Little girl with a bowl of vegetablesBy Karen Torrisi

We all need to eat a balanced variety of foods everyday to stay healthy and it's very important to teach our children from a young age what food are important to our everyday life.  As a parent you want to do the right thing and for them to have a healthy well balanced diet is the key as this not only helps them keep a healthy weight but better focus at school, high energy levels and helps fight illnesses.

The solution to this is pack healthy options in their school lunch boxes and also add snacks known for slow release energy.  In order to make this a little easier for you, I have given you a few idea below that will hopefully help you in provided your little ones with some healthy options.

Please Note: It is very important for children to have breakfast each morning to keep their energy levels high enough to last them till their next break.

Must Haves:

  • At least 2 pieces of fruit (Always try for fresh & vary selection)
  • Serve of dairy (Milk, cheese or Yoghurt & try and use reduced fat products)
  • 3 Serves of Carbohydrates (These include crispbreads, grains, pasta's, pita bread, flat breads, & thins)
  • Make use of Avocado as a spread on lunch sandwiches instead of butter or margarine.
  • Kids need a good serve of protein at lunch to keep their energy up so include either, lean meats, eggs or tuna.
  • Add a chilled bottle of water or freeze water the night before so it keeps the lunch cool and is still cold when they drink it.  Limit juices and these are high in sugar.

Morning tea & Afternoon tea: 

  • Fruit: Grapes, Kiwi Fruit, Apple, Pear, Mandarine, Oranges, Chopped Stone Fruites, Strawberries, PawPaw, Rockmelon or tinned if you have to (natural juices only)
  • chopped celery & Carrot Sticks (Periodically you can add small amount of reduced fat cream cheese.
  • Cherry tomatoes, Cheese, Cucumber & rice crackers
  • Mini Muffins (Savoury of Fruit)
  • Mini Quiche
  • Pikelets
  • Scones with Jam
  • Homemade Muesli Slice
  • Oat & Santana Slice
  • Pretzel (reduced salt)

 Lunches: 

Instead of bread each day change to tortilla wraps, crispbreads, thins, pita bread, lavash bread or other flat bread wraps

  • Egg Sandwich, Lettuce & small amount of Mayo (for older kids you can try a little sprinkle of Curry)
  • Ham, Cheese, Spinach & Tomato
  • Left over Roast Meats, Tomato & Cheese
  • Chicken, Lettuce & Avocado
  • Tuna, Corn & Mayo
  • Turkey, Spinach & Tomato (Cranberry Spread)
  • Sushi (for older kids)
  • Ham, beetroot, grated carrot & cheese (remember to wipe excess liquid off beetroot and place between ham and cheese so it doesn't make bread/wrap soggy).
  • Pasta or Rice salads with some meat protein and carrots, peas & corn
  • Noodle Salad
  • Garden Or Leafy Green Salad
  • Zuchinni & Bacon Quiche or Other Quiches

Helpful Hints:

Create a Routine

Try  to eat dinner at a regular time every night.  It is also important to all sit as a family at the dinner table together and not in front of the television whilst eating. This not only ensures and promotes good eating habits though you can ask Get the kids to help you prepare their snack, lunches or dinner (depending on age) this gets them not only giving you a hand in the kitchen but getting to know their food and why these are important and with little effort you can make this process fun for them.

Make Food Educational

Children don't usually know the importance of eating well and what foods are good, occasional or not good.  It is your job as a parent to help them with this and the best way is to have the kids in the kitchen with you, go grocery shopping together, cook together or even plant fruit/veg gardens.  Their involvement in food related activities will not only make them more interested in food though more excited about foods and healthier eating.

For those whom don't remember on want a quick refresher on what are good and occasional foods here is a quick guide.

Group 1: Foods to Eat Lots Of

All these food come from plants and contain lots of minerals, vitamins and fibre to fight illness and disease.  Try to eat a variety of these and not only choose one.

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Breads
  • Grains such as rice and pasta
  • Beans and lentils.

Group 2: Eat these Food Moderately 

These foods are important for health, so you should eat them in medium amounts.  These are a great source of protein to help build muscles and repair from injury, high in calcium (found in dairy) for healthier teeth & bones and minerals and iron for energy (found in lean meats)

  • Dairy products such as milk, cheeses and yoghurts (low fat a better option)
  • Lean meat
  • Chicken (without skin)
  • Fish (very important)
  • Nuts.

Group 3: Sometimes Foods

These food do not give us many nutrients and are just extra food that are sugary and higher in fat and are sometimes foods. Below are examples of some of these foods and although most of us love these foods you need to limit your intake.

    • Sweet biscuits
    • Chocolate coated bars
    • Potato chips (30g)
    • Ice-cream (2 scoops)
    • Lollies/chocolate (30g)
    • Cake or muffin (1 medium piece).
    • Pies or other buttery pastry items

Healthy Snacks & Tips

We all like naughty foods like salty and sugary treats though these are things that need to be sometimes foods.  The best way to avoid these foods is remove those snacks from your house and instead stock your pantry with only fresh fruits and vegetables. With little time your children will be use to eating fruit & vegetables as snacks.  Also, kids like fresh fruit ready to eat, make sure you give them variety each day otherwise they will get bored just like we do.  Also take advantage of seasonal fruits like strawberries & stone fruit when in season but remember to take out the stone!

Sandwich/Wrap fillings should also be changed each day.  I think its always a good idea to make a plan at the beginning of each week and pop it on the fridge so you don't have to think about it each morning.  Another good idea is get the kids to help out with their lunch menu for the week and that way they know what they are eating and will like what they are eating as they have picked it.

With sandwich fillings put the wet items like tomato, beetroots, mayo etc. in the middle so their lunches are not soggy by lunch time.  Also, when using avocado on sandwiches as a spread or sliced, drizzle a little lemon juice on the avocado so it does not discolour.  With lettuce, using Cos Lettuce or Leafy Greens are better for everyone not just children as Iceberg Lettuce is high in acid and leafy greens like spinach, kale and beetroot leaves are great as they are high in magnesium.  Lastly, treats like chocolate, cakes & salty items like chips are sometimes foods and should only be put in lunch boxes occasionally and remember to also tell your children not to swap foods with other children or taste foods as due to many children with allergies you never know what is in other children lunches.

Additionally: As promoted by our government 

Remember 5 Simple ways to lead a healthy life

  1. Get Active Each Day:  Be active for at least 45-60 mins per day; got out for walk with the kids, bike ride or just play in the back yard.
  2. Choose Water As You Drink: Avoid Juice, cordial and other sugary drinks, rather give kids a piece of fruit to taper the sweet tooth and children over 2 years old, choose low fat milk still a good source of calcium
  3. Eat More Fruit & Vegetables: 2 serves of fruit and 5 of vegetables.
  4. Turn off the screen and stay active: Children over 2 should not be sitting in found of a screen (television, xbox, playstation, Wii, computers, laptops, ipad/ipod etc) for more than 2 hours per day.  Get them up and active, reading, socialising or doing activities.
  5. Eat fewer snacks and switch these for healthier options.

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