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Healthy meals, healthy kids

Parenting is all about adapting and changing with our kids as they move from one stage to the next. Our children’s school-going years are an important time for us to teach them the importance of healthy eating.

By the time they go to school, children are generally a little more open to trying different foods and are developing their foodie likes and dislikes. They are also starting to learn about different foods and their nutritional impact.

According to Zelda Ackerman, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Association for Diabetics in SA (ADSA), the primary school-going age is an ideal time for parents to set their children up for a lifetime of healthy eating. “What happens around food in both the home and school is really important to ensure optimal nutrition for growing bodies. It also impacts their ability to focus and learn in the classroom and achieve in sports and other physical activities.”

During your child’s school-going years, it’s essential to get a good start to the day in the form of a sufficient balanced breakfast. It’s typical for school-going children to need to eat four to five times a day, which means their snacks are really important.
She says what we pack in our kids’ lunchboxes also depends on their age and after-school activities. Older children participating in late afternoon after school activities may need a morning snack, lunch and afternoon snack in their lunchbox.

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• Include high-fibre carbohydrates such as wholewheat bread, wholewheat wrap or high fibre crackers such as Provitas. Choosing a high fibre option ensures they stay fuller for longer, and have a more sustained level of energy;
• Add a fruit like an apple, naartjie, banana or nectarine;
• Pop in some vegetables such as sweet pepper strips, cucumber wedges or carrot sticks;
• Include a protein – a chicken mayo sandwich with the high-fibre bread or add chicken drumsticks, meatballs, biltong or cheese;
• Make sure they have their freshly filled up water bottle to meet their fluid needs. You can add a sprig of mint, a lemon slice or a few blueberries if they prefer flavoured water. Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages that contribute towards obesity and tooth decay;
• If your child will be having a longer school day, add extra portions of fruit and veg and raw nuts and consider a yoghurt or smoothie. Older kids may also need an extra sandwich and additional protein to help preserve lean muscle mass.

Make it fun
Children often ‘eat with their eyes’, so presenting visually-appealing foods cut into fun shapes may entice them to try new foods.
Get them involved
Collaborating to prepare the daily lunchbox can help with combatting fears over foods and increase likeliness to try and eat healthier foods.
Variety is the spice of life
Different foods provide different nutrients, so offering an array of foods is key.
Respect their tastes
Always offer them something you know they will eat in their lunchbox or plate, even if it is the same fruit or veg every day. Then, add a different fruit or vegetable with it. Children are more likely to try different foods if it is paired with a food they already like.
Talk about food and health
Healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle should be an ongoing conversation at home. Chat to your child about healthy eating, the demands on their bodies and how they are met by food and particular nutrients found in food. Understanding important nutrients and how they help their bodies shouldn’t only be something they learn about in the classroom. Make healthy eating an enjoyable and shared family priority.
Model healthy eating
What we do is more important than what we say, and while they may not always listen to what we say, they are always observing what we do! Being their role model for healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways you can help them become healthy eaters.

Details: www.diabetessa.org.za

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