How To Include Healthy Options In Your Child's Diet
Easter has been and gone, and another school holiday is nearly over. Although I enjoy a bit of chocolate as much as the next person, I’m sick of being bombarded with it every Easter (or any other holiday for that matter!) I don’t wish to be a killjoy, but surely I can’t be the only one? The shops are coming down with cheap, rubbishy treats, being almost waved in your face every time you leave the house to buy food.
The food industry has a lot to answer for in my opinion. Manufacturers add sugar and additives to foods to keep costs down, to give food a longer shelf life, and to make consumers crave these foods. Sugar is the core ingredient used by the food industry to make bad ingredients (processed flour and chemicals) taste good, and numerous studies have shown that foods which spike your blood sugar levels are biologically addictive.
Sugar addiction is a huge problem, and research has shown that people who were exposed to large intakes of sugar early on in life, retain this behaviour into adulthood and are susceptible to high-sugar diets. Our parents knew that sugar was bad for your teeth, but didn't realise back then that sugar could cause diabetes and heart disease. Marketing really took over in the '70s and '80s, and people were not as aware as they are now how marketing can manipulate their food choices.
Having a young family myself and knowing the links between food and behaviour, mood and physical wellbeing in children, this is a subject I am particularly passionate about.
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Work in Progress
I have to work hard to try and get my kids to eat all the right foods and it’s a constant work in progress, here are some very simple tips and ideas for a few healthy food options for your little ones.
Make traffic lights with raw veg – Use red pepper sticks, carrot/yellow pepper and green pepper/cucumber for them to nibble on. Dip in guacamole/natural yoghurt/hummus/cream cheese.
Throw a small handful of spinach or half an avocado into smoothies. Blend with banana, strawberries, a spoonful of ground seeds and some Greek yoghurt.
Make your own flapjacks using oats, chopped dried dates, sunflower seeds, nuts, butter and a little pure maple syrup to sweeten.
Get the healthy food, fruit or veg in whatever way you can. You can try cooking up some veg and blending it into the pasta sauce. Cook up a batch and freeze in small portions so you have it there to add. Grating vegetables into homemade burgers or mixing cauliflower into mashed potatoes are other options to try.
Soup is an obvious one: Store cupboard staples such as dried red lentils blended into a soup add fibre, folate, some iron and protein.
Use lots of colour: Presentation is key for kids. Segmented plates, skewers, get them to name foods in all the different colours of the rainbow. All of this is encouraging talk about food and building a healthy relationship with food that will last throughout their lifetime.
Be careful with eating between meals: Remember ‘hunger is a good sauce’. Make sure your little ones are well hydrated but encourage water instead of any juices or juice drinks. If they come looking for a snack, try offering fruit.
Get them involved: Give them a choice of new foods that they might like to try. This gives a sense of control. Let them decide when they are going to try it and how.
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The eating habits established at a young age will help ensure that your child continues to maintain adequate nutrition throughout the rest of his or her life. Further, we now know the importance of healthy eating and its role in health problems like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The extra efforts necessary to establish these principles will benefit your child for the rest of their lives.