Kids and Nu­tri­tion

The Victoria Standard - - Nutrition - HEIDI MOR­RI­SON with Heidi Mor­ri­son

Once our chil­dren reach school age, de­cid­ing which foods, and how much to send to school, can be frus­trat­ing. As par­ents, our job is to de­cide what food and snacks will be of­fered and where and when they will be served. The child de­cides how much they are go­ing to eat.

In real­ity, chil­dren need less than you might think. The daily range of serv­ings from el­e­men­tary to high school are as fol­lows: 5-8 serv­ings of veg­eta­bles and fruit, 4-7 serv­ings of grain prod­ucts, 2-4 serv­ings of milk and al­ter­na­tives, and 1-3 serv­ings of meat and al­ter­na­tives. No­tice the high­est re­quire­ments come from the veg­eta­bles and fruit cat­e­gory. So a 7 year old could have: ¾ cup of oat­meal with berries and ½ cup of milk for break­fast, orange slices for re­cess, ½ egg sand­wich with cheese for lunch, baby car­rots and sliced cu­cum­ber for af­ter school snack, ½ cup of tomato sauce with meat­balls, ½ cup pasta and gar­lic toast for sup­per with ½ cup milk and a fruit cup for dessert.

While a teenager’s re­quire­ments and in­take are sig­nif­i­cantly more, en­cour­ag­ing health­ier op­tions, of­fer­ing bal­anced meals and al­low­ing one day of the week where they have their favourite pro­cessed foods can help build healthy eat­ing habits.

The prob­lem of­ten lies in fre­quently choos­ing the eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble, in­ex­pen­sive pro­cessed foods avail­able. They con­tain added sugar which can lead to in­creased calo­rie in­take with­out the fiber, pro­tein and nu­tri­ents to main­tain en­ergy and good health.

What about fruit juice? Nat­u­ral sugar and added sugar are used by our bod­ies in the same way, but when you have nat­u­ral sugar in fruit, for ex­am­ple, it comes with vi­ta­mins and fiber that al­lows the body to process it more slowly; there­fore fill­ing you up longer than pro­cessed foods. When you take that fruit and make it into 100% fruit juice, it loses all of the ben­e­fits of be­ing whole fruit, so it’s essen­tially an added sugar. This is why juice and choco­late milk should be con­sid­ered treats along with pop and other sugar-laden bev­er­ages.

Smooth­ies, how­ever, can be a health­ier op­tion. A favourite recipe in our home is frozen ba­nana, frozen blue­ber­ries, a dol­lop of yo­gurt, a hand­ful of fresh baby spinach, a splash of maple syrup, all in a blender and then topped with milk. Freeze your child’s fa­vorite smoothie recipe in a sin­gle serv­ing con­tainer and by lunch it should be de­frosted enough to drink.

Use your child’s favourite sup­per as left­overs for lunch. Try a boiled egg with whole grain crack­ers and grapes. Top hum­mus with salsa and grated cheese with multi­grain na­cho chips for dip­ping. Wrap up left­over turkey in a whole wheat wrap with some tzatziki and baby spinach. Kids love dip! Use cot­tage cheese, yo­gurt, or gua­camole as healthy dips.

As kids are grow­ing and be­ing ac­tive daily, healthy food keeps them en­er­gized and fo­cused at school. How­ever, we all know chil­dren who are fussy de­spite the par­ent’s best ef­forts. Peer groups can some­times help kids be ad­ven­tur­ous, so when friends are to­gether, make pre­par­ing and shar­ing healthy food an ac­tiv­ity. Start small, be con­sis­tent and be a healthy food role model.

Heidi Mor­ri­son has a Bach­e­lor of Science in Hu­man Nu­tri­tion. Have a ques­tion about food or nu­tri­tion? Email healthyeat­[email protected]­to­ri­a­s­tan­dard.ca.

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