The Heart and Stroke Foundation suggests five ways to get your kids eating healthy to support their growth and development, all while building healthy eating habits.
The COVID-19 outbreak is upending life for families around the world. To make things even harder, panic buying and disruptions to food supply systems mean some foods can now be difficult to find. And for many people, unemployment and lost income are making food shopping an additional financial challenge.
While many parents are understandably looking to ready meals and processed foods as a quick and low-cost way to feed the family, there are convenient, affordable and healthy alternatives to get your kids eating healthy.
Five healthy eating tips
Keep up fruit and vegetable intake
Purchasing, storing and cooking fresh vegetables can be challenging. But it’s important to ensure children are getting plenty of fruit and vegetables in their diet. Whenever it’s possible to get hold of fresh produce, do so.
As well as being eaten fresh, vegetables can be frozen where possible and will retain most of their nutrients and flavour.
Using fresh vegetables to cook large batches of soups, stews or other dishes will make them last longer and provide meal options for a few days. These can also be frozen where possible and then quickly reheated.
Use healthy dried or canned alternatives when fresh produce isn’t available
Fresh produce is almost always the best option, but when it’s not available there are plenty of healthy alternatives that are easy to store and prepare.
Canned beans and chickpeas, which are high in protein and fibre, can be stored for months and can be included in meals in many ways. Canned oily fish, such as sardines, pilchards and tuna, are rich in essential omega 3 fatty acids and a range of vitamins and minerals. These can be used cold in sandwiches, salads or pasta dishes, or cooked as part of a warm meal.
Dried goods like dried beans, pulses and grains, such as lentils, split peas, rice, couscous or quinoa, are nutritious, long-lasting options that are tasty, affordable and filling. Rolled oats cooked with milk or water can serve as an excellent breakfast option.
Build up a stock of healthy snacks
Children often need to eat a snack or two during the day to keep them going. Rather than giving kids sweets or salty snacks, opt for healthier options like unsalted nuts, low-fat plain yoghurt, chopped fruit and boiled eggs. These foods are nutritious, more filling, and help build healthy eating habits that last a lifetime.
Limit highly processed foods
While using fresh produce may not always be possible, try to limit the amount of highly processed foods in your shopping basket. Ready-to-eat meals, packaged snacks and desserts are often high in saturated fat, sugars and salt.
Make cooking and eating a fun and meaningful part of your family routine
Cooking and eating together is a great way to create healthy routines, strengthen family bonds and have fun. Wherever you can, involve your children in food preparation.
Five lunchbox menus to get you started
1. Quick and easy
- Cheddar cheese cubes
- Mini whole-wheat rice crackers
- Apple slices
2. Sandwich option
- Hard boiled eggs
- Whole-wheat bread
- Baby carrots
3. Salad option
- Tuna pasta salad
- Sliced orange
4. Vegetarian option
- Whole-wheat pita
5. Funky Friday option
- Peanut butter (no added sugar)
- ½ banana
- Sliced apple
- Low-fat plain white yoghurt
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