Following on from last week’s “Why Bother to Feed your Kids a Healthy Diet” post, we are back with the second part of Dr Orlena Kerek’s healthy eating series. Now that we know how important healthy eating for children is, what exactly are we going to feed them? What is healthy eating for children?
There are so many different diets around, so much advice on the internet.
It can be really confusing.
I subscribe to the easy, simple, “basic” healthy eating diet.
You need to look at everything your child eats. Look at what your children eat in proportions. Children can be fickle and will eat a plate of carrots for lunch one day, 3 bowl of porridge the next and half a pea the day afterwards.
What is a Healthy Diet for Children?
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We want to look at what they eat overall rather than in one specific meal.
Fruit and Vegetables should make up half of what we eat. Ideally more vegetables than fruit. (Whichever diet you subscribe to, they all agree that vegetables are good for you.)
Protein. That’s meat, fish and vegetable sources such as garbanzo beans (also called chick peas). Protein should make up just under a quarter of your diet. I also think that red meat and processed meats (slices of ham and turkey) should be eaten in small rather than large quantities as they can increase your risk of getting cancer later in life.
Grains and carbohydrate. That’s pasta, rice, bread. Grains should make up just over a quarter of your diet. I know that lots of children are “carb junkies”, that’s OK, just keep offering them fruit and vegetables too.
Dairy products, made of milk, make up a small amount of your diet. If your child doesn’t eat dairy, that’s fine, they can find other sources of calcium.
Water. The main source of fluid should be water for children over 1. Even fruit juice should be given in moderation as a treat rather than a thirst quencher.
No Food is Forbidden.
There is nothing that you “simply must not eat”. You can eat treats, cakes, biscuits, chips as long as you eat them in moderation.
But let me emphasise the word “moderation”.
Variety is the Key.
There is no “magic food” that if you eat every day will ensure that you live a long and prosperous life. Yes, certain foods contain more good nutrients than others, but they are not magic.
The idea is that your children eat a varied diet and get their nutrients from a large range of sources.
Think lots of different fruits and vegetables.
What’s wrong with Junk Food?
One of the problems with processed foods is that they are high in salt, sugar, fat and other not-so-great ingredients. Your children get used to them and desire them over fresh and healthy alternatives (aka fruit and vegetables.)
Which is easier to eat in one sitting? A packet of biscuits or a kilo of apples? See what I mean. Junk is easy to overeat.
My Kids Don’t Eat that Many Vegetables
That’s fine. That’s what we’re aiming for. We’re teaching to like those fruit and vegetables so that they will eat that much later on in life.
Start by offering much more that you want them to eat. For example, offer 3 different types of vegetable sticks to go with your hummus dip and they might try one or two.
What is a Healthy Diet for Children: Where do I Start?
The two biggest things you can do to feed your children a healthy diet is to stop buying junk food and buy more fruit and vegetables. Stop giving your children the option to eat unhealthily because they will not just choose it, they will demand it.
Healthy eating may feel like a million miles away right now, but it’s not so difficult. Once you and your family are in the habit of eating healthily, you won’t think of it as “healthy eating”. You’ll just be eating food that you love that happens to be healthy.
Dr Orlena Kerek is a pediatric doctor and mother of four young children. She writes about developing healthy habits from an early age, especially healthy eating habits. She believes in fun healthy food the stress free way. You can find her over at Snotty Noses.
For further information you might find Dr Orlena’s E-books of interest (affiliate links)