Getting your children to eat healthy foods can be difficult so here’s a few tips to help you through the school year.
Be a role model: Children often make their food choices based on what the people around them are eating. As their parents, it is your responsibility to do as you say or ask of them. The fact that you are reading this means you already have your children’s best interests at heart when it comes to nutrition; your kids look up to you and will eat what you eat (some may take longer than others!).
Give them some ownership over what they eat: It often helps to bring your kids shopping and let them have some ownership over what they are eating – within reason! Rather than letting them pick whatever they want, you pick out 2 items that you deem as healthy choices and let them decide which one they want. The same goes for food at home. If they are picky eaters, make at least 2 different kinds of veg in your meals and let them decide which ones they want. This works surprisingly well!
Make lunch fun! Get different shape cutters and use them to make different shapes out of your children’s sandwiches. They will love this! You can also make different shapes by sticking pieces of fruit or veg together and using nut butters as the glue.
You are the boss: At the end of the day, the decision is in your hands as to what your children eat. Tip 2 makes them think they have the power and that’s why it works so well, but essentially you are making the choices for them. Most schools will have a healthy eating policy and this helps greatly as you’re not seen as the bad cop.
But you’d be surprised at the amount of parents who help their children sneak in treats on a daily basis – this is wrong on so many levels! If they’re used to treats every day then yes, they’ll moan a while but stick to your guns. It’s better for everyone in the long run.
There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods: Labelling foods as ‘bad’ or ‘guilty’ can lead to a negative relationship with food and so it’s best to talk about foods that help us think, play and run better, or whatever your child is interested in. All other foods are great for parties etc., but we only eat them sometimes as they can make us tired.
Top foods that will help with learning:
Low GI Foods: These are foods that won’t spike your blood sugar levels rapidly and instead, you get a steady flow of energy (the opposite are foods high in sugar). They are good for learning as you are not going to get a sugar crash which can cause tiredness and low attention span. These foods are fruit, veg, fish, eggs, meat, whole grains, nuts, plain yogurt, cheese.
Oily Fish: Omega 3 fats help with brain health and learning – salmon, mackerel, sardines or supplements from a good brand from a health shop which you can store in the fridge.
Healthy Fats: Again, brain health and healthy hormones – avocados, extra virgin olive oil, full-fat dairy, nuts and seeds.
Protein: Essential for building every cell in the body as well as keeping children fuller for longer, therefore giving them higher concentration levels – eggs, chicken, milk, fish, Greek yogurt, meat, cheese, lentils, chickpeas.
Fruit and Vegetables: For vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants and fibre – all contributing to a healthy, happy child. 2 pieces of fruit and 5-10 fist-fulls of vegetables a day.
Vitamin D: OK, not a food, but unless you’re getting away for a couple of sun holidays a year and not wearing sun lotion while you’re there, chances are you’re deficient. Known for bone and teeth health but also essential for a healthy immune system – kids that don’t get sick don’t miss school days! Vitamin D is hard to get from foods so supplementing is best.