Healthy eating means different things to different people. At Kids Recipes, we believe the best diet is the one that includes a little of everything, but just in the right amounts. Excluding or not having enough of certain types of food may lead to problems for growing children. Having too much may lead to health problems in later life. It is easy to have too much fat, too much sugar, or too much salt. Happily, some small changes can make a big difference.
A balanced and varied diet is essential to ensure kids get all the nutrients they need to support the rapid growth and development they experience during their childhood years.
A balanced diet for school age kids
Fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients. Children should eat plenty and aim for variety. School age kids can join their parents in trying to have at least five different types of fruits and vegetables every day. No need to limit fruits and vegetables to only five a day, six is better.
A small amount of protein rich foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, tofu and other vegetarian alternatives should be included in every meal. Red meat has bad press but it is a very good source of iron, vital for blood cells. Having red meat two or three times a week, especially fresh meat – not sausages, bacon or deli meats - in the right portion, can be considered healthy for school age children.
Good sources of iron, other than red meat, are green leafy vegetables, eggs, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Bread, potatoes, rice, and other starchy foods are a good source of fiber and B vitamins. It is OK to include one starchy food in every meal. Children need the energy starches provide.
Dairy products contain calcium and vitamin D, as well as other nutrients, which will help to build strong bones, and strong teeth. Children can have two to three servings a day. A serving is one cup of milk, half a cup or yogurt, or two slices of cheese.
You teach your kids to wash hands before meals, don't forget to teach them oral hygiene. If your kids have sweets and starchy foods only at meal times, brush and floss daily, their teeth will keep healthy until a very old age. They will be able to enjoy the foods they love for longer.
Drinks not only help children to stay hydrated but maintain concentration and prevent fatigue as well. Limit fruit juice, soda, or other sugary drinks to meal times. Water and milk are the best choices for a drink between meals.
Fats are essential for developing brains. That is the reason behind the recommendation to give children full fat milk at least until they are seven years old. Nevertheless, children do not need large amounts of fat. Although a little butter on one slice of toast does not do any harm, school age children can be made aware of the difference between saturated and un-saturated fats and learn how to avoid trans-fats.
Avoiding trans-fats will make your children happier as well as healthier. Research shows that eating poorly - especially having trans-fats - can make us depressed.
Getting kids to eat healthily
Now is the perfect time for kid to learn the value of healthy food. This is something that will influence their well being for the years ahead. Remember:
- Children should eat regular meals.
- Breakfast is the essential start to the day. Do not let them skip breakfast. From pancakes, to eggs or yogurt with fruit, there are plenty of healthy breakfast choices.
- School age children should be encouraged to make sensible food choices such as wholemeal bread for their toast at breakfast, lean meat burgers or sausages for dinner, and healthy snacks.
- Whole milk is a healthy choice up to age 7 and it can be taken beyond that, as long as the child maintains a healthy weight. Sometimes the processes required for making half fat and non fat milk is worse than having full fat milk.
- Snacks have a place in a balanced diet as a complement to your child's diet. Snacks should not take the place of meals and they should be adequate to the child's needs.
- Fruit, fruit smoothies, milkshakes, vegetable sticks with a dip or bagels are sensible choices. Cookies, cakes, chocolate and chips can be included, sparingly, as long as the children have a healthy body weight for their age.
- Don't go always for maple syrup or whipped cream. Sometimes, serve pancakes with flavored yogurt. Try pancakes with raspberry yogurt, a few raspberries and raspberry coulis. Pineapple yogurt with pineapple chunks, or lemon flavor with a little honey and orange segments and grated lemon rind.
- Make your own frozen yogurt by mixing 2 cups of the creamy Greek style yogurt with honey with 2 cups cherry and apple sauce and 1/3 cup honey. Pour the mix into the ice cream maker for a smooth texture or freeze as ice lollies.
- Make food fun.
There are plenty of tips for getting kids to eat healthily. Surely there are one or two that can be applied to any particular case.