Kids and Nutrition
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.