An important part of being a parent is to help your children eat well and be physically active. When children eat well they have the nutrients and energy they need to grow. Healthy eating helps children concentrate and perform better in school, sports and other activities. Being physically active helps children be strong and fit and improves confidence.
Help your children to eat well by following the steps below:
- Eat meals as a family whenever you can. Making mealtimes an important part of the day and enjoying meals together can help children make better food choices, stay at a healthier weight and have a more positive body image.
- Get your children involved with meal planning and grocery shopping. Use South Africa’s Food Guide to help you plan healthy meals that your family can eat together. Serve foods from at least three food groups at meals.
- Offer vegetables and fruit at most meals. Serve at least one orange and one dark green vegetable each day, such as carrots, sweet potato, broccoli, asparagus and spinach. Use lower fat dips, sauces or dressings to make them more appealing.
- Give your children whole fruit instead of juice. Fruit is lower in sugar and has more fibre than juice. If you offer juice, serve only 100% fruit juice (with no added sugar) and give small amounts (max 125 ml per day, diluted to 250 ml)
- Shop for whole grain products that are high in fibre and low in sugar, fat and salt. Good choices include oats, whole wheat pasta, brown rice and whole grain breads. Read the nutrition information tables and look for breakfast cereals with 6 grams of fibre or more per 100 g. Compare the sugar content in nutrition information tables and choose lower sugar cereals.
- Serve lower fat milk and milk alternatives like 2% milk or low fat yoghurt. Milk products provide calcium and vitamin D for healthy bones. Offer smoothies with breakfast, yoghurt for snacks and a glass of milk at dinner.
- Include some unsaturated fat each day. These are healthier fats. Use soft margarine on bread or toast instead of butter. Use vegetable oil for cooking or baking instead of butter, shortening or lard. Add small amounts of salad dressing, avocado or a sprinkle of nuts and seeds on salads. Limit foods high in saturated or unhealthy fats such as chips, nachos, cookies, donuts, pastries, chocolate and deep fried foods.
- Offer water when your children are thirsty instead of sugary drinks like fruit cocktail, fruit punch, pop and sports drinks. Do not give children energy drinks or other drinks with caffeine. Caffeine can interfere with your child’s sleep and cause anxiety.
- Busy schedules make it important to plan ahead for healthy eating. Plan your meals ahead of time so that you have all the foods you need on hand.
- Serve breakfast daily - It is important to start the day off right by serving breakfast. Breakfast provides important nutrients and may help children perform better in school and stay at a healthier weight. Here are some winning ideas to start the day:
- whole grain cereal, milk, and a banana
- whole wheat toast, scrambled egg, and an orange
- plain oats, yoghurt, and berries
- whole grain bagel, nut butter, and an apple
- whole grain tortilla with beans and cheese
- fruit and yoghurt smoothie and a homemade bran muffin
- Snack well – Children have smaller tummies than adults and may need to eat more often. Serve healthy snacks to keep your kids energized between meals. Include foods from at least two food groups, for example:
- fruit with yoghurt dip
- sliced vegetables with hummus
- whole grain crackers with cheese
- half of a sandwich and milk.
For further information, please contact the Pick n Pay Health Hotline registered dietitian on 0800 11 22 88 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To find a registered dietitian in your area, visit the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) website at www.adsa.org.za.