Of all of the things we can do to give our kids the best possible start in life, there’s little that’s as important as encouraging both a healthy diet and an active lifestyle. After all, the habits we develop as children tend to stick with us in our later lives, and the lack of a healthy diet can have all sorts of health impacts as we start to get older.
But a balanced diet is just as important when people are young, especially as they start to go to school and to experience structured lessons. In fact, poor nutrition has a noticeable effect in the classroom, and studies show that children from food insufficient households don’t perform as well in standardised tests as those from other households.
They say that you are what you eat, and it’s certainly true that there’s a correlation between our brain activity and the food that we consume. The question for many parents, with so much contradicting advice out there, is, “What can I feed my child that’s good for them?”
Let’s find out.
Watermelon makes for a great snack because it’s full of both nutrients and water, helping to rehydrate kids on hot days and to give them something to snack on that isn’t full of chemical additives. You can even cut it into triangles so that they can hold the rind like a slice of pizza, although they’re still likely to finish up with sticky hands – so plan for a bathroom break or include some wet wipes to take care of them afterwards.
2. Fruit and yogurt
If your kids love fruit but hate watermelon, consider packing them a low fat yogurt with some healthy fruit to drop into it. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and peaches all go well with yogurt, and they’ll help kids to fill their tummies up without resorting to potato chips and chocolate bars.
3. Carrot and hummus
There are different ways to do this, but either way it’s a delicious combination. You can either slice carrots into little soldiers and pack them into a lunchbox beside a little pot of hummus or you can use it to fill a pitta. It doesn’t take long to prepare and it tastes fantastic – before long, your kids will be asking you to make it!
4. Ants on a log
This popular snack is made by taking a piece of celery and cutting it in half lengthways, then spreading low-fat peanut butter on top and scattering raisins on top. Just make sure that you’re using low-fat peanut butter because the calories can start to add up if you go for the regular version.
5. Cheese and crackers
Cheese and crackers might not sound too exciting, but your kids will love it if you cut the cheese into fun shapes and bundle it in with strawberries, blackberries and pineapples, all of which go great with cheese and encourage kids to eat more fruit. If they don’t like crackers, make mini kebabs using cocktail sticks – but only if they’re old enough to know not to eat the wood!
Smoothies are easy to make and super filling, and you can make them in advance and then refrigerate them. Then you can simply top up your kids’ drinks flasks every day to encourage them to get their five a day. Better still, you don’t need an expensive smoothie maker, and you can do a decent job in a standard blender. Add water if it comes out too thick and remember you can use vegetables – as well as fruit – to make your smoothies.
According to Ken Wright of aussiewritings.com, it’s not just the classroom where a lack of proper nutrition has an impact. “Writing an essay on an empty stomach or doing homework before dinner is a bad idea,” Wright explains. “But a lack of proper nutrition can also affect physical and athletic performance and ultimately hinder kids at one of the most important stages of their development.”
Ultimately, parenting is all about giving your children the best possible start in life, and a big part of this involves giving them the nutrients and the expertise that they need to be at their best. It only takes five minutes to make sure that you’ve given them a good meal or a lunchbox full of healthy snacks – so what are you waiting for?