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We all worry about our children. Depending on their ages we worry about where they are, who they’re with, what they’re doing, what they’re eating…
From infancy, we worry if our babies are getting enough nutrients. We count wet nappies/diapers, we count bowel movements and note the colour (!!), we count feeds and amount consumed (if bottle fed). Then they start solids…
One of the perks of homeschooling is being able to teach our children the things that will set them up for a full, happy, healthy life.
1. The Importance of Child Nutrition
We’ve all seen and heard the slogan ‘You are what you eat’ but how much attention do we really pay to it?
If we have a big meal of greasy foods washed down with soft drink/soda we may have trouble getting to sleep, have a restless sleep and feel lethargic in the morning.
The impact of greasy and sugary foods on a child can be more apparent. Hyperactivity, moodiness, inability to listen and calm down are all side effects of poor nutrition and some can be dangerous.
A balanced diet will provide all the nutrients your child needs for optimum physical and mental growth.
2. Teach Your Children About Healthy Eating
Helping your child make informed food choices and showing them how to adopt a healthy lifestyle now will set them up for a healthy life.
It all sounds easy, but how do we teach and get our children to eat healthily?
- Healthy Snacks – offer an array of healthy snacks such as fresh fruit, vegetable sticks with peanut butter or hummus dip, yoghurt.
- Eat Slowly – eating slowly will allow your child to actually learn to taste and enjoy the food being eaten as well as learn to recognize the signs of feeling ‘full’.
- Grocery Shopping – let your children help with the shopping list and finding the items in the supermarket. Take the time to explain the difference between the healthy and unhealthy options on the shelves.
- Cooking – let your children help you in the kitchen. There are many activities even young children can help with.
- Fruit Picking – take your children to the local fruit and/or berry farm and let them help pick the fruit. Ask them what they would like to make with the berries or fruit.
- Recipe Books – let your children look through your recipe collection and see what interests them. Ask them how you could make the recipes healthier.
- Gardening – start a herb garden on the window ledge or even a larger vegetable garden outside if you have the room. Growing from seed is not only cheaper but a wonderful science lesson as well. Make watering the seeds/seedlings your child’s ‘job’.
- Water – use watering the garden as a way to explain and encourage your child to drink more water as well. Everything needs water to grow and be healthy.
- Google – once your garden is producing herbs, vegetables or fruit, let your child search ways to use the produce in your family meals. This also works with any fruit or vegetable that catches their eye in the supermarket!
3. Make Time For Meals
In our increasingly busy lives, we tend to multitask – and this includes while eating.
Make the time to sit down to a family dinner.
If you can’t manage to do it every night, make it once a week. Everyone has to be home at a particular time for family dinner night.
Try not to make mealtime stressful.
Cook a meal the whole family enjoys (if possible!).
Let children serve themselves. If they want more potato and less meat, that’s fine. If they don’t like carrots but love corn, serve corn as well. It’s all about variety, colour and fun.
Children don’t eat as much as adults, teens eat more!
I grew up with ‘eat everything on your plate or you don’t get dessert’. As a result, I had no idea if I was full or not. In fact, I only stopped eating when pain set in! (Of course, I’ve since been diagnosed as a lactose intolerant celiac!)
If your child says they’re full, that’s fine. If they’re hungry later offer a healthy snack before bed.
The important thing is not to associate food with stress.
4. Nutrition & Calorie Guide
The ‘average’ adult male needs 2500 calories a day to maintain his weight and 2000 calories a day to lose weight.
The ‘average’ adult female needs 2000 calories a day to maintain her weight and 1500 calories a day to lose weight.
1,800 to 2,600 calories per day (11-13 years)
2,200 to 3,200 calories per day (14 – 18 years)
1,800 to 2,200 calories per day (11-13 years)
1,800 to 2,400 calories per day (14-18 years)
Note: Most teenagers do not need to be put on restrictive ‘diets’ as simple daily exercise will help them to lose any excess weight.
Children between the ages of 2 – 10 years grow quickly and use up a lot of energy. Their caloric intake should not be restricted unless under strict medical supervision.
2 years – 1000 calories per day
10 years 1800 calories per day
Children go through fussy/picky phases with their eating so offering a variety of foods helps them meet their nutritional requirements.
Serves Per Day
|Children||1.5 – 2||1 – 2.5||1 – 2||2 – 5||4 – 5||1|
|Teens||3.5||2.5||2||5 – 5.5||5 – 7||1 – 2|
|Adults||2.5 – 3||3 – 3.5||2||6||6||2|
The above information is all very good…but what exactly is a serving size?
Vegetables – 75g
Fruit – 150g (a medium apple, orange, banana, etc)
Grain – 1 slice bread, 1/2 cup cooked rice, pasta, noodles, 30g wheat cereal
Protein – 65g cooked (90-100g raw) lean red meat, 80g cooked (100g raw) lean poultry, 170g tofu, 2 large eggs, 1 cup cooked or canned legumes, 30g seeds, nuts
Calcium – 1 cup (250ml) milk, 2 slices (40g) cheese, 200g yoghurt, 100g almonds with skin, 60g sardines, 100g pink salmon with bones, 100g firm tofu
Healthy Fats – 10g
That all seems pretty straightforward, right?
Making good nutrition fun is easy.
If you’re making changes in your family’s eating habits, do it gradually otherwise you might have a rebellion on your hands!
We can’t all do without our sugary treats so try making them yourself (or with your little and not-so-little helpers. The store-bought snacks and baked goods always contain preservatives and other additives (sometimes even just numbers!) that definitely have no place in our bodies.
When we first began eating a healthier diet and cutting out store-bought snacks, the change in our children (who were younger at the time) was obvious. They didn’t fight as much. They listened the first time we spoke to them (obviously this was before they became teenagers!), they slept better and we were all happier.
Let me know how you go and what your favourite healthy family recipes are.
When your kitchen is a mess and your child is covered with flour, remember…
Enjoy the Journey.
Author: Lara Galea
Lara is a freelance writer, blogger, photographer and homeschooler. When not helping others with their journey, she is either reading, binge-watching Netflix or creating havoc in the kitchen.