is important for brain function and concentration in children. It can easily be added in to baking or sprinkled on cereal or toast with a nut butter.

The healthy eating rules can be exhausting sometimes for parents and children. But by simplifying meals, being organised with meal plans plus reducing packaged foods to a minimum, you can give your children the best building blocks for happy, healthy little bodies.

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