Help your child thrive this Healthy Eating Month
Making healthier food and drink choices can benefit the health and well being of the whole family. Good nutrition is especially important in infants and children as it provides them with the energy and nutrients they need to stay healthy, and to be able to think clearly, learn and play. To mark Healthy Eating Month, Health Promotion Officer, Pamela Lopez-Vargas from Kids Health, has some helpful tips on ensuring children are given the best possible chance to thrive.
The Five Food Groups
Eating a variety of fresh foods from the Five Food Groups every day will provide optimal nutrition for children and adults alike. It's important to include a variety of food from each of the Five Food Groups to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.
The Five Food Groups are made up of:
- Vegetables (such as carrots, celery, potatoes, pumpkin, mushrooms) and legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas), provide vitamins and minerals and help the body’s immune system.
- Grains (cereals) provide energy to help your child to think, learn and play. These include rice, pasta, quinoa, muesli, oats, bread, polenta etc.
- Fruits provide vitamins, minerals and energy. Examples of fruits: oranges, pears, bananas, apples, grapes, kiwi fruit, melon, pineapple etc.
- Dairy provides calcium for strong bones and teeth. These foods include milk, cheese, yoghurt etc.
- Lean meats (eg fish, chicken, beef, kangaroo meat), as well as eggs, tofu and nuts, provide protein to build strong muscles.
The inclusion of more food from the Five Food Groups can help reduce the risk of conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol which can lead to heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer.
Foods that are high in sugar, salt and saturated fat, should be eaten in small amounts because they have low nutritional value, they can increase the risk of diseases and can cause weight gain. These foods include:
- lollies and sweets, sugar-sweetened soft-drinks and cordials, energy and sports drinks, even some fruit juices are high in sugar.
- potato chips, crisps and savoury snacks
- cakes, biscuits, pastries, pies, fried foods, pizza, processed meats (sausages, burgers)
- butter, cream, cooking margarine and some oils (coconut and palm oil)
By limiting foods high in sugar, salt and saturated fat, eating the recommended number of serves a day and including daily physical activity, children can lead healthier lives, and maintain a healthy weight.
When choosing what to drink, remember water is extremely important. Not only does it hydrate the body, it can help children have clearer minds to think and learn.
For children 8 years or younger, 4-5 cups of water is optimal. For adolescents, aim for 6-8 cups.
Calculating serving sizes, and the right number of serves, can be tricky. The number of serves required to properly fuel the body is different for toddlers, children and adolescents. The Eat for Health website has lots of helpful information on serving sizes for all ages.
It's also important to check the sugar, salt and saturated fat content of packaged foods. The Nutrition Information Panel on the pack assists in making smarter healthy food choices at the supermarket. Some helpful hints on reading food labels can be found here.
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