Feeding school-aged children
School-age children need to eat well through out the school day in order to do their best work. Besides nourishing their growing bodies, healthy eating will supply the energy they need to participate in active learning.
Teaching your kids to eat well
We all eat things that aren't good for us, but are easy and convenient. During a hectic school week, it can be tempting to take the quick (and often the most popular with the kids) option at mealtimes by offering processed, pre-packaged or take-away meals.
It takes a little planning and commitment to eat right - for both parents and children. You can encourage your child to make the right eating choices by:
- Lead by example. Like everything else to do with child-rearing, you must lead the way by setting a good example. You can't expect your child to happily snack on fruit if you've constantly got your hand in a chip packet.
- Have nutritious food easily accessible. If you allow your child the freedom to decide what and how much food they want, from a healthy selection in your fridge or pantry, then they'll learn how to respond to their own hunger and avoid over-eating.
- Establish an eating routine. Try to eat together as a family once every day. No matter how busy your family's day is, if you can establish a routine early on that sees you all come together for a meal or a snack without distraction, you'll find that not only will you all enjoy spending that time together as a family; your kids will focus on the food and eat well.
- Don't dictate to your child's appetite or taste. Your child, like all adults, will have days when she's hungry and others when she's not. Just as there will be foods that she enjoys and others that she doesn't. Don't turn meals into a huge drama if she's not eating what or how much you'd like - everyone's appetite is different. If you're genuinely concerned about the quantity she's eating, check that she's not filling up on snacks just before mealtime, and make sure that every mouthful she does eat, counts. Encourage her to eat the protein first, then go for the carbs and vegies.
- Get her involved in menu planning. Your child is more likely to eat the fruits of her labour - particularly if she's had a hand in selecting the menu items. As she gets older, encourage her to be in charge of dinner once a week. You may have to do the shopping but, with a little guidance, she should be able to take over in the kitchen.
- Relax. More than anything else, sitting down together should be an enjoyable way to refuel and to connect with your family.