A study by Galaxy Research for A Grain of Truth campaign has revealed that 82% of parents change the meals they prepare for their children when they themselves are dieting.
Almost half (45%) admit to limiting the amount of bread their children eat, and 17% cut carbs generally from their children’s meals. Yet, 87% of parents said they would like their children to eat more food that is rich in fibre. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend the following number of servings of grains each day for children and teenagers:
- 2-8 years: 4 serves
- 9-11 years (girls): 4 serves
- 9-11 years (boys): 5 serves
- 12-13 years (girls): 5 serves
- 12-13 years (boys): 6 serves
- 14-18 years: 7 serves
In order to help ensure children get the nutritional balance they need, Accredited Practising Dietitian, Dr Joanna McMillan has put together her top tips for keeping kids’ diets healthy when their parents are planning a dietary change.
1. First and foremost, I would discourage going on a specific diet that is suited just for you
It is all too easy for this approach to lead to nutritional deprivation for both you and your children. Instead, overhaul your family’s diet as a whole.
Family meals cooked in the evening can be the same food for everyone but with different variations for each family member. In other words, adults might limit the portion size of carbs and up their veggies, whereas kids need more carbs to fuel their growing bodies.
2. Remember that adults and kids are not built the same when it comes to food consumption
Kids have smaller tummies and need to eat smaller portions but more often, which means snack time and morning/afternoon tea, are important to them.
Kids also have a higher requirement for carbs than we do. Their brains are bigger than their body, which means they need carbs to help balance their growth and development. Fibre and carbs are an important part of everyone’s diet so having the family eat wholegrain bread is a great way to introduce those nutrients.
A protein and veggie sandwich or a bowl of vegetable soup with bread on the side are great examples of balanced meals the whole family can enjoy.
3. Take the lead on teaching children what goes into a healthy meal (planning, shopping, cooking)
We're role models to our children so it's important that they learn the importance of eating well, and even table manners.
Teaching our children why we eat certain foods will help them understand their own nutritional needs which they will carry on throughout their lives and eventually pass down to their own children one day.
4. Get your kids involved with the family eating habits
Taking your children to the grocery store so that they can help shop for the meals can help them see how a meal plan comes together.
I let my boys pick one meal a week that they are in charge of planning – from deciding what the meal will be to shopping and then preparing it – so that they can feel involved in what they’re consuming. Not only are they learning how to shop and budget, they’re also learning cooking skills so that by the time they’re teenagers they can fend for themselves and make the right nutritional choices.
5. Don’t demonise whole food groups
While what we eat is important, we want our children to establish a healthy relationship with food and their body image.
Foster the belief that healthy eating is important but don’t shun discretionary foods – like soft drinks, cakes and lollies – that can be consumed on a ‘sometimes’ basis. They might not give nutritional value but they do make us happy every now and then as a treat.
Be careful about giving these a reward which can put them on a pedestal – use other rewards like a kicking a football in the park and leave the lollies for the every now and again treat.