How do you manage healthy food intake for kids on a daily basis for the age group of 1-5 years
Expert Stories | Mrs. Shayana Ameresekere MHumNutr (Aus) RNutr(Aus) Nutritionist
When considering this subject we need to be mindful that we are currently going through very uncertain times, at any moment countries around the world are thrown into lockdowns to help manage the spread of covid19. This generally means children are forced into a more sedentary lifestyle as they are urged to stay at home. Usually when this happens we can observe a link between the increase in screen time and the decrease in physical activity. As a result of this parents have to be mindful of food consumption levels of their children to minimise over nutrition. (S. Ameresekere, 2021).
This task can be extremely challenging for parents because not only do they need to think of ways to keep their children healthy through the nutrients they consume, but they also need to assist in building up the child's immunity through the food they are eating as well as minimising over consumption.
Tips to help manage over nutrition:
- Try to keep your children as occupied as possible. Most snacking habits come from boredom (even as adults we sometimes face the same issue) sometimes when we feel bored our mind can confuse that with hunger. Therefore try to keep your child's day as active and as fun filled as you can.
- Try to keep to your regular schedule when it comes to meal times. If you normally have lunch at 12noon or 1pm during a school day followed by a little tea time snack and then dinner a few hours later. Stick to that. When set routines and schedules become more fluid you could loose track of what your child has consumed during the day and this can lead to unhealthy eating habits. (S. Ameresekere, 2021).
- Keep more healthy options in the house rather than unhealthy options. Such unhealthy foods are typically less nutrient dense and higher in fats and sugars. Remember the popular saying “out of sight out of mind” so if the children don’t see a lot of junk food around the house they will usually be less likely to ask for it.
- Educate your children about the importance of healthy eating, especially if your child is around the age group of 3,4 or 5 they will definitely understand conversations like this, provide them with information about food, why you eat certain food and the amount as well as time to eat such items.
- When buying pre-made or prepackaged foods for the house always read the ingredients list and try to pick something that doesn’t have added sugar, artificial flavours and is low in fat.
- Make healthy snacks fun for your kids. That might mean cutting the fruit into cute shapes and arranging it in a smily face design on your child's plate or if your children are older you can involve them with the cooking process which is beneficial in multiple ways. Not only does this help educate the child about the food but it also gives them an activity to do for the day.
- Try to plan the meals for the day ahead of time. Usually as parents we are very busy so if we have the meals and snacks ready to go for the day we won’t feel the need to offer too many unhealthy options to the children.
Lastly if you still feel your child is not having the correct balance of nutrients on a daily basis consult the advice of a professional.