Following the end of a long summer holiday, it is time again to get ready for the new school year. So I thought it would be a good idea to answer some of these commonly asked questions about creating healthy eating habits for your school-aged child.
What are your best tips to plan a healthy day for my child?
School age children grow quickly and usually become very active as they engage in school activities. It is without question that those who eat well with an adequate intake of energy and nutrients are more likely to be healthy and have the stamina to take on the challenges school life brings about. A healthy diet can also optimise the children’s immune system.
When it comes to planning your day, don't forget the following top tips:
Don’t skip breakfast
Also called the meal for champions, breakfast helps break the overnight fast. Children who have breakfast every day are also less likely to snack on foods high in fat and/or sugar before lunchtime. Healthier choices also provide all the essential nutrients that make up a varied, balanced diet.
Go for a rainbow of colours
An easy way to gauge whether or not you are having at least 5 a day, fruit and vegetables of a range of colour provide all the necessary vitamins and minerals children need for health.
Have some fish
Have at least two portions a week, one of each should be oily – apart from salmon, canned options such as mackerel or sardines also count.
Be active for at least 60 minutes each day
Physical activity is crucial for children to develop healthy bones and muscles, as well as their coordination skills – aim for at least an hour each day. From PE lessons, running to jumping up and down – they all count!
What are the energy and nutrient requirements for a child day?
Average energy requirements for children at school age increase steadily as their bodies grow and develop. These range from around 1400kcal for 5 year-olds to 2100kcal for 12 year-olds. The overall vitamin and mineral requirements also increase incrementally.
Most school age children can achieve the recommendations through a healthy, varied diet. This supplies all of the nutrients which their bodies also absorb most efficiently. However, if your child has a medical condition which affects the way they eat, or does not eat from all food groups, then they may need to take a vitamin and/or mineral supplement to ‘top up’ their intakes of vitamins and minerals. Remember, having too much of some vitamins can be harmful, so do not give over the recommended dosage each day.
It is recommended that children up to 5 years of age should consume vitamin drops that contains vitamins A, C and D every day.
Vitamin A is found mainly in animal products but can also be converted by the body from carotenoids provided by most orange-coloured plants such as carrots and sweet potatoes, as well as green leafy vegetables. It helps to keep our connective tissues which make the eyes and skins, and the immune system healthy.
Vitamin C can be found widely in most fruit and vegetables. It is also water-soluble and can be easily destroyed by heat and oxygen. Vitamin C is particularly important to protect the immune system. Eating a rainbow can help make sure your child eats enough of these each day.
Vitamin D is essential for the body to absorb the minerals calcium and phosphate to develop healthy bones, teeth and muscles. It is mainly produced in the skin through the action of sunlight. As it is particularly difficult to get sufficient vitamin D from diet alone (small amounts are available in oily fish, red meats, eggs, whole milk and fortified products such as breakfast cereals), if your child does not spend enough time in the sun, you may consider supplementing at 10µg of vitamin D per day.
A healthy school lunch should provide around 30% of energy and 40% of the recommended intakes for vitamins and minerals. All the meals at The New Luncher meet this requirement and are designed to suit the needs of your growing child.
What about snacks for my child?
Snacking is sometimes considered as a bad habit, but it really depends on ‘how’ and ‘what’. Snacks can be helpful to keep energy levels up especially for younger children who tend to eat less with their smaller stomachs, or for those who are very active. The type of snacks is important. Try to avoid giving snacks which are high in free sugars, or use these as a reward.
Planning ahead is always a good idea to make sure your child has a healthy snack available at all times. Water and milk are the best choices when it comes to drinks that go with your child’s snacks. Some healthier choices could be: Design notes: include some images of the following • A cheese or nut butter sandwich • A small pot of yogurt • A fruit • Some vegetable sticks with dips
There are a large selection of healthier snacks on The New Luncher menu which consist of fresh fruit to baked goods. Why not have a look at these today?
I hope these are useful! Your comments and questions are always welcome. If you have further queries, please comment below!
Wishing you all a great healthy start to the school year, Georgine
I am in charge of establishing the nutrition guidelines and validating every menu for The New Luncher. I publish here regularly my best tips regarding nutrition and education, as The New Luncher's nutritionist and as a busy mom of 2!