Healthy Eating Tips and Tricks for Kids

Healthy Eating Tips and Tricks for Kids

  • 7 March 2020
Children and food is a touchy subject as it can often involve a certain degree of frustration with the introduction of new foods and eating times.

Nonetheless, it is a very important time because it is a time where teeth, muscles and bones are developing. Nutrition is very important and they do need more nutritious food in proportion to their body size than we, as adults do.

In today’s day and age, foods that are poor in nutrients have replaced nutrient-dense options, which will impair growth and keep our children from fulfilling their full potential.

This is why we want to ensure that our little ones get all the food they need, to grow up to be the strongest and smartest they can possibly be - of course not everyone can be Einstein but we can try!

Just like us, children need energy, protein, fat, minerals and vitamins. In order for our children to develop well, their food intake needs to meet their requirements. Eg. If you have a little usain bolt running around the house, he will need more food than a little couch potato.

Children have higher protein requirements in relation to body weight than adults do. This is because they are going through a big stage of growing in their life.

Which foods are high in protein?


Some examples include:

  • Dairy Products such as milk, yogurt and cheese

  • Meat ( Cook it softly or blend it up to make it easier for younger ones to eat. You can also freeze chicken for example and grate it before cooking, for smaller pieces)

  • Legumes such as chickpeas, beans and lentils

  • Nuts (in the form of nut butters)

  • Eggs (softly scrambled for example)


Healthy fats are also very important for kiddies



  • Nuts (nut butters)

  • Avocado

  • Olive oil

  • Fish


When it comes to vitamins and minerals we do not want our kids to be lacking those because this has shown to impair growth and cause deficiencies.

Here are some of the ones you shouldn’t forget about!

Iron



  • Organ meat

  • Red meat (cook it soft with a sauce)

  • Leafy green vegetables

  • Beans

  • Dried fruit


Iron is better absorbed with Vitamin C - so don't forget about that one.

Zinc


Very important for growth and immune function.

  • Meat

  • Seafood

  • Fortified breakfast cereal

  • Beans


Calcium and Vitamin D


Very important for the formation of bones, teeth and the prevention of many disorders. They work hand in hand so one should not eat one without the other.

  • Dairy products (calcium)

  • Leafy green veg (calcium)

  • Sunshine (vitamin D)

  • Egg yolk (vitamin D)

  • Seafood (vitamin D)


If your children are eating regular, diverse meals, filled with colorful (the natural kind) foods then the likelihood of a nutrient deficiency is very low.
However, food intake is not always as smooth as we would like it to be, with tantrums and refusal to eat being a common occurrence.

But there are some things we can do to prevent eating time to be war.

Make foods fun for your kids


Kids have such creative minds so why not bring that into the food they are eating. Make a smiley face out of fruit and make the plate colourful are some easy things you can do.

Introducing new foods is often a challenge for parents as the children don’t often like the food straight away. Don’t lose hope. Remember, they are tasting these foods for the first time in their ENTIRE life. Keep trying. Once, twice, ten times and let the child experience the food and get a real idea of what it tastes like.

What is very important for children is to experience food properly. This means let your kids ‘play’ with their food, feel the texture and let them have fun while eating. It is not only important with regards to eating but feeling the texture of food is also important for fine motor development and stimulus in our little ones. Let them prepare food with you and let them help you make their own lunch boxes for example. This will let them feel empowered as opposed to spoon fed. This is of course age dependent!

Having said the above, do not create restrictions on food. If your children are going to a birthday party, let them have their party. Creating restrictions and installing feelings of guilt with food are breeding grounds for developing eating disorders later in life.
Simply try and introduce healthy eating at home, showing your kids that healthy eating is fun and delicious.

You are your biggest role model to your kids. If they see you eating something, they are bound to want the same food, so set an example and they will follow. Do not make extra special meals for them as this will install the ‘Mom/Dad makes me special food’ attitude and that will only make your life difficult and it destroys the family eating environment at home.

Also focus on sitting down as a family during meals. This has shown to be beneficial in the nutritional as well as social development of children. It is also a lovely way for you to connect as a family and spend some quality time together.

Children usually eat what is available, so put out a bowl of fruit or some cut up veg and dip and don’t even buy the sugary, fatty foods that you are trying to avoid.

Snack ideas



  • Ants on a log (celery with peanut butter and raisins)

  • Frozen Watermelon on a stick

  • Sliced up apple or banana with peanut butter

  • Fresh cut up vegetables with dip such as humus/ cottage cheese

  • Banana chocolate milkshake (blend banana, milk, cocoa and peanut butter)


Avoid giving sugary snacks as they are poor in nutrients and do not give your child much more besides a sugar rush.
Making healthy alternatives to the usual sugary foods is easier than you think.
e.g. Fruit ice cream (simply freeze fruit and blend it up with a splash of milk and some extras)
These ice creams are high in calcium, protein and vitamins and minerals, making them a great snack or dessert for your little ones.

Remember kids do not need sweets and sugary foods and they also don’t grow up wanting them. It is something that they get used to by being introduced to them very early. Remember they come into this world never having eaten anything, so it is up to you what you will introduce them to and make part of their daily diet. You are able to make a lasting impression and help them develop healthy eating habits - habits that will be extremely important for the rest of their life

But what happens when we send the little ones off to school and what should go into their lunch box?



    Source of protein: This can be in the form of meat on a sandwich, egg, some nuts, biltong or peanut butter is also high in protein and so are dairy products such as yogurt, milk and cheese
    Calcium: dairy is very high in calcium so add a slice of cheese to the sandwich or add some yogurt or milk
    Carbohydrates: Focus on giving your children complex and unrefined carbohydrates in the form of wholewheat/brown bread and some fruit.
    Fruit and Veg: Cut up some veg and add a dip to make it more fun.
    Drink: Avoid fruit juice because it is very high in sugar ( think of all the fruits that have to be juiced to make up 350ml along with the sugar in them); water is best. Change things up through adding some lemon/grapefruit slices or some strawberries with mint.

Other tips.


Buy a multi-compartment lunchbox which makes it easy for you to add many foods to the lunchbox, making it colourful and fun! (And containing a wide variety of nutrients)

Try to avoid sugary foods or things like chips. Rather make some popcorn and add that into the box or make some Peanut Butter cocoa balls and use those as a nutrient dense snack for the kids.

Carve a little picture into the banana peel (it will brown and leave a fun surprise for the kids)


Avoid ‘childrens yogurts’ etc. These ready made meals or snacks are often packed with sugar and bad fats and lack nutrients.


Keep your lunch box contents as wholesome and unprocessed as possible. Focusing on whole foods rather than ‘ready made’


Get the kids involved: Set up a station at home and the kids choose what they’d like

  • Fruit options (banana/strawberries/naartjies/apple/pears, etc)

  • Veggies (let them choose some and cut up to add with a dip such as cottage cheese/humus or even peanut butter)

  • Dairy (Yogurt, milk or cheese)

  • Sandwich (they can choose the protein (egg,meat,cheese peanut butter) and one veggie)


This way you are giving them a choice while still having control over what they eat at school.

All of these things will make the lunch box something to look forward to for the kids and will make them enjoy their food and have fun while doing so. All in all we want to ensure that our children are being fuelled well while solving the world’s problems, assist them in having sustained energy throughout the day and get given the foods to ensure optimum growth and development.

Having said that, this is a process and it takes time. There will be good and bad days and that is part of parenting. In the end it is all about balance and living a well balanced life, taking each day as it comes and celebrating the small victories.