As a parent, you know better than anyone that your children learn by example. So what better reason to take a look at your own nutrition? In fact, the number one tip from nutritionaustralia.org for dealing with fussy eaters is the following: “Children are likely to mimic the eating habits of their parents, so set a good example. Eat healthy foods (and look like you are enjoying them!). If your kids know you don’t like it, they will be less willing to try it themselves.”
Over the years, there have been countless experts, constant research and one new idea after another regarding which foods you should and shouldn’t be eating. And while there will always be new – and often contradictory information being released – these days, it’s actually pretty simple.
Basically, to keep healthy, you need to think about the following two terms: balanced and in moderation. Remember the old food pyramid, with all the bread, rice and pasta at the bottom and your sugars and fats in the tiny point up the top? Well it’s been replaced, by a plate.
According to kidshealth.org, the plate offers two simple, but important messages:
- Eat a variety of foods.
- Eat less of some foods and more of others.
The plate is divided into four sections: vegetables, fruits, grains and protein, with a smaller, separate section on the side for dairy. As nutrition experts recommend that you eat more veges than fruit and more grains than protein, the sections on the colourful plate are sized accordingly.
Nutrition Australia breaks this down further, advising the following:
“An eating pattern that includes a variety of foods from across the food groups will provide children with the range of nutrients and fuel they need. This means:
- Eating plenty of vegetables, legumes and fruits
- Eating plenty of cereals (preferably wholegrain), including bread, rice, pasta, and noodles
- Including lean meat, fish, poultry and/or alternatives
- Including milk, yogurt and cheese (reduced-fat varieties are not suitable for children under 2 years)
While the occasional ‘extra’ foods such as lollies, chips and take away foods are ok, if eaten too often they may result in poor intake of nourishing foods and an increased risk of becoming overweight, as well as an increased risk of tooth decay.
To be their best, children also need to be well hydrated. Children should be encouraged to drink water. Try to limit sweetened drinks such as soft drinks, cordials and fruit juice. If consumed in large amounts they can contribute to issues such as excess weight gain and tooth decay. As an alternative, a glass of milk is a nutritious drink that will contribute to the recommended three serves of dairy a day to make sure they get the calcium their growing bones need.”
So, now that you know the first steps you need to take towards eating healthy, you can go ahead and start making that change. And while you’re at it, why not talk to your kids about nutrition. Discuss ‘everyday foods’ and ‘sometimes foods’ and explain why foods are grouped in this way. Talk about fad diets and why a balanced, healthy diet makes them redundant. Show your children fit, healthy role models – such as sports heroes, that they can look up to – and more importantly, be that healthy role model that they need.
GrowFit will be regularly updating our news section with more fitness and nutrition tips, but in the meantime, Healthykids.nsw.gov.au offers some great advice and ideas, including lunch box ideas and recipes to help you to start making those healthy choices today.
– Mike Searson