Primary School Children
Primary School (4- 12 years old) is a time when many changes take place which is why nutrition is so important. A lot of growth happens in these years and children need the right balance of nutrients to help them reach their full potential.
The habits we develop as a child stay with us for life which is why starting healthy habits with primary school children early on is extremely important for their future.
As a parent, guardian or teacher you are sowing the seeds for these Primary School Childrens good choices in the future.Children should be encouraged and empowered to make healthy food choices.
Variety is extremely important when it comes to this age group. Primary School Children should be exposed to new flavours, textures and recipes to encourage them be more adventurous with their food choices.
Here are 10 Top Healthy Eating Tips for Primary School Children:
1. Start the day with Breakfast. Breakfast provides children with a significant proportion of fibre, protein, calcium and vitamins. Start the day with a good routine by serving cereal and fruit, or give this Strawberry Smoothie a go.
2. Fitting in Fibre. 6 out of 10 Primary School Children do not get enough fibre. Choose cereals such a porridge and higher fibre cereals (At least 6g per 100g). Wholegrain, wholemeal and multigrain breads, rolls, crackers and wraps all contribute to fibre in the diet too. Whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, peas, beans, lentils and fruit and veg should also be included.
3. 5-7 Portions of Fruit and Vegetables. Most Irish Children do not consume the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables a day. Include vegetables in pasta sauces, curries and stews, giving children at least 2 portions of vegetables at dinner and also in their lunchbox. Celery, carrot, cucumber and pepper sticks are perfect for younger children.
4. The Right Portion Size. A 5-Year-Old needs about half of what an adult does. By giving a child too much food during their Primary School years sets them up for overeating which is why it is important to get it right. More than 1 in 5 children of this age are either overweight or obese.
5. Avoid Fizzy and High Sugar Drinks. Milk or Water are the best drinks for children. Fizzy drinks should not be made freely available in the home and should be kept for special occasions.
6. Reduce the Fat. A lot of children this age eat too much fat. Fresh meat, fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables, potatoes and pasta should be chosen to reduce the amount of fat in the diet.
7. 1/3 of Primary School Children don’t eat enough Dietary Iron. This nutrient is essential for brain development and especially important during times of growth. Iron in lean red meat is up to 7 times more easily absorbed than from most other foods which is why children should have meat 3-4 times a week. This Rigatoni with Beef is the perfect option for the whole family.
8. Limit Treat Food. Using food as a treat for this age group should be avoided as it does not establish good eating habits and can contribute to being overweight.
9. Keep them Active. Children should be active for at least 1 hour every day. As the amount of screen time for kids is constantly increasing as well as the frequent wet weather we experience in Ireland, creativity comes into play.Get outdoors as much as possible but swimming, indoor play areas and dancing are also great ways to get them moving.
10. Get Them Involved. Children should be included in choosing and making lunches as well as clearing out lunch boxes after school. When they are involved they are much more likely to eat it and have an interest in what they are eating. Why not try making these Strawberry and Oat Cereal Bars with your children that can be included in their lunchbox.
Top 5 steps to creating a healthy lunchbox:
While it can be difficult to dedicate time to recreating healthy lunches, meals and snacks for children heading back to school, this milestone marks a fresh beginning and routine for the academic year, so is the perfect opportunity to encourage a set routine and establish a healthy lifestyle and habits for all the family. To make things a little easier, here are my five easy steps to creating a healthy lunchbox:
1. Pick a protein – protein can be found in many foods, so don’t feel limited to deli meat and tuna. Consider cheese, grilled or steamed chicken or turkey, hard boiled eggs and plant proteins such as beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas.
2. Pick a carbohydrate – We are a nation of sandwich-lovers; however, a sandwich can get monotonous day after day. To keep your child interested in lunchtime, why not mix it up with wholegrain crackers, pitta, bagels, wraps, rice and pasta salads.
3. Pick a vegetable (and a dip) – Classics include carrot sticks (I love rainbow carrots), celery, cucumber, green beans, mangetout, sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, roasted beetroot and sweet potato wedges paired with hummus, natural yoghurt (raita), salsa, guacamole or baba ganoush.
It’s also good to incorporate vegetables into wraps, sandwiches, side salads and soups.
4. Pick a fruit – As well as offering nutrition, fruits also rehydrate and fulfils that sweet craving which is important. Choose from grab-and-go favourites such as apples, oranges, bananas or grapes or if you have a little more time, why not prepare a colourful rainbow fruit salad. From sliced apples to kiwi, bananas to grapes, pineapple to oranges and melon to berries…. The list is endless.
5. Pick an extra – extras usually fall somewhere between salty snack or sweet treat. And while chocolate, crisps, biscuits, and fizzy drinks are not an everyday occurrence in lunchboxes, some nice alternatives include air-popped popcorn or mixed unsalted nuts for something crunchy, a mix of dried fruits (apricots, mango, cranberries, raisins) for something sweet (and a sneaky way of getting one more of your 7-a-day) or why not try some tasty homemade treats such as flapjacks or banana bread. Yum!
And finally, don’t forget to keep hydrated throughout the day by refilling your Food Dudes sports bottle in class.
With a little bit of planning and prep work, packing a healthy lunchbox for your children, that they will actually eat, is both doable and fun. Let them help you plan, shop, prep and assemble their own lunch, as learning about food and nutrition are important skills and should be encouraged from an early age.
Check out www.bestinseason.ie for some tasty recipe ideas for your lunchbox.
The Food Pyramid
Healthy eating is essential for good health and is achieved by eating a balanced diet. To ensure your body gets all the nutrients it requires you should combine a variety of foods from each of the main food groups.
The following foods should make up the majority of a balanced diet:
- Fruit & Veg. Make sure to include lots of colour on the plate by choosing bright coloured fruit and vegetables. Not only are these filling and low in calories, but they also provide many vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals which have a huge range of health benefits.
- Wholegrain Foods. The best carbohydrates are the ones higher in Fibre. Choose high fibre and low sugar breakfast cereals, wholemeal and wholegrain bread, rolls and wraps, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and potatoes with their skins.
- Dairy. If you are watching your weight choose low-fat dairy produce as they contain the same calcium content as higher fat versions.
- Protein Foods. Choose lean meat, skinless chicken, fish, eggs, peas and beans for at least 2 of your daily meals
The content in this section is taken and/or adapted from accredited and reputable sources for nutritional and health information such as the HSE, INDI, SafeFood and FSAI