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With obesity rising rapidly in adults across the UK, keeping children a healthy weight and eating a balanced diet can be of significant concern to parents. However, attempting to encourage children to eat a variety of foods and not be more inclined to feed them the meals they enjoy most, which tend to be unhealthy, can be a difficult task. It is important that children maintain a balanced diet full of nutrition that will give them energy for their long days at school and the various out of school activities.
Although it is drilled into our heads as a society of how vital healthy eating is, we can often forget the real reasons why it is so important. There are so many benefits that come from eating well including; reduced cancer risk, prevention of strokes and heart attacks, strong bones and teeth and better mood, alongside the more obvious reasons of maintaining a healthy weight and reduced chance of Diabetes.
As a generation growing up surrounded by technology and social media, this can impact their eating habits and relationship with food and make controlling this a much more difficult task. However, there are lots of ways to encourage children to eat healthily and here are just a few of our suggestions.
Children are easily influenced, and most times look up to their parents or guardians to see what they should do and how they should act. For mealtimes, when you can, try to eat as a family. If they see you eating the foods you want them to eat, they’re more likely to eat it too. Meals can also be a sociable time that they enjoy and look forward to.
Allow your children to take part in meal planning, perhaps give them a book full of recipes you’re willing to make and have them select a few for the upcoming week. Or take them along to the weekly shop and show them the variety of healthy foods they can choose from. This means they’ll feel included in the process and will be more inclined to eat the meals that they’ve helped in preparation for.
Strict routine is a very important part of childhood especially when it comes to meals and habits. We would encourage that you eat breakfast, lunch and tea at the same time every day, or at least around the same time, so there is a structure in place. This may make children less likely to eat at specific times. Plan the meals for the week ahead so children know what they’ll be eating, and any changes can be made in advance.
Including all elements of the eat well guide
It is vital that children have a balanced diet and are eating food from all the categories. Here is a reminder of the 4 types of foods.
Starchy food consists of bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes amongst many others. These are crucial for children to eat at a young age, as they contain minerals and vitamins that are essential for your child’s growth.
Fruit and Vegetables are the obvious choice for healthy eating, try to get in your child’s 5 a day, but if you are struggling don’t worry about different forms of fruit and veg, you can try fresh, canned, tinned, dried or frozen.
Protein Foods include beans, fish, eggs and lentils, as well as various others. We recommend that your child should eat two portions of fish a week, with one being an oily fish meal e.g. Salmon or Trout. Meat is also a great source of protein but don’t feel limited to this as eggs, beans and lentils are great alternatives.
Milk and Dairy products provide children with a good source of calcium and protein, important for bone development, as well as the nerves and muscles. Alongside milk you can also encourage your child to eat natural yoghurt and cheese. Make sure that they are eating three servings of calcium every day, as children under five require more calcium-based food to help them grow.