Ask the experts! Get practical advice on how to make healthier changes as a family 3 years ago

Ask the experts! Get practical advice on how to make healthier changes as a family

Brought to you by START

It takes a hero to be the bad guy.

In theory, we're all about a healthy lifestyle, both for us and for the kids. We have such good intentions but then, well, life happens. Sometimes it's so much easier to just stick on a premade dinner than it is to deal with all the extra cooking time, the moaning and the arguments that come with something home-cooked.

Goodness knows, being a parent is tiring! It can be tough sticking with a healthy diet every day and making sure the kids stay away from treats.

At the moment, though, a whopping 20 percent of what our children eat are unhealthy treats. It just shows that those little treats and bribes (guilty as charged) add up. It's important to stand firm on the treat front though because starting healthy habits from a young age can set them up with good habits for later in life. This can help prevent issues that can arise from not eating a healthy, balanced diet while they're still growing. There can be short-term dental problems to deal with plus more serious health issues that can arise once they get older: Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, the list goes on.

Don't worry, though. because the START campaign from safefood, the HSE and Healthy Ireland is here to help.

START has two experts ready to answer any questions you might have on the subject of saying no treats. They can give you lots of tips on choosing your meals and dealing with picky little eaters. Joana Caldeira Fernandes da Silva, Chief Specialist in Nutrition with safefood, is ready to walk you through the steps you need to lay down the foundation of good eating habits for your little one.

Of course, we anticipate a little bit of struggle while trying to introduce these changes - isn't there always? -so Peadar Maxwell, a senior psychologist in the HSE, is also on hand to help with any worries or questions you may have about the pushback.


The change may seem a little daunting at the beginning, but it's important to take each day as it comes and to not get too downtrodden if there's a slip up here or there. As Peadar Maxwell says:

"It never helps when we beat ourselves up, so if you do give in, don’t despair. Instead, reflect on what happened and decide what you can change for the next time. It’s really important to stay positive and if treats are a long-term habit, it may require patience for healthy snacking to become the norm."

So, the best place to start is with you. What questions do you have about saying no to treats, nutrition, meal-prep, easing your kids into the new healthy lifestyle, etc.? Anything that comes to mind, whether you're unsure of something, want some easy-to-make substitutes for school lunches or you're a bit worried about those pressure points, let us know. Fill in the form below and ask us (or Joana and Peadar, rather!) any questions you want relating to nutrition, healthy eating, and parenting*.

Then keep your eyes peeled because we will be coming back with an article and social stories answering all your queries, worries, and questions.

For now, you can check out some of the expert advice that has already been given over on the safefood website or you can have a look at these 10 tips to get you started on your nutritional journey.

Like we said, it ain't easy. Remember - it takes a hero to be the bad guy. Capes are optional.

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Brought to you by START, the health awareness campaign from safefood, HSE and Healthy Ireland

*We cannot answer any questions on specific health, medical or behavioural conditions. Any questions you may have relating to those issues should be addressed towards your child's GP.