It's no secret that what we eat has a huge impact on our health and well being but how do we get this message across to our children? If you're constantly battling demands for processed, unhealthy snacks and convenience food and want to encourage your children to have a balanced, healthy diet, you'll find some tips below.
Eating a wide variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, unsaturated fats and oils from a young age means they're more likely to embark on a lifetime of healthy eating. It sounds easy to anyone who hasn't dealt with a fussy eater so if you have one (or more) try involving them in meal preparations. Show them what goes into dishes and experiment together with textures and tastes. By sparking their curiosity they'll naturally want to try new food. You'll also be giving them that all important sense of control over what they're eating. Click here for a selection of easy, nutritious recipe ideas for kids to try alone or with some help or try these toddler friendly recipes from Bamboo Bamboo
Talk about rainbows
Bright orange sweet peppers, deep purple blackberries, sunshine yellow tomatoes, green beans (even better if they get to pick them themselves), the colours of fresh fruit and vegetables represent a spectrum of vital nutrients.
Carotenoids in orange foods such as carrots, pumpkin and cantaloupe melons include beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body. Flavonoids are found in blueberries, cherries and black grapes and support brain and blood function.
Explain how your body benefits from the food you're eating. Here's a link to more information from the British Nutrition Foundation, with tips on how to get them to eat their 5 a day
Building a growing body
Protein is an essential part of a child's diet and is found in a large variety of food including meats, eggs, dairy, seafood, legumes, nuts and seeds. It's broken down and re-formed into new proteins in our bodies. Animal based proteins and soy foods generally contain all the 9 essential amino acids required for good health. Plant foods tend to have lower levels of some amino acids but eating a variety of them can provide all 9.
We need a little fat too
Oils and fats aren't all bad, in fact some are vital to health, particularly for our skin, nails and hair. Extra virgin olive oil is one of the most well known and healthiest. It contains monounsaturated omega-3 fatty acids. Essential fatty acids can't be made by the body and therefore have to come from our diet. Nuts and oily, cold water fish (eg sardines, mackerel, salmon) are another important source. Linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) is found in walnuts, flaxseeds and vegetable oils and linolenic acid (an omega 3-fatty acid) is found in pine nuts and pistachios. Fat is also needed for absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Unhealthy trans-fatty-acids or trans fat is most often found in processed foods. Used because it's cheap and extends shelf life and best avoided. Read the label and watch out for "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil".
But most of all, just enjoy meals together!