The facts and what we can do about it
Alarmingly, only 1 in 16 children in NSW eat the recommended serves of vegetables each day. Whereas, nearly 70% of children eat the recommended serves of fruit daily. While the stats are pretty great with fruit, eating only fruit may mean that your child is missing out on nutrients found in vegetables. Compared to fruits, most vegetables are better sources of calcium, iron and folate. The vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants found in vegetables will strengthen your child’s immune system, ensure healthy growth a development and help to prevent chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease.
A major cause of childhood obesity is the high level of sugar that children are consuming. A NSW Health survey reported that more than half of all school children are drinking at least 2 cups of soft drink each week, with a staggering 1 in 3 kids reporting that soft drinks are readily available at home. Around 1 in 3 children also reported eating confectionery at least 3 times per week.
Additionally, dietary patterns can have a huge impact on the relationship kids have with food. It is estimated 1 in 4 boys and 1 in 3 girls do not eat breakfast every day, which is a risk factor for excessive snacking on often unhealthy foods.
Here are some tips on healthy eating for children from NSW health
Eat breakfast with your children!
Modelling healthy meal time behaviour can encourage your children to eat their breakfast too!
Healthy snacks in their lunchbox
Washed and cut up raw vegetables or fresh fruits are a great alternative to sugary or salty snack foods.
Cheese slices, crackers with spread and dried fruits are also a delicious and great source of nutrients.
Sandwiches or pita bread with cheese, lean meat, hummus and salad are a great option.
Try to limit processed meats such as salami, ham and pressed chicken as well as chips, muesli bars and sweet biscuits.
Water is your child’s best friend. Avoiding cordials, juices and soft drinks will do a world of good for them in both the short and long term.
Peer pressure to eat particular ‘trendy’ foods at primary school age is strong. Let your child eat these kinds of foods occasionally, however always in conjunction with nutritious food rather than replacing them.
Don’t ban foods
While setting limits can be great, banning your children from certain foods or food groups can make them much more alluring to children. It is suggested that parents should explain junk food as items that don’t have any health benefits, so they shouldn’t be eaten too often.
Family meal times
Eating dinner together as a family at the table is very important for establishing healthy dietary patterns. It is important to avoid distractions such as the television, radio or telephone. Allowing talk and sharing of daytime activities not only promotes healthy family relationships, but children also have pleasant expectations of mealtimes.
It is important to let your child decide when they are full and not to argue about food.
Teach your children about food
Simple nutrition facts such as ‘milk keeps your bones strong’ can help promote children to think of food as something that nourishes them and helps them grow rather than just something that tastes good or makes them full.
Exercise and activity!
Physical activity is a very important part of good health. Try to encourage your child to do something active each day,
such as a hobby, game or sport!
For primary school children, 60 minutes of ‘activity’ is recommended each day and no more than two ours of
watching TV, DVDs or playing computer games.
Tips to increase your child’s activity include:
Limit the amount of time spent watching TV for the whole family
Do something physical and active together
Encourage team sports (they also help children develop socially)
Go and watch your child play sports
Encourage daily activity, not just exercise
Use the car less – that means everyone!!!