Kids need to learn good food habits at an early age which they can carry with them throughout the rest of their life – so it is important to teach children the value of a healthy and well balanced diet. Unsure where to start? Try these healthy tips:
1. Add colour to the menu!
Children respond well to bright, colourful food that's easy to hold and eat. For younger children, try serving a "funny face" made from slices of fruit and vegetables. Use melon to represent a mouth, blueberries for eyes, shredded lettuce for hair, a carrot stick for a nose, and capsicum for eyebrows. For older children, serve sandwiches with plenty of fresh, attractive fillings - such as capsicum, beetroot, grated carrot, tandoori chicken, avocado, or sliced radishes.
2. Fast-food for the playground
To make the most of their playtime, school-age kids tend to eat food that's conveniently packaged - so it's quick and easy to eat. Rather than giving children potato chips or biscuits, which are high in salt, saturated fat and sugar, serve them fresh food in small, individually wrapped portions - such as a handful of nuts, a few reduced-salt rice crackers, grapes, sultanas, or a tub of reduced fat yoghurt.
3. Explain healthy choices
Teach your children how to make healthy food decisions by showing them the difference between good foods (e.g. vegetables, bread, cereal, milk, cheese, fruit, meat, fish and nuts) and ocassional foods (e.g. sweet biscuits, chocolate bars, soft drinks, chips or cake). Occassional foods should be a special treat – perhaps once a week.
4. Make breakfast an important meal
Eating breakfast is a must for young kids. It assists with concentration, recall and memory - and helps them stay focused at school. Encourage kids to eat a healthy and filling breakfast before school and if possible, make a special family time for breakfast on the weekends.
5. Don't forget the special dietary needs of teenagers
To cope with the demands of puberty, teenage bodies need plenty of extra vitamins and minerals. Some teenagers, especially girls, may be low in iron, which is essential for making red blood cells and for energy and concentration. Serve iron-rich meats such as lamb or beef - as well as fish, chicken and foods such as lentils, chickpeas or tofu, which also contain iron.
6. Pack a yummy lunchbox
To help your child stay away from junk foods, try to make their lunchboxes as tasty as possible. Great snacks include some different fruits (such as a few blueberries, kiwi fruit or cubes of melon), a box of sultanas, a tub of low-fat yoghurt, or a small handful of dried fruit and nuts. Use a variety of wholemeal breads (such as lavish, Lebanese or pita) to add excitement to lunchtime sandwiches, and as often as possible, vary the fillings.
7. Water, water, water!
Teach your child the importance of drinking water especially after exercise. Add lemon, lime, mint or sliced oranges to water for some natural sweetness.