Also it is important to remember, not all children have been brought up in an environment of healthy eating. Convenience foods, fast foods and sweets may have been the day to day meal of children’s lives. Therefore bringing challenges when trying to introduce a more stable diet.
What does a healthy, balanced diet really mean?
Here I am talking about a healthy diet, but what is a healthy diet? What I may class as a healthy diet, may not be for others.
The NHS define a healthy, balanced diet as:
- Eating the right amount of food to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
- Eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions – this is what balanced means
According to the NHS this includes:
- At least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day
- Meals based around high fibre starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice, or pasta
- Include dairy or dairy alternatives
- Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein
- Choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat them in small amounts
- Drink plenty of fluids
What can be done to support children with a healthy diet?
- Offer a variety of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish or meat substitutes i.e. Quorn.
- Encourage trying new foods.
- Involve children in cooking (age appropriate).
- Look at cooking methods. Oven bake rather than fry, light oil sprays rather than solid fats i.e. lard/drippings.
- Try not to add salt to cooking or meals.
- Can recipes be altered slightly to a healthier alternative?
- Involve children in shopping.
- Pack lunches: some schools are now stricter on contents i.e. no chocolate bars, water only etc. Reflect on what is included.
- Still offer treats, but look at healthy alternatives.
- Drinks are also important, looking at levels of sugar and sugar supplements.
The Healthier Families NHS schemes currently have a whole range of activities for families and children to learn about healthy diets.
Its fine to have the occasional treat!
It is important to balance foods, the odd fast food meal, packet of crisps or chocolate bar is not going to cause any harm, (unless there are allergies). Compromise on when these snacks/meals are acceptable, see them as treats rather than everyday consumption.
It is important to remember not all children will adjust immediately, or be confident in trying new foods. Therefore as previously mentioned in My Child Won’t Eat.
Remember if a child has come into your care, you may need to slowly introduce:
- Different meals they may not be used to eating.
- Be patient with progress and give praise if a child tries a new food.
- Try to make mealtimes as enjoyable as possible.
- Children learn from example, if you eat healthily or promote healthier foods, they may copy.
- Studies have shown that some toddlers/children need to be given a new food more than ten times before they will accept it.
Remember that you’re not alone
If you are still worried or concerned, you can talk through with your child’s Health Visitor, GP, Social Worker or Placement Manager. Contact the team at AFA or take a look at the support we offer our foster parents, or contact your Placement Manager directly.
Finally GOOD LUCK!!