Children need the right balance of nutrients in order to be the best version of themselves; they need food to give them energy, to provide for their growing bodies and to keep them healthy.
The first important concept is to ensure that your child has access to a wide variety of foods from infancy. Keep introducing new foods – up to 15 times for each new food offered and ensure they are introduced regularly as a daily habit. If you start introducing new foods, fruit and vegetables from the beginning (infancy), it will easily become a life habit.
Children naturally vary their food needs and intake to match their bodies growth pattern and needs, however, they should be adding to their bodies nutrient storage in preparation for rapid growth spurts by having a balanced and healthy diet.
Problems that occur when nutrition isn’t balanced:
– Tooth decay
– Food sensitivities
– Lack of energy
– Poor self-esteem
– Higher chance of health complications and illness
To grow and develop, your child needs to be eating:
– Two serves of Protein – lean meats, poultry, beans, seeds, eggs etc
– Two serves of Fruits – try to keep to fresh fruits as they have no added sugars
– Five serves of Vegetables – aim to have a rainbow of vegetables (veggies of all different colours), include them as raw snacks and cooked in meals.
– Four serves of Grains – look for whole grains and avoid the refined grains
– Two serves of dairy – milk, yoghurt and cheese
– at least 8 cups of water a day
Set an expectation in your household about ‘everyday foods’ and ‘sometimes foods’ so that your child has an understanding about how all foods fit into a healthy life but some are needed regularly, and some are for special occasions and treats.
Some ‘sometimes foods’ include:
– fruit juice
– fried food
– cakes and sweet biscuits
– soft drink
Here are some tips to increase the ‘everyday foods’ in your child’s daily eating:
– involve them in cooking food and choosing recipes
– take water bottles with you whenever you go to avoid the need to buy juice and soft drink
– visit your local fruit and vegetable market and pick one item for every colour of the rainbow
– use fruit and vegetables to make a picture on the plate together before eating it
– have clear structures about when they are allowed ‘sometimes foods’ (is it just at a party or special event?)
– only offer healthy alternatives in the house (e.g. have whole grain bread instead of white bread)
– bake your own healthy snacks – that way you know what is in it and that it’s healthy compared to store bought products
– lead by example
– use vegetables, dairy and fruit as snacks in between meals instead of pre-packaged items like chips
– talk with your child about how food healthy food is helping their body to grow and be strong