20 Oktober 2020 | Gesundheit
Yummy in my tummy
Choosing the right meals for your child can play an important role in their overall well-being.
Healthy eating is often a concept that scares parents because it sounds complicated and expensive. This does not need to be the case.
In order to cultivate healthy eating habits, parents need to strive to create the healthiest environment for their children at home.
“Parents are responsible for providing healthy food choices for their children and keeping processed foods and snacks to an absolute minimum. A variety of vegetables, fruits and wholegrains or minimally processed dairy are essential for good health. Some low-fat dairy products and lean proteins are also important,” said Samantha du Toit, a registered dietician and owner of Lya Nawa.
“A parent’s role is also to model healthy eating behaviour and to try and enjoy most meals together as a family. Children’s responsibility is to choose how much of the food offered they would like to eat. When provided with a healthy diet, children are very good at responding to their appetite and satiety cues,” she further added.
“Children have small tummies so they need three meals and two to three snacks per day. Caregivers should offer food every two to three hours and be responsive to children’s feeding cues. A variety of vegetables, especially dark green, orange or yellow and any other colour vegetable, fruits and wholegrains or minimally processed starches like oats, whole-wheat bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and maize daily are essential for good health.”
Du Toit further said some low-fat dairy products like two to three cups of milk or yoghurt or two to three blocks of cheese and lean proteins such as fish, chicken, eggs and beans are also important to include in your child’s diet.
Sugar intake in children
Many parents want to know how much sugar they should give their children, and what sugars are better alternatives for their children.
Du Toit said the sugar found in fresh whole fruits, vegetables and milk is always a safe option.
“The small amount of sugar added to healthy foods such as high-fibre cereals, dairy and beans is also acceptable in small amounts. However, free sugars such as glucose, fructose, sucrose or table sugar, as well as syrup and honey that are added to cereals, porridge or tea and that are consumed as part of sugar-sweetened beverages should be avoided or kept to an absolute minimum.”
The World Health Organisation recommends that less than 5% of a child or adult’s diet should come from free sugars. Depending on the age of the child, this is roughly 25g of sugar or six teaspoons per day.
Allergies and conditions
Food allergies and other medical conditions do make it more challenging for parents to ensure that their children eat well.
The top food allergens are fish, seafood, eggs, milk, nuts and wheat. “Fortunately, the nutrients provided by these foods can be provided by many other types of foods. Most children also outgrow allergies within a couple of years. A registered dietitian can support parents with the correct individualised advice in terms of ensuring children with these medical conditions still receive an optimally healthy diet,” Du Toit added.
Budget-friendly healthy options
“We all need to make the best of the budget we have available for food. A good starting point is to avoid buying processed foods such as cooldrinks, sweets, chips, biscuits and ice cream. These items are often very affordable and very attractive in terms of their taste and appearance, but they have virtually no nutritional value. In children and some adults, these foods often take the place of other more nutritious foods,” Du Toit said.
“It is affordable and healthy to base your diet on starchy foods such as oats, maize, barley, rice, potato, bread and pasta. Also include as many vegetables daily as possible, aiming for three to four fist size portions, for example onions, cabbage, carrots, spinach, tomatoes and pumpkin,” she said.
Growing some of your own vegetables can help keep you healthy and save a lot of money.
When it comes to fruit, all types are healthy, not only the expensive ones. Having one to two fist-size portions of fruits in season along with the vegetables will help you achieve the target of five portions of vegetables and fruit per day for optimal health, she said.
Fresh, unprocessed meat, chicken and fish are more expensive than starchy foods. For good health, these should be eaten in small quantities and can often be replaced with plant proteins such as beans, lentils or soya.
What do parents do
Natasja Beyleveld is a mother of two who believes that involving your children in cooking and food preparation plays an important role in their eating habits.
Keeping it simple when preparing food is essential, she said.
“Rice with vegetables and a nice sauce is sometimes tastier than having a sandwich. I opt for baking bran muffins and I change my approach to food. I add some soy sauce to noodles and then add a can of tuna and green beans, and my kids love them.”
Beyleveld said she grates vegetables into dishes as a way of sneakily adding these essential nutrients to dishes.
“Chicken legs rock and broccoli is legit. Why use two-minute noodles when you can involve your kids in making your own healthier noodles? When they crave chocolate, give them dark chocolate instead of milk. When you involve your kids when preparing food, they feel a sense of ownership and involvement, and that makes them excited about food in a good way,” she said.