In order to achieve great health we need to eat a wide variety of food and according to a study published by the Academy of Nutrition this has never been more true. As parents it is important to get food savvy – check food labels and packaging for unwanted additives and try and plan ahead by batch cooking, making larger amounts and and freezing the remainder to ensure you always have access to fresh, nutritious home cooked food. Here are our 7 top tips on creating an easily achievable healthy balanced diet.
Start the day well
Many children go off to school with a tummy full of sugary cereals, providing them with little nutritional benefit and risking mid morning energy slumps. By giving your child a good breakfast full of protein combined with slow releasing carbohydrates is a great way to ensure they get the best out of their day. A simple bowl of porridge with sultanas, ground nuts and seeds or boiled eggs on wholemeal toast is ideal. For days when time of poor, or for breakfast on the go, these muffin recipe are a great option.
Eat more fish! Build meals around good quality protein
Protein is essential for rapidly growing young bodies. It is also important for health brain and mood function, as well as stabilising blood sugar levels. Aim to have a good quality protein source as the base for each meal. Be aware that by their very nature many typical children’s foods lack quality protein (e.g pasta with tomato sauce, breakfast cereals). The rest of the meal should be a rainbow of colours, with some form of carbohydrate such as sweet potato, brown rice or whole wheat pasta for fibre and energy.
Try to eat more complex carbohydrates
Gradually make the switch from white to brown (which applies to everything from bread, pasta, rice – even sugar!) and start embracing the abundance of other wonderful grains available in even the smallest of supermarkets – from couscous, quinoa, bulgar wheat and various noodles. Many come vacuum packed or pre-cooked so all is required is a bit of imagination and creativity.
Choose ingredients for both taste as well as their health benefits
We should really start using food as a tool for making us better, more healthy and to reach our full potential. After all, “we are what we eat.” Spices and herbs carry fantastic nutritional benefits, such as turmeric with its rich anti-inflammatory properties plus they taste great and add depth to meals. Don’t assume these flavours are too ‘grown up’ for children, most will relish them.
Focus on family-friendly meals
Life can be more straightforward if you only have one family meal to prepare, rather than cooking for the children and then having to cook again later on for yourself and your partner. Try to cook meals that work for everyone, a version you can make for the children and then with a few very simple tweaks, you can enjoy later yourself.
Cook more with your children
By getting them involved with the food shopping, particularly by picking out of veg/fruit, and then asking for their help in preparing meals, you will be amazed how positively they can respond. This will make a big difference when it comes to picky eaters and foods that are quite often pushed to the side of the plate.
Eat less sugar
Start to replace biscuits with fresh fruit, nuts and dried fruit. By offering more nutritious alternatives, they are likely to feel more satisfied and will not miss the high sugar nutrient poor alternatives. Of course everyone deserves a treat otherwise life would be no fun, but there are ways to offer more nutritious alternatives.