|Good nutritional habits start at an early age. This is why Nestlé has launched the Nestlé for Healthier Kids schools initiative, in partnership with the Department of Basic Education, to promote the overall health and wellbeing of South African children.
Because food and exercise should be fun, the Nestlé for Healthier Kids programme was designed to help parents and caregivers make informed, healthier food and lifestyle choices for their children.
To help you get started, Nestlé Health and Wellness Manager, Naazneen Sali-Ameen, shares some top tips below:
Just like reading and writing, children should to be taught about nutrition – the different food groups, the role each play in contributing different nutrients essential for a growing body and mind and how much of each they should be consuming.
§ To help teach children about food groups, cut out various foods from a magazine or whip out those grocery store play sets and create five containers labelled with each of the food groups – grains & starchy food, fruits & vegetables, meat & meat alternatives, milk & milk alternatives and fats & oils. Encourage your child to identify each and place the image or item in the matching food group container.
§ Although it is important to encourage your child to eat a variety from the five different food groups, the amount of food (serving size) is also an important lesson to learn. To help visually showcase what a typical plate should contain, download an example of a kid’s portion plate here. This will serve as a reminder of how much of each food group your children should be getting in at each meal.
2. GET THEM INVOLVED
Build independence and empower your kids to make informed nutritional choices by including them in the school lunch prep activity. If you have a garden, get your kids to grow their own vegetables and have them participate in the harvesting process. Some great veggies to plant during winter are cauliflower, broad beans and snap peas. Remember that kids are more likely to eat foods that they have selected or had a hand in growing themselves.
TIP: Plan ahead and partition your fridge/ pantry into sections. Use different colour stickers on each section to identify elements from the five different food groups. It’s quick and easy in the morning/ evening before, for each child to simply include an element from each colour section to create a balanced lunchbox.
“Lunchboxes form an important part of a balanced meal plan and healthy lunchboxes ensure that your children are receiving essential nutrients and the recommended kilojoules to sustain their energy levels, alertness and focus during the school day,” says Naazneen.
3. KEEP IT INTERESTING
Thinking of lunch box ideas can be a bit daunting but if you make a list of ingredients under each of the five major food groups, including snacks and the occasional treat, you’ll find out that there are so many delicious options to keep lunch time exciting. For some lunchbox inspiration visit the Nestlé Wellness website.
Remember to include:
§ Starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes or pasta. You can use brown, wholegrain or seeded bread or rolls, rice or corncakes, wholegrain crackers, or pap from the night before as alternatives, pita pockets, English muffins and tortilla wraps also make a nice change. If possible, choose wholegrain or whole-wheat options and try and change the type of starch in lunch boxes to keep meals exciting.
§ Lean proteins such as tuna, beef, chicken or even leftover lean mince or stew can make for great sandwich fillers. Legumes such as lentils or chickpeas, are also packed with protein and are a great alternative to meat.
§ Dairy such as sugar-free yoghurt, reduced fat cheese or milk. Ensure these are kept chilled whether in a cooler bag or alongside a frozen water bottle.
§ Veggies and fruit such as carrot sticks, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes or strawberries, apple slices, banana, grapes and pineapple, are all great lunch box additions. To stop fruit from oxidising (going brown), squeeze a bit of orange juice over them.
§ Fats and oils such as avo, nuts, olives and whole eggs are packed with good fats and oils which can helps fuel your child’s body and also helps absorb essential vitamins needed for growth.
§ Snacks and treats. On occasion you can include a ‘surprise’ such as a bite size chocolate, a two-finger KitKat is an ideal serving and fits easily into a lunchbox. Dried fruit, peanuts or air popped and lightly salted popcorn also make for great snacks. Roll the popcorn in a sheet of A4 paper to ensure it stays fresh, this will also help with serving size.
§ Don’t forget to include water to keep your children hydrated during a busy school day. As children often prefer flavoured drinks, try adding chopped fruit to flavour their water. Try to avoid highly coloured and artificially sweetened options.
4. ENCOURAGE THEM TO MOVE MORE
In an age of screens, getting kids off the couch and moving is essential for a developing body and mind. Kids need at least 60 minutes of exercise and play a day. Look for opportunities that get kids outside and enjoy the benefits of fresh air and sunshine and most importantly provide fun!
TIP: Dust off the hula hoop – it’s not only fun and affordable but the whole family can join in. According to Naazneen, there are various health benefits to be gained by hula hooping. “Depending on where you position your hula hoop, you can target various muscle groups in your arms, quads, abdomen and buttocks,” she says. “As long as you don’t have any pre-existing back conditions that hula hooping could exacerbate and you check that the weight of your hoop is appropriate for your size, anyone and everyone can do it. It’s a great aerobic workout, low impact and promotes overall balance and flexibility. You can do it at your own pace and level of fitness and you cannot help but smile while you’re doing it.”
Parents need to realise that the nutrition and exercise their children receive now is an investment for their future health. “We cannot stress the importance of good nutrition for children enough and the need for forming healthy eating habits for South Africa’s children remains high,” concludes Naazneen.
Source: Nestle for Healthier Kids Learners Resource