Dietitian Michelle Loughlin shares top tips on creating a healthy diet for kids
Really good advice.
With ever-growing overweight and obesity rates among children in Ireland, keeping our kids healthy is an area of concern for most parents.
Back to school is key time to forge good healthy eating habits for all the family and dietitian Michelle Loughlin from Spectrum Health has some advice on how to create a healthy diet for our children.
'Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to feed your child “perfectly,” as this can create an issue in itself. We need to eat for the rest of our lives, so it is important to enjoy food, making choices that nourish the body – but also include treats which you and your children enjoy.
Try not to label foods as good or bad, as restriction of perceived “bad foods” can make them more desirable. Allowing all foods in the diet in a balanced way will help to develop much healthier relationships with food. Use the 80:20 rule: 80% what nourishes the body and 20% foods you and your children enjoy.
An example of balance could be a ham and cheese sandwich with a piece of fruit and a small bar of chocolate.'
'Make sustainable changes together.
Children will be much more eager to eat healthily if the whole family does it together. And, the key word here is “together.” Try and have breakfast together as a family, even if it means getting up that little bit earlier. This may not be possible every day and might be something that you do at the weekends.
In the beginning, aim for even just 1 day a week. Similarly, it is a good idea to sit down as a family for dinner in the evening.'
'Involve your kids in cooking and food shopping.
Children tend to flex their independence muscles so being regularly told what to eat can become a real issue. Children love to be involved, so use this in a positive way and it is a great way to make your children interested in what they’re eating.
By involving them in the shop for fresh ingredients, choosing new fruit or veg to try, as well as the cooking process, they’re much more likely to readily eat the resulting healthy meal.'
'Keep treats to treats.
A key issue at present for children is the overconsumption of high fat and high sugar foods. In some cases, the main meals are being replaced with junk food. This can affect a child’s growth long-term and can lead to weight gain. Again, try to use the 80/20 rule – 80% foods that nourish the body and 20% of the time a few treats. Safefood recommends limiting treats to mini or snack size treats every 2nd day or less.
The odd treat really is ok but try not to make it a daily occurrence, e.g. on a Friday, and it’s all about portion control.'