Healthy food for children

Childhood obesity appears to be growing at an alarming state with 1 in 4 Australian children being overweight or obese according to the Australian Government. Not only does childhood obesity increase the risk of obesity-related disease later in life, studies show that childhood female obesity increases the onset of early puberty (American journal Paediatrics). For young girls, childhood obesity and early onset puberty can have serious social and psychological implications such as low self-esteem and feelings of isolation.

Children, especially young girls are extremely impressionable and quickly learn from those around them. It is important therefore to not view food as the enemy or label foods into categories such as ‘good food’ or ‘bad food’.

Food is there to nourish our bodies and keep us healthy however expecting your child to have a perfect diet is not only unsustainable; it is not a healthy approach. So many mothers pack their children off to parties with sugar free, gluten free, dairy free, organic, colour and preservative free snacks which feeds behaviour that perceives food as the enemy and alienates your child from feeling normal. Encourage healthy eating at home but refrain from putting labels and judgements on food such as telling your child that ‘sugar is a poison’ or that they are ‘not to eat the treats at Grandmas house’. The key is to have a relaxed manner around what the whole family eats without making meal or snack times an issue.

Eating healthy vs unhealthy dieting.

If your daughter does need to lose weight take a simple approach by increasing healthy options at meal times, gradually reduce the sugary snacks like lollies and chocolate bars and encourage family activities that involve exercise rather than watching movies or the TV.

The best step we can take toward making positive changes in our family’s diet is to cut back on processed and refined foods such as margarine spreads, refined rice and pasta and packaged foods like pizza and ice cream. We all know what we need to do but the secret is to have an alternative that your family enjoys and even prefers eating so eventually they will stop craving the junk food.

Increasing the nutrient content in the meals you prepare will help to keep you all feeling healthier and fitter and the easiest way to do this is by adding in additional fruits and vegetables

Healthy alternatives to everyday foods

  • Avocado for margarine spread

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Margarine spreads go through intense processing called hydrogenation which turns them from a liquid oil to a solid. These spreads are hydrogenated fats which are difficult for the body to metabolize and as a result can contribute to disease. This is because hydrogenated or “trans-” fats tend to become oxidized thereby creating damage within the body and they have even been linked to cardiovascular disease, inflammatory conditions and some cancers.

Swapping to avocado gives you the healthy fats that your body requires plus additional nutrients such as fibre, essential fatty acids, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin E and potassium. All the things we need for a healthy heart, nervous system and anti-ageing.

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White rice has few nutrients in it and causes spikes in blood sugar as it is a refined carbohydrate so pretty much turns to glucose in the system after eating. Try swapping to cauliflower rice made by blending raw cauliflower. It can be quickly stir fried with onions, herbs and garlic or microwaved to create a low carbohydrate rice rich in nutrients such as choline, manganese, phosphorous, biotin and magnesium essential for a healthy body and in particular our brain, bones, skin and hair.

  • Zucchini spaghetti or zoodles for spaghetti pasta

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Again white pasta is low in nutrients and has similar effects in the body to white rice. Swap the white pasta for wholemeal or spelt for more fibre and nutrients or go veggie for a lighter option by using spaghetti made from raw zucchini strips. The raw zucchini strips can be stirred through pasta sauces just at the end of cooking to gently softening and warm them making them the perfect healthy spaghetti alternative. An easy way to encourage weight loss.

  • Lettuce cups for tortilla wraps

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White bread and corn tortillas can be quite heavy, inflammatory and low in nutrients so for a fresher lighter option trying using lettuce cups. The lettuce complements dishes such as san chow bow and chilli as it gives a fresh crunchy texture making family meal times healthy yet fun. This is a great option for gluten intolerant people, or those that suffer with digestive issues that find bread hard to digest. It is also a wonderful light meal option so good for those with weight problems

  • Pureed frozen fruit for ice cream

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Ice cream can be high in trans fats, preservatives, artificial colours and the sugar content is through the roof making it a sickly sweet dessert with little health benefit. Try blending frozen fruits such as bananas and raspberries for a delicious, fresh and nutrient rich treat rich in vitamin C, bioflavonoids, magnesium and vitamin B. Frozen fruit “ice cream’ is a really easy way to get vitamins and minerals into children that don’t eat many fruits and veggies making it a wonderful immune system booster.

Tip – place the fruit puree in icy pole moulds and place in the freezer for a healthy and refreshing snack.

As you can see making healthy choices can be achieved by making a few simple swaps to regular family meals which will aid weight loss in a delicious way without anyone feeling that they are on a diet.

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