Encouraging your child with a healthy diet can be challenging. Particularly with all the varying commercials regarding, fast food restaurants, sweets and drinks. Marketing are very good with the timings and locations of advertising these products.
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.
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 (NHS, 2016) define a Healthy 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
So what can be done to support children, in the introduction of healthier meals?
- 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.
Change for Life (NHS,2016) currently have a sugar smart app. Scan the bar code and it will indicate how many sugar cubes are in a product. This can also be a fun activity: my children loved scanning and then discovering the amounts of sugar, in their favourite products.
You may be surprised, I was!! For example; a famous chocolate orange contains 26 sugar cubes, yes 26.
If you don’t have the technology to enable you to have the app, most if not all packaging, should indicate fat, sugar and salt content.
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.
If you are still worried or concerned, you can talk through with your child’s Health Visitor, GP, Social Worker or Placement Manager. AFA office number: 01603 559255 or contact your Placement Manager direct.
Finally GOOD LUCK!!
NHS, (2016). Let’s get Sugar Smart! Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/change4life-beta/campaigns/sugar-smart/home (Accessed on: 29/1/16)
NHS, (2016) What is a healthy, balanced diet? Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/1127.aspx?CategoryID=51 (Accessed on: 29/1/16)