Sunday, July 25, 2010

Creative Healthy Eating For Children

When I first moved to London in 1997 one of the first things that struck me was the amount of ready made, processed food that was available. I remember thinking at the time, why can't I just buy a freshly made sandwich anywhere?? Once I started teaching I was even more shocked (to say the least!!) at the meals served to the children at lunchtimes. A constant range of turkey twisters, fish fingers and chicken nuggets seemed never ending on the menu. Not only did this strike me as unbalanced in terms of food variety in a child's diet, but also extremely unhealthy. While I was teaching in 1995, chef Jamie Oliver attempted to improve the quality and nutritional value of school dinners throughout British schools— a goal which ultimately led to a broader campaign (called Feed Me Better) to improve school dinners throughout Britain. I remember vividly to this day watching Jamie do his Chicken Nugget Experiment at a primary school and thinking - I will never let my children eat Chicken Nuggets! (Which I have to say anyone who knows me knows this is true) I am happy to say that Jamie's effort in Britain had a huge impact on School Dinners and that there are now very strict guidelines and balanced menus in place for schools to follow. All meals are now freshly made and in many cases use organic produce. Jamie's latest attempt is to revolutionise School Dinners in the United States of America. I watched the show on Friday night and have attached a link to the Chicken Nugget Experiment that Jamie did with American students.

We as parents play a big role in shaping our children’s eating habits. When we eat a variety of foods that are low in fat and sugar and high in fibre, our children learn to like these foods as well. It may take 10 or more tries before your child accepts a new food, so do not give up if your child does not like a new food right away. You as parents have an effect on your children’s physical activity habits as well. You can set a good example by going for a walk or bike ride after dinner instead of watching TV. Playing ball or jumping rope with your children shows them that being active is fun. With many parents working outside the home, child care providers also help shape children’s eating and activity habits. Make sure your child care provider offers well-balanced meals and snacks, as well as plenty of active play time. This is also important when children are visiting Grandparents who tend to indulge Grandchildren with too many sugary foods!!

Healthy Eating Starts with Parent Role Models - Tips for parents

Actions speak louder than words, so it is unlikely that words will have much impact on your child's eating habits unless you practice what you preach.
Here are a few healthy eating habits parents can role model for your children:
Never skip meals - especially breakfast
Take moderate portions
Try new foods yourself — but don't force your children to try them
Turn the TV off while you are eating
Limit junk food in the house
Drink water and milk instead of soda
Learn new strategies for managing stress that do not include eating
Eat fruit for dessert
Include vegetables and fruits with meals and snacks

Children who eat nutritious foods do better in school, but coming up with healthy back-to-school lunch ideas that children will actually eat can be a challenge for many parents. A healthy school lunch combines nutrient-rich foods from several food groups to supply protein, fat and carbohydrates to sustain energy and concentration for several hours. The composition of the meal makes a difference in how long it will sustain a child throughout the day. A balanced meal consisting of carbohydrate, protein and fat gives children energy and prevents a drop in blood sugar for several hours. In general, a meal including a variety of foods from several food groups will provide the most benefits to a child, educationally, nutritionally and physically. I just love the site they have excellent healthy lunchbox ideas (with pictures for the visual learner that I am!!) So get creative and have a go at making some of these lunchbox ideas for your little one. As you know I am all about letting kids cook, even more so about learning how we grow food, where it comes from, the different names given to foods, how we use our senses with food...the list is endless.

Fruit and veg seem to be a real bug bear with young children at some point in time. I'm sure you have some great tricks that you have used in recipes to disguise the vegetables!! Growing you own vegetables is a great way to get children interested in eating them, visit the local Farmer's market on a weekly basis and get your child involved in choosing a variety of healthy vegetable's. Remember to teach your child the names of vegetables and fruits.

After a recent visit to our local Farmer's Market the boys and I got busy reading Oliver's Vegetables and then painted with every possible vegetable we could!! Before the boys had afternoon tea I had prepared a surprise for them - a muffin tray full of the fruits that are in the story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Get creative when you want your children to eat fruits and veg.... find a book about the food and read it to the kids while they munch on a healthy snack!


  1. Agree with your thoughts on nutrition, healthy eating, setting examples, etc. Post about the same thing on my blog - The caterpillar tray is a great tie in to a favorite book. Looking forward to reading more of your posts as time allows.
    Connected from Teach Preschool on FB - I'm Debbie Arcaro there.

  2. Hi Debbie, thanks for the feedback! Will pop on over to your blog now am always looking for great reads on like minded people!

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