Healthy eating for weight management

A report of the Chief Health Officer earlier this year found that Australia, including NSW, is experiencing unprecedented levels of overweight and obesity. When it comes to children, 22% are overweight or obese in NSW.

Overall, children aren’t eating enough fruit and vegetables; and they’re having too many treats, take-aways and sweetened beverages.

Healthy eating is a challenge many families face - here’s how to get back on track.

Vege-might

Vegetables are high in essential fibre, vitamins and minerals and anti-oxidants, and they help add variety and satiety to meals.

  • Cook vegetables in a variety of ways, for instance: microwaving, steaming, char-grilling or baking. Add a range of vegetables to soups and meals.
  • Make them look attractive on the plate.
  • Always include vegetables or salad at every meal so children know to expect them.
  • Don’t make a fuss about eating all the vegetables. It takes time for children to accept and like foods they aren’t used to.
  • Lead by example: Let them see you enjoying nature’s bounty.
  • Make a vegetable pot or garden together.
  • Add raw vegetables to their school lunch boxes every day and include salad as part for the lunch sandwich or wrap. 

Make good food cool

Unhealthy foods, including cakes, pastries, fried foods, sweet biscuits, muffins, donuts, high energy fruit or muesli bars, packet chips, and hot chips, may fill children up, leaving them with no appetite for healthy snacks and meals.

It is important for social and cultural reasons that children learn to eat ‘family food’ and know that treats are occasional only.

Eating too much treat or junk food may lead children to become low in essential nutrients such as calcium and iron and over time weight many increase above the healthy weight range for their age. Make good food cool in your home.

  • Healthier snack alternatives include: raw chopped veggies, whole fruit, smaller packaged snack bars which are not too high in calories, dairy options such as crackers with cheese, yoghurt and milk or nuts for those over five and not allergic.
  • Get your children involved in cooking and food preparation – even young children can help by chopping vegetables with child-safe knives. This will help give them ownership over the food meaning they are much more likely to try something new!
  • Try presenting food in a new and different way- instead of a salad let your children make vegetable kebabs by placing cucumber, cherry tomatoes, capsicum and carrot slices on bamboo sticks.
  • Even grocery shopping can be turned into a game - get them to cut out pictures of fruit and vegetables to make a shopping list and then when you go shopping they can pick out and sort they fruit and vegetables on their list!

Water sports

Water is the best drink for children (and adults) as it quenches thirst, helps keep the body hydrated, and is essential for healthy body organs and bowels, without adding unnecessary calories. Too many sugary foods and drinks can cause dental caries and lead to overweight.

Offer your children water at home and in their school drink bottle. Healthy habits last a lifetime!

Good to know

  • Only 1 in 20 children (5%) eat the recommended amount of vegetables daily.
  • One in two children (50%) eat an unhealthy snack every day.
  • Two in five children (41%) eat takeaway food at least once a week.
  • Nearly 1 in 2 children (45%) regularly drink sweetened drinks.


Kerryn Chisholm and Alicia Grunseit, senior weight management dietitians from the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead.