Posted on September 07, 2020 by Jenny Cromack

School is back! But, like everything at the moment, due to Covid-19, there will be a lot of changes that are put in place and in some schools this involves the shutting of canteens for children! So that being said, I guess it’s time we put our thinking caps on, become a little more organised and make sure that the weekly food shop is done if our little ones are relying on us for a healthy school lunch! This blog about nutrition for children looks at some ideas for healthy lunches and snacks and looks at some key ages of growth, but good, healthy nutrition is essential at any stage of a child’s life.

No matter our age, our bodies require nutrients and minerals to grow, work and keep us healthy, both physically and mentally. These nutrients all come from the foods we eat.

Children require nutrients for the above as well as other factors such as puberty and the development of their brains. Additionally, a good, varied and balanced diet is going to be extremely beneficial for your child as it can help prevent obesity and poor eating behaviours. Public Health England shared the stats of the Child Measurement Programme which shows one in five children in Reception is overweight or obese and one in three children in Year 6 is overweight or obese. These are pretty scary facts!

So what do you need to do to give your children the best start in life with their nutrition? Here are some top tips to help:

  • We know it’s important to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables but trying to get your toddler to eat them can be a whole new (and challenging) ball game. But, teaching your children about vegetables using pictures, books etc as well as including ‘messy food play’ can encourage them to eat vegetables and become a lot more familiar with them.
  • Be a role model! Children watch our every move, if they see their parents eating veggies and eating healthy food then, you’ve guessed it, they are more than likely going to want to do the same!
  • Cook with them! Involving your children in cooking, allows them to see the foods, feel them and even prepare them. Setting them up to be independent in the kitchen when they are older.
  • Whatever the age, get your children involved in putting their lunch box together. They’ll be more inclined to eat the foods they have chosen and as they get older it will give them a little more independence with their food choices.
  • Where possibly, eat healthy, evening meals together. Put any tech or other distractions away, enjoy time as a family and enjoy the food you are eating. This creates a positive mindset with food and nutrition. Again, get the kids involved in making your evening meal with you.

Nutrition in Toddlers & Under 5’s

Toddlers are very active so they will have increased energy requirements. Help fuel these additional energy requirements through implementing snacks of fruit and vegetables and foods they haven’t tried before to allow them to experience new textures. Food refusal is common in children up to 5 years old so it’s important to keep trying different foods. It’s also a great idea to let them help prepare their packed lunch, this will allow them to feel like they have made the decisions of their food which will encourage them to eat what is inside their lunch box.

6-8 Year Olds

Children aged 6-8 years usually experience rapid growth resulting in high energy requirements. Making sure their lunch is kitted out with a variety of carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein is extremely important. This is the age that poor eating behaviours, hyperactivity, dental caries & obesity can occur so having a structured plan is always a great idea!

Snacks of fruit, yoghurts and vegetables are a great way to get in your child’s ‘5 a day’ as well as getting in their important nutrients such as calcium without overloading on sugar!

11-18 Year Olds

If your child is aged between 11-18 years it can be just as hard as any other age! They may be experiencing phases such as vegetarianism, veganism, inappropriate diets, obesity, poor eating habits and the big one (for the older) alcohol. But they will also be undergoing puberty (physical and emotional) and growth spurts and these changes need to be supported by a healthy diet. Although your teenager may not know what they want, it’s important to remember their nutritional requirements and to encourage them eat as well as much as possible wherever you can!

Great lunch box ideas for optimum nutrition for children are:

  • Fruit
  • Cheese (watch portion sizes due to salt and fat content)
  • Humous with veggie dippers or pitta bread
  • Yoghurt – try to choose natural or Greek yoghurt as these have no added sugar
  • Rice cakes
  • Pasta salads/rice salads (maybe one for the older kids who won’t throw it everywhere when they eat it!)
  • Frittata
  • Oatcakes
  • Wholemeal wraps with a good protein source such as fish, chicken, turkey, tofu.
  • Roast chicken legs (only at a certain age due to the bones)

Teaching our children about good nutrition is one of the most important jobs of being a parent, we hope this blog has helped but do get in touch if you need any more advice.

Beth x

Image taken from Pixabay