We are all health-conscious individuals and we want to ensure that our kids get the proper nutrition from all the right foods.
Sometimes we tend to over complicate things, when the simpler the meal, the more likely kids will enjoy it.
Get kids involved:
Children will enjoy getting involved in the planning of their school lunches. Create a chart for each day of the week that consists of:
Have your child fill in his/her preferences for each day of the week, then review it together using the following as a guideline when creating lunches.
- Carbohydrates (include vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes)
- Proteins (meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts and legumes)
- Healthy Fat (walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, avocado, olive oil)
It is important to note that occasionally it is okay to allow your child to have a fun snack, rather than trying to eliminate these treats completely from their diet. Once or twice a week should be sufficient, otherwise these forbidden snacks start becoming very appealing to them, and kids will more than likely over indulge when given the opportunity outside the home. Be mindful that even moderate frequency of these snacks can cause genuine cravings. Let common sense and moderation be your guide.
Grocery Shop Together:
Take your kids to the grocery store with you. Kids will enjoy taking the lead in choosing their favourite foods. Make a list with your child and plan a day for food shopping. Make it into a fun event. Let them manage the list and check off the items. They will enjoy leading the hunt.
Prepare lunches with your child:
Have your child assist in preparing their own lunch boxes for school. This will reduce the risk of most of their lunch ending up in the garbage. In fact, the likelihood of them eating their lunch will be greater. Even when you’re in a rush try not to marginalize your child’s preferences. Packing food they don’t want but feel compelled to eat will undermine their relationship with food.
Get kids cooking:
Whether it’s helping with little tasks in the kitchen such as washing the vegetables or setting the dinner table, get kids involved in helping with the family meals. Use it as a great opportunity to teach them about healthy food options and how they are prepared. Make it collaborative- not a chore and watch them engage.
Water helps with digestion, circulation, digestion, absorption, and elimination of wastes. Ensure kids drink enough water throughout the day to prevent dehydration.
When we talk about dairy, we think about milk and getting enough calcium. Calcium is important for strong teeth and healthy bones, however, exercise and vitamin D along with many other nutrients are also needed to maintain healthy bones. Much has been written about milk and the negative effects it has on the human body. Milk is also the most common food allergen. Calcium rich alternatives to milk can include calcium fortified rice milk, oat milk, coconut milk and almond milk, provided your child can tolerate it. Other sources of calcium can be found in leafy greens such as broccoli, bok choy, spinach and arugula. Canned fish such as sardines, mackerel and salmon also contain calcium. Almonds and brazil nuts also contain calcium.
Our body’s chief source of energy to our cells. Carbs are commonly thought of as pasta and bread but also consist of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Legumes are considered to be complex carbohydrates, which means these foods are slower to digest, providing the body with a steady flow of energy that lasts longer. Half of your child’s meal should consist of a variety of fruits and vegetables. Try being in tune to their vegetable and fruit preferences and mix things up each day. Variety is key.
When choosing grains, stick to whole grains instead of refined grains. Whole grains are considered grains in their natural state. They contain antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals. whole grains will keep your child’s energy levels stable throughout the day, unlike refined grains which tend to spike blood sugar levels, providing energy for a relatively short period of time followed by a huge “crash”. Whole grains include quinoa, wild rice, wheat (including spelt, Kamut, bulgur and wheatberries), oats, millet, rye and barley.
Refined grains such as white bread, white pasta, white flour, many cakes, cookies and snack items lack fiber and are low in nutrients.
- Legumes contain edible seeds inside pods. They are a good source of protein and very high in fiber which makes them extremely satiating. They include lentils, black beans, mung beans, soybeans, green peas, kidney beans, navy beans and black-eyed peas, just to name a few.
- Fats: Children require fats to be healthy. Healthy fats supply essential nutrients and fuel to the brain, which is comprised of 70% fat. Fat in a child’s diet is important for proper development of their brain and nervous system. Healthy fats can include nuts and seeds, butter nuts such as cashews, peanuts and almonds. Avocados, yogurt, whole eggs, oils such as olive and coconut are all great sources of healthy fats.
- Proteins: Protein is a major component in our muscles, hair, skin and internal organs and is important for the maintenance and repair of tissue in our bodies. Protein is necessary for the growth of cells in our body. It is also needed for our immune system, to fight off infections. Sources of protein include dairy food, eggs, lean meats, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds.