Teaching your children healthy eating habits at a young age is the key to establishing long-term health. A child needs to be supported with optimal nutrition as their bodies continue to grow. Eliminating or limiting processed healthy kidsand refined foods will diminish the spikes in blood sugars and sudden burst of energy and ensure your child isn’t being harmed by toxic ingredients. You should always scroll over the ingredient list on the back of any processed food packet and make yourself familiar with the ingredients to definitely avoid. The majority of the snacks on the market are dangerously high in salt, fat and sugar. So try to keep these to a minimum, maybe once or twice a week as a treat. Instead try to make fruits and veggie sticks more of a choice of snack.

In a perfect world most foods would be made at home so you know 100% what goes into each meal or snack, but parenting is a busy task and it’s all too easy to grab food in a pre-made package. Commit to putting time aside each week to creating healthier snacks for your children. It’s also a great idea to get them involved in the fun task of cooking. The main types of food you should aim to increase in your child’s diet is as follows:-

Protein 

-Protein is essential for a balanced diet. Try to go for lean meats. Turkey slices are the most nutritious. The best idea is to look for organic farmed meats so as to avoid the problems associated with mass farmed meat such as animal welfare issues and unknown hormones being present in meats.

-Cheese is also a great source of protein. Again go for the most pure varieties of cheese, avoid the ranges of pre-packaged snack cheeses aimed at children as they are a lot more processed than pure varieties of cheese. Cheese is really loved by children- especially the fun varieties that come in all different shapes, sizes and forms with their favourite cartoon character on the packet. Read the food labels first and usually you will find that giving a slice of normal ordinary cheese has much less, if any additives and flavourings.

-Fish is another great source of protein and also has the benefits of essentialfish omega 3’s. You can try to mix tinned tuna with sweetcorn into a salad or sandwich.

-Pulses such as chickpeas are a fantastic source of protein. Make a homemade hummus dip and finely slice carrots for a great lunch box snack. You can also add kidney beans to a salad for extra protein and fibre.

-Eggs are a great source of protein. A boiled egg contains around six grams of protein and contains multiple vitamins including vitamin A,B6,C,D,E and K and minerals calcium, zinc, iron and manganese. Hard boiled eggs are a popular choice as they can be pressed into a sandwich or added to a salad.

Fruit 

Fruits are a great snack for kids because of their sweetness, even the fussiest of eaters will enjoy many styles of fruits. Try to vary the fruits you give each day to experiment which ones your child favours. Another option is to buy dried fruits and nuts as these count towards your child’s five a day and also provide beneficial fibre. Fruits are ideal for replacing other lunchbox snacks that are high in refined sugar such as muesli bars.

Vegetables 

Try to pack your kids’ sandwiches with greenery. Add a variety of vegetables raw dietfrom sliced carrot, cucumber, fresh spinach leaves and finely chopped peppers which will not only make them taste nice but will also help get them used to different tastes and textures. Again hummus is a great filling for flavour and nutrition. Healthy soups are a great alternative to sandwiches, especially in the winter and can easily be added into takeaway coffee cups to get the soup to school with no mess!

Starch 

Sandwiches are a usual favourite amongst kids of all ages. But be careful of what bread you use. White bread is refined and actually turns mostly to sugar when digested. If your children are used to eating just white bread, try to slowly mix it up by having one-half white and the other brown, until they get used to brown bread. You can then try seed or oat topped varieties for extra fibre and goodness.

Brown rice, or whole grain pasta salads are a great source of starch and fibre. You can add lots of chopped vegetables for extra fibre and nutrients. As a treat you can add some wholegrain, home made pizza. Go easy on the cheese though as it can be fattening and commonly is responsible for allergies.

Drinks and Snacks 

The best drink is of course water. Always include fresh water in their school bag to ensure your child stays hydrated and is able to concentrate throughout the day.

Fruit smoothies are a great drink choice as they are also a way to get your 5 a fruit smoothieday. But try to go for the low sugar varieties containing berries or pomegranates as they are high in vitamins and antioxidants. Increasing in popularity are vegetable juice drinks, which contain a mix of highly nutritious vegetables and sometimes added fruit for extra sweetness. Experiment with making smoothies at home as a treat for your child and let them help cut up the ingredients that go into the smoothie.

Milk/Dairy 

I advise to have milk and dairy in moderation as it can also commonly lead to allergies if it is from cows’ milk. Try to go organic when possible or choose rice milk or goats milk as these are much easier to digest. Yoghurts are a better way to add dairy to the diet. Yoghurt contains beneficial bacteria for balancing bacteria in the gut. If you mix in some blueberries or strawberries you can get a great tasting addition to the lunch box.

Resources: Egg nutrition facts www.nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/111/2 

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