Nutrition for kids: What to feed them and when

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Every day, parents are bombarded with different and sometimes conflicting nutritional messages through advertising campaigns and it can be hard to know how to make the best food choices for your kids. We asked the experts for their top tips to help nutritionally navigate your kids through the day.

Before school

Eating breakfast is crucial for kids to boost their energy levels and kick start their metabolism. Kids who skip breakfast can end up deficient in iron, calcium, zinc and vitamin B12. Accredited practising dietician Pip Golley says there are countless healthy options, so it's worth involving your kids in the decision.

In pics: Kid-friendly recipes

"If they are particularly hungry, then a cooked breakfast with a boiled or scrambled egg and baked beans and toast would be good," she says. "If they are not hungry, go for something like a fruit smoothie or a banana."

During school

According to dietician Kate DiPrima, author of More Peas Please: Solutions for Feeding Fussy Eaters, every lunchbox should contain five items: some calcium-rich dairy, some protein containing iron, a piece of fruit, a home-bake and one vegetable.

DiPrima suggests putting coloured stickers or stars on different food items for very young kids. She says: "If you want them to have the yoghurt and piece of fruit at the first break, put a red sticker on them, and if you want the sandwich and other things at lunch, put the gold star on them. Then they'll start to learn which goes with which."

After school

Golley says the challenge with after-school snacks is to find something nutritious that won't fill up their small tummies before dinner. A good option is to combine a couple of items from different food groups, such as whole grain crackers with cheese, a banana and yoghurt, or vegie sticks and hummus. "If children get used to those being the foods on offer, they really do enjoy them," she says.

Before sport

High-quality carbohydrates in the hours leading up to a game will load active kids with energy. "Sandwiches, crackers, fresh fruit and fruit smoothies are all good options," says Golley.

In pics: Lunchbox favourites

After sport

While your kids might be begging for a sugary drink or lolly from the sports-ground canteen, Golley says they are not appropriate or necessary, even if your child has worked up a sweat. "The best thing they can do is fill up on nutritious foods and drink plenty of fluids before, during and after sport," she says. "Active kids don't need high sugar replenishment after sport, all they need is a variety of foods from the five food groups."

Before bed

If your kids are hungry before bed, Golley says it's a good opportunity to give them a final nutrient hit for the day. She says: "A tub of yoghurt or fruit and custard are good choices, or if they are really hungry, perhaps some carbohydrate foods like crumpets or raisin toast."

At kids' parties

While there's nothing wrong with having "sometimes" foods at parties, Golley says there are plenty of opportunities to increase the health factor of party food. "You could make fruit kebabs that have a marshmallow on the end, or fairy bread that is made from wholemeal bread," she says. "Even homemade sausage rolls filled with grated carrot or zucchini gives children an opportunity to have some healthy foods alongside the other treat foods."

In recipes: Family sausage rolls with a healthier twist

Watch: Curtis Stone: how to make vegetable and beef pasties

More inspiration

Inside the world's most expensive restaurantInside the world's most expensive restaurantBored of eating out? Then make reservations at a new restaurant in Spain that has promised a to revolutionise fine dining – but be warned the one-of-a-kind meal costs $2000 per person. Edible flowers could help prevent cancer and heart disease: studyEdible flowers could help prevent cancer and heart disease: studyUsing edible flowers in food is usually the domain of gourmet Asian foodies, but now research suggests that the pretty garnishes might have health benefits too. Warm eggplant saladWarm eggplant saladUsing the same principles as tofu, I have decided to douse it in flavour-rich ingredients that soak into its creamy sponginess and make it excellent.
advertisement
Get great recipes on your mobile wherever you are.