Bianca Tromp is a Dietitian at FUTURELIFE and she speaks to us about the importance of starting early with kids when it comes to healthy eating.
Meal ideas for school-aged children, tweens, and teens
It may sound counterintuitive to get your children, tweens or teens to make their own lunch as their choices may not necessarily be the ones you would like to encourage. That said, the benefits of teaching children to make their own lunch are massive; it offers you an opportunity to teach healthy eating habits, it teaches them to be responsible and take ownership and reduces food waste. The key however is to offer them a special non-negotiable formula (with options of foods under each category) that they need to follow when they are making their lunch.
For example, the formula could be:
- 1 Fruit (apple, banana, grapes, strawberries, nectarine, orange)
- 1 Protein (Chicken, boiled egg, low-fat cheese)
- 1 Starch (FUTURELIFE® High Protein Low GI Brown Bread)
- 1 Healthy Fat (Nuts, avocado, hummus, peanut butter)
- 1 Vegetable (Cucumber, carrots, baby tomatoes, lettuce)
The role of an educator is an important job, providing nutrition education for kids is key to a successful school wellness program. It increases their healthy habits and increases their investment in making school a healthier place. What are the activities that educators can put into practice about nutrition?
Nutritional education on school level is definitely a key strategy to improve the eating habits of our children. Having teachers reinforce the messages that parents are teaching really helps to build the child’s perspective on healthy eating.
The Department of Education should be including a nutrition section as part of the curriculum every term. Strategies that educators can follow include colouring of healthy food options, teaching songs of healthy food and incorporating school vegetable gardens where possible.
Schools should also discourage unhealthy food options in lunchboxes and at the school tuck shop and educate parents on healthier options.
Nutrition activities games to play at home
This activity may be the solution to the food wars with your child. The idea is to use a chart for the week with 5 circles per day. Each circle represents a serving of a fruit or vegetable. Once your child consumes a serving of a fruit or vegetable, they can colour in the circle.
Depending on the age of your child, you can also specify portion sizes. For example, if they only eat half a portion of a fruit or vegetable, they can only colour in half of the circle. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is also essential to get a variety of nutrients. Get them to colour in the circles with the same colour as the fruit or vegetable so they start to understand the importance of variety.
In some cases, the excitement of filling up the chart is enough motivation for your child. Alternatively, you can offer incentives, this could be a toy that they have their eye on at the end of the month, television time or a gold star sticker to show off to the family. Find a ‘policy’ that works for you and your child. The ultimate goal is to develop habits that do not require incentives; however, this will take time if your child doesn’t usually eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. Have fun and avoid making it seem like a chore. Make sure you hype up the game and get excited about it so that your child does too. Below is printable example of a chart you can use for the game.
If your child is old enough to read and is more of a ‘techno kid’, you can also supervise them and encourage them to play free on-line educational games that teach them about healthy eating. These can be found on the website www.healthyeating.org.
Do you think school garden programs can increase kids’ nutrition knowledge, willingness to try fruit and vegetables, and positive attitudes about fruits and vegetables?
Absolutely, this is great activity for children! Planting the seeds and watching the fruits and vegetables grow not only gets them interested and excited to sample them, but also offers important life lessons.
What are the strategies that can help reinforce messages about good nutrition and help ensure that kids see and hear consistent information about healthy eating across the school campus and at home?
- Set a good example: Children establish eating behaviours that are modelled around those of others. Ensure that your diet consists of balanced meals with a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Eliminate unhealthy foods: Try not to keep treats readily available at home. This creates temptation.
- Involve them in food selection: Teach them what the different fruits and vegetables are called. Allow them to pick a different fruit or vegetable of their choice to try out and help you pick out those that are on your grocery list.
- Involve them in food preparation: Under your supervision, give them easy tasks to do to help with the preparation of meals.
- Encourage them to try out different fruits and vegetables: Children will see or hear of others disliking a certain vegetable and automatically be inclined to avoid it. Encourage them to try out a variety of different vegetables by presenting the vegetables to them in fun ways. You can put them on a skewer, cut them into interesting shapes and create rainbows, palm trees or stick men out of fruits and vegetables. You can also use fun names for vegetables. For example broccoli can be called “baby trees”.
- Be persistent: Children are not always open to trying out new foods at first. Make a constant effort to provide them with healthy meals and offering the same fruits and vegetables in different forms.
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