Tips for raising a lean and healthy child
Feeding kids can offer many challenges for people but shouldn’t have to. We are bombarded with messages of increasing rates of obesity however on the other hand our kids need to improve the quality of nutrition in their diets. So the challenge we face is that our kids diets are calorie rich but nutrient poor…so how do we address this?
Focus on quality…
Kids need healthy carbohydrates for energy and concentration. Dr Sears explains carbohydrates to kids in this great way:
“A good carb has two friends, fibre and protein. It never plays alone.
[A child eating Glenisk yogurt] It always plays with one or both of these friends. When it plays with these friends it keeps the good carb from rushing into your bloodstream too fast, so you have a steady supply of energy to play and learn. Good carbs are those found in whole grains, fruits & vegetables, milk and yogurt. A “not so good carb”, on the other hand has no friends. It plays alone. Unlike the good carb, this carb speeds into the bloodstream too fast, causing you to use it up too fast, leaving you tired and jittery.”
60% of Irish kids are not eating enough fibre. Fibre is not actually a nutrient as we do not absorb it but it is imperative for good health. Fibre is like a sweeping brush for the gut and helps to eliminate waste material from the body. Fibre also helps you feel fuller for longer as it slows the rate at which food works through the gut. So for example if you have a 100-calorie snack with 5g of fibre you will feel fuller afterwards than you would if you ate a 100-calorie snack with no fibre. Because of this, fibre can help you maintain a healthy weight. The easiest ways to increase your family fibre intake is to ensure some colourful fruit or vegetable at every meal, chose higher fibre breakfast cereals and try using wholemeal bread at home.
High protein diets have become popular for weight loss in recent years but are not suitable for children. We all need a daily intake of protein in our diets and children are no different. Protein provides us with energy and helps support growth and development. Children need 0.85-1.1g of protein per kg body weight or more recently the American journal of clinical nutrition (AJCN) recommended that school going children have 1.3g per kg body weight. To put that into prospective if you have a 10-year who weighs 35kg they will need 38-45g of protein per day. A 100g breast of chicken contains about 30g of protein, an average egg might contain between 8-10g a yogurt contains 4-6g of protein. Include a protein rich food at two meals per day but remember your child needs less than you do. Good sources include lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, tofu, beans & pulses.
Portion sizes and balance on the plate are two key issues to look at. More parents actually worry that they are not feeding their children enough than worry that they are overfeeding them…. and often are not aware of what an actual child's portion looks like. Children should be fed their meals on side plates until about the age of 12. They should not be eating the same quantity as the adults in the family. A good tip is that about a quarter of your child’s dinner plate should contain protein and the rest of the plate divided between colourful vegetables or salad and carbohydrate.
A recent survey revealed that one in 10 parents usually served their child nearly an adult-sized portion of popular foods like spaghetti or cheese sandwiches. By offering children bigger portions than they need we run this risk of overriding their appetite self-regulation. Younger kids are better at eating to appetite than older kids or adults this is probably because they get used to eating larger portions and eating more than they actually need.
- Ensuring colour at every meal. E.g. juice or fruit at breakfast, salad in a sandwich at lunchtime or some vegetable soup and then vegetables served with dinner.
- Daily activity, keeping a family chart in the kitchen where everyone writes up how much activity they have completed that day. We should all be aiming for at least 30 minutes of activity per day but 60 minutes for kids would be ideal.
- Go for brown. Cut out white breads and refined cereals and start choosing high fibre options for the whole family.
- Keeping hydrated; encourage water as a drink and ensure that everybody is drinking the recommended 6-8 cups per day. We often mistake thirst for hunger and not drinking enough fluid in the day can effect concentration too.
- Put the fruit bowl where it accessible to the whole family.
- Cutting back on TV. One of the easier ways to encourage less viewing times in families is no TV during mealtimes and only eating meals in one room in the house e.g. the kitchen or at the dining table.
- Agree a healthy snack list with your kids and stick it up on the fridge.
- Involve your child in food shopping getting them to weigh fruits and vegetables and any foods you want them to take notice of.
- Early to bed! Children who don't get enough sleep may be at increased risk of becoming overweight.
- When possible eat together.