Healthy eating for kids
We all know what a good diet looks like – plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, reduced sugar, salt and processed foods, but it can be just too easy to reach for the unhealthy option – which sets a bad example for our kids. Our articles feature three straightforward steps that can help your whole family make healthier food choices.
1. Know your rights (and wrongs)
Traffic light labelling – where red, amber or green colour coding is used to indicate how much fat, saturated fats, sugar and salt is in food – can help us make healthier choices when shopping.
Even when traffic light labelling is not used, you’ll find calorie information included on the packaging.
Kilojules (kJ) and kilocalories (kcal or calories) are units of measuring how much energy there is in food and drink. Children should get most of their calories from their breakfast, lunch and evening meal. If your kids are snacking regularly or are hungry between meals, try fruit and vegetables (see below). If they’re eating packaged snacks, remember the NHS guidelines “stick to 100 calorie snacks, two a day max”.
The NHS has created a free ‘Food Scanner’ app where you can scan barcodes on food packaging to instantly find out how much sugar, saturated fat, salt and calories it contains – complete with some amusing sound effects! You can download the app from the App Store or Google Play.
2. The ultimate fast food: fruit and vegetables
The perfect snack food for kids and their busy parents, fruit and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals, which are good sources of fibre and count towards your 5 A Day. And of course, they're easy to eat on the go!
Here’s some tips to help your kids choose fruit and vegetables when they get a snack attack:
• Keep it in easy reach: have a fruit bowl in the house.
• Stock the fridge: have ready-to-eat fruit and veg, like carrot, cucumber, celery and peppers, pre-prepared for an easy snack that smaller kids can eat with their fingers.
• Pack a snack: save money, and time, when you're out and about by taking bananas, apples or chopped up vegetables with you.
• Get the kids involved: get them to help buy and prepare the fruit and vegetables they're going to eat.
• Eat it yourself: setting a good example is always good.
3. Sugar beats
Half the sugar that our kids consume comes from snacks and sugary drinks. It’s particularly easy to drink sugar – and calories – without realising. For example, although fruit is great for snacking, fruit juice and smoothies should be strictly limited to meal times an even then only a small glass (about 150ml). This is because they’re high in sugars and acids - even the unsweetened ones.
You can also try these sugary and fizzy drink swaps:
British tap water is among the best in the world. Millions of tests are conducted annually to guarantee the best possible quality of water for consumers, which makes it the most regulated drink in the country. Save money (and the environment) by drinking tap water and using refillable bottles when drinking on the go.
Lower fat milk
The fat in milk provides calories for young children, and contains essential vitamins, but for older children and adults, it's a good idea to go for lower fat milks to reduce your saturated fat intake. Try 1% fat or skimmed milk, as these still contain the important nutritional benefits of milk but are lower in fat.
No added sugar fruit juice
This swap could cut sugar intake by more than a half.