In this edition of Health Matters, several nutrition experts explain the importance of healthy eating during childhood. They focus on the need for a balanced diet, which includes fruit, vegetables, protein, carbohydrates and dairy foods.
Children tend to pick up their eating habits from their parents. This series of interviews will help parents to be good role models for their children. By following a 10 point plan from the CSIRO, this is easier than it sounds! Other topics covered include common myths about food, dairy snacks for kids and why nutrient deficiencies should be avoided at all costs.
Building Blocks for Health
Jenny O’Dea, dietitian, health and nutrition education researcher and Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney, explains the importance of developing healthy eating habits in childhood. Australian children today can take advantage of a huge variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, meats and culturally diverse foods. Good nutrition is particularly important during childhood to fuel growth and development, immune protection and to promote brain function. Australian children tend to graze on snacks all day long. But with guidance from adults, healthy eating can be structured around meal times. The current recommendation is to eat a range of foods from the 5 food groups. This includes 2 serves of fruit, 5 serves of vegetables and 3-4 serves of dairy foods, as well as breads and grains, and some protein foods (meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, meat alternatives).
|Click here to listen to an audio file on healthy eating in childhood.|
Don’t Pass on your Bad Habits
It is well known that children’s behaviour is learned through observation. For this reason, adults play an important role in shaping their children’s food habits. Karen Kingham is a Consultant Dietitian and a regular contributor to Practical Parenting Magazine. In this short interview, she shares useful tips on how to be a healthy role model for children. Her suggestions include finding time to eat with children at the table, and including them in grocery shopping and cooking. This gives children the opportunity to try healthy foods in a non-threatening environment. Children will gradually become familiar with fruits and vegetables if they are displayed in the home and made easily accessible.
|Click here to listen to an audio file on practical tips for parents as healthy rolemodels for children.|
10 Point Plan for Wellbeing
Manny Noakes, a Senior Research Dietitian with the CSIRO, introduces the 10 point plan for wellbeing. This simple and easy to understand plan aims to help put people on the road to good health. Eating breakfast is one of first steps you can take to improve your diet. A nutritious breakfast has a low glycaemic index and is rich in wholegrain foods and protein. Encouraging children to eat breakfast is especially important because it has been proven to help with concentration at school. Breakfast should also include a source of calcium, which is needed for growing bones. The 10 point plan is available from the CSIRO website and has also been distributed to primary schools.
|Click here to listen to an audio file on the wellbeing plan for children.|
The Price you Pay for Poor Nutrition
Health and nutrition problems most often start during childhood, when children are developing their eating habits. Unfortunately, poor nutrition can have serious consequences. Kay Gibbons, Manager of Nutrition and Food Services at Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne explains how healthy eating at a young age can prevent nutritional deficiencies. These are becoming more common in Australia due to the availability of fast food and sedentary lifestyles. Kay Gibbons argues that we should be focusing on the quality of food consumed as well as the quantity. Drinks also need more attention, because they can often be high in sugar and kilojoules but low in nutritional value. Dairy foods are particularly important during childhood and adolescence because calcium deficiency can lead to osteoporosis later in life. The bones that teenagers build have to last them for the rest of their lives!
|Click here to listen to an audio file on poor nutrition.|
With so much nutrition information available today, it can sometimes be difficult to sort out the fact from the fiction! Dr Jenny O’Dea, Professor at the University of Sydney, debunks some of the more common myths about children and nutrition. She argues that many people wrongly believe they are allergic to dairy. In fact, true allergies are fairly rare. Lactose intolerance is often misdiagnosed, preventing people from getting important nutrients from dairy products. Also, there is no evidence that eating dairy will worsen the symptoms of asthma.
What about the nutritional value of frozen vegetables? Surprisingly, they may even be superior because they are snap frozen when at their peak. Jenny O’Dea outlines information on child feeding in her book, Positive Food for Kids, which will soon be available.
|Click here to listen to an audio file on nutrition myths.|
National surveys show that children are not getting enough vegetables or calcium rich foods. Maree Garside, a dietitian who previously worked for Dairy Australia, suggests ways to help children develop healthy eating habits. Simple suggestions include taking children to the green grocer, a farmers’ market or the dairy section of the supermarket. Dairy Australia has an excellent cookbook with recipes that children can do themselves. With a little help from parents, children should aim to get 3 – 4 serve of dairy each day. One serve is a 250ml glass of milk, a tub of yogurt or 2 slices of cheese. Fun and healthy snacks include milkshakes, fruit smoothies and grilled cheese on toast.
|Click here to listen to an audio file on putting fruit, dairy and vegies back on the menu.|
10 Handy Hints for Healthy Kids
- Go for 2 fruit and 5 Veg!
- Tuck into a healthy breakfast each morning
- Kids need 3 – 4 serves of dairy each day for strong teeth and bones
- Let kids help you with the grocery shopping
- Involve kids in simple cooking
- Eat at the table with your children as often as possible and turn off the TV!
- Encourage children to at least try everything on their plate
- Soft drink should only be a special treat. Let water or milk quench your thirst instead
- Have 3 meals a day, instead of constantly grazing
- Talk with your children about delicious, healthy food