School-age is the perfect time for children to learn about healthy food and physical activity. Children of this age learn quickly and are also influenced by their friends and popular trends. As parents, this is the perfect time to introduce children to a wide variety of foods for a well-balanced diet.
The amount of physical activity they have in a day will be an important part of how much they need to eat. When children are busy and active, snacking is important to keep energy levels high. A healthy morning snack at break time and one after school are usually needed each day – albeit healthy snacks. Snacks are an important part of a healthy diet for active children. Make snacks nutritious, not just high in energy.
Breakfast is important
It is important to encourage breakfast. A good night’s sleep followed by food in the morning helps your child to stay active and concentrate at school. It also means your child is less likely to be too hungry during the morning and it can help with performance at school. A bowl of cereal (healthy options and not those laden with sugar) with milk and fresh fruit is a great starter for the whole family.
Many schools have a cafeteria that offers a range of food choices. However, these lunches offered are not necessarily healthy options. An alternative is a packed lunch from home. This is also a great way for your child to learn about healthy food and to help with preparation.
Some school lunch suggestions include Sandwiches with cheese and meat, crackers with spread, and fresh or dried fruits. Some school lunches – to a great limit are processed sugary, fatty and salty foods.
Now and then children can get treats because there will be peer pressure to eat particular cool foods at this age. Let your child eat these kinds of foods occasionally, such as at parties or special events. If they are eating these types of foods too often, however, you might find that: Not enough nourishing foods are eaten. Children become overweight or obese. It is also overall cheaper to provide homemade snacks and lunches.
Mealtimes are a chance to share and talk about the day’s activities and events. The evening meal together is an important time to do this. Some suggestions at family mealtimes
- Allow talk and sharing of daytime activities.
- Avoid distractions such as television, radio or the telephone.
- Let your child decide when they are full – don’t argue about food.
- Allow children to help with preparing meals and shopping.
- Teach some simple nutrition facts such as ‘milk keeps your bones strong’.
Children should be encouraged to drink plain water. Sweet drinks such as packaged fruit juice are not needed for a healthy diet and are not recommended. A glass of milk (or a tub of yogurt or slice of cheese) equals a serve of dairy food. Three serves are needed each day for calcium.
Physical activity is an important part of good health. Try to encourage your child to do something active each day, play a game (which can be used indoors as well), be involved in a sport or play outside. For primary school children, 60 minutes of activity is recommended each day, and no more than two hours of watching TV, DVDs or playing the iPad and computer games.
To increase your child’s activity, try to limit the amount of time spent watching television and do some physical activity together. Encourage daily activity, not just exercise.