Nutrition, it’s always a hot topic – what should, and shouldn’t we be feeding our children? It’s important that we make informed decisions around what we are fueling ourselves and children with. Take the time to read about the products you are buying – what’s in them, how much sugar has been added, where is the product made?
We eat food and not single nutrients, that’s why it’s important to know what nutrients are in your food so you can ensure you have a balance, and of course informed, diet.
Children are totally dependent on you for food, which means the early years are a great time to create and talk about healthy eating habits.
Studies have shown that children who have breakfast are more likely to be able to concentrate. If your child is reluctant to eat breakfast, try getting them involved in making choices about their food by giving them options. Here are some great options that have no added refined sugar.
- Whole grain toast with peanut butter
- Fresh fruit on its own or added to cereal is another fun thing to add
- Natural yoghurt with a tablespoon of raw honey
It’s important to keep children topped up with healthy snacks in between meals as they tend to burn off a lot of energy. Try to avoid sugary and salty snacks – vegetables and fruit are always a great filler! They require little preparation, wash and cut!
Here are some ideas for snack fillers
- Fruit smoothies (low fat milk, berries, banana and yoghurt)
- Vegetable sticks (carrots, celery, broccoli)
- Salad (fruit salad or vege – tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers)
- Yoghurt (make sure to chose a natural, no sugar option and add your own berries or raw honey. Buy in 1 litre and refill your reusable containers, saving the planet and also on cost!)
- Nuts and seeds
Nutrition & Sleep
There is a direct correlation between nutrition and sleep. All food provides energy, therefore all food is energizing! Did you know that some foods have a stimulating effect on the brain? The most common for adults is caffeine and for children this is sugar! If your child is having sugar injected food, they’re going to be less likely to sleep because their brain is being stimulated – seems simple, but this is where reading the nutrition label comes into play!
Tryptophan (sleep hormone) produces a brain chemical called serotonin, which is how melatonin is created. The exciting thing is that there are foods that are high in tryptophan – which literally creates sleepiness!
- Dairy products (particular swiss, cheddar and gruyere cheese)
- Tofu and soy products
- Wheats and oats
- Leafy greens
- Poultry (especially turkey)
For these foods for work as a natural sleep remedy, they must be consumed with a healthy complex carbohydrate. This is so because carbohydrates release insulin, which helps tryptophan reach the brain. Here are some ideas of healthy complex carbs to mix with the list above
- Sautéed Greens
- Whole wheat pasta
- Egg sandwich on whole meal bread
- Stir fried vegetables
- Brown rice
Mind & Body
Fueling your mind and body starts with preparation.
“Fail to prepare, prepare to fail” – Unknown.
Tips for success
- Make an effort to have 95% of your meals home cooked ones
- Involve the children in what you’re going to eat for the week (they can even help at the supermarket!)
- Keep healthy snacks on hand (nuts, seeds and dried fruit)
- Teach children to eat when they’re hungry, not emotional
- variety in food groups
- Moderation – we all need treats, everything in moderation
True hunger signs:
- Rumbling stomach
- Energy loss
- Headache or trouble concentrating
False hunger signals:
– External cues (mealtimes, social events)
Tuning into your body, and teaching children to do the same, is a really powerful skill to be able to do. Ask yourself, what am I hungry for? What do I need? How much do I need?
It’s important to listen to what your body needs and make mindful decisions.
Written by Kaya Brophy