The ABCs of healthy eating for kids

The ABCs of healthy eating for kids

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Taking charge of your children’s eating today will help them enjoy better health tomorrow.

When it comes to kids and healthy eating, everyone claims to be an expert. But does choosing the right foods really have to be that tricky? Sometimes getting back to the basics – or the ABCs – of nutrition can help remind us that commonsense can be our best guide.

With one in four Australian children  either overweight or obese, it could be thought that the future health of the next generation looks grim. The most effective strategy to get our children on the path to good health is to make nutritious food choices ourselves and encourage our children to do the same from an early age.

But it doesn’t have to be challenging. With some simple changes it’s possible to help them enjoy healthy eating and set them on the right track for life. 

A – An apple a day

Giving your child a sweet, crunchy apple each day will go some way to boosting their health, but it’s important to include a wide variety of options from the five food groups: vegetables, beans and legumes; whole grains; fruit; dairy and dairy alternatives; lean meat and meat alternatives, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds - and small amounts of healthy fats.

READ MORE: The new Australian food pyramid

Top tip

Keeping it simple is the best way to encourage your child to embrace healthy eating. Start by increasing their fruit and vegetable intake while limiting foods high in saturated fat, such as store-bought biscuits, cakes, pastries, pies, processed meats, pizza, fried foods, potato chips, and other savoury  snacks.

B – Begin the day with breakfast

Children who eat breakfast are more likely to enjoy a nutritious diet overall and to be more physically active, reducing their risk of being overweight.

Top tip

Set the alarm 15 minutes earlier and sit down with your children to enjoy a nutritious morning meal. Wholegrain breakfast cereals or toast, fruit smoothies and eggs are all nutritious choices.

C – Cooking is a life skill

Involving children in various aspects of food preparation and cooking from a young age will help to nurture their interest in preparing simple, nutritious meals later in life. Also, they’re more likely to try foods that they’ve helped prepare and cook.

Top tip

Plant a small herb garden or veggie patch, let them help with the weekly meal plan, teach them how to choose the best quality fruit and vegetables, and engage them in some simple, age-appropriate meal-preparation activities such as grating carrots, sifting flour, mixing and, of course, licking the spoon.

D – Develop a mealtime schedule

As parents, we are in the best position to decide what our children should be eating and when. Making sure there are plenty of nutritious and satisfying options on hand will mean they are less likely to be tempted by unhealthy convenience foods.

Top tip

Try to stick to three meals and two snacks a day. A schedule will help make daily meal planning easier and reduce the chances of any unplanned snacking on high-fat, sugary or salty foods.  

E – Enjoy variety

Choose from a wide variety of colourful vegetables and fruit each day and introduce at least one new vegetable a few times a week. New foods may be rejected at first, but be patient as it can take 10 or 12 attempts before your child gets a taste for an unfamiliar food. 

Top tip

Including a couple of preferred foods alongside any new ones will encourage your fussy eaters to give them a try.

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