Helping Children Eat Healthy During School Holidays

Kimberly Nelson, Paediatric Dietitian at Change for Life

Dr Raj Khillan, director Western Specialist Centre

www.westernspecialistcentre.com.au

Keeping everyone busy and entertained during the summer holidays can be a challenge. Making sure everyone is maintaining a healthy diet can be even more challenging. When the kids are on holidays, routines and schedules change and healthy eating is suddenly not a priority. This can lead to eating higher amounts of discretionary “junk” foods which a high in calories, sugar, unhealthy fats and salt.

Planning and preparing your child’s meals and snacks should include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy foods and lean meats. Let’s take a look at 3 easy ways we can keep healthy eating habits on track this summer.

Firstly, Plan Ahead. Planning ahead is a good way to ensure healthier food choices are available. Ask the kids to help you create a weekly meal planner and shopping list, or prepare several meals at the start of the holidays and keep in the freezer until needed.  Snack ideas include fresh fruit or fruit salads, vegetable sticks, lightly toasted wholegrain pitta bread with salsa, tzatziki or hummus dip, a plain yoghurt with fresh or frozen fruit, mixed nuts and seeds, cottage cheese or natural peanut butter on multigrain crisp breads. Easy lunch ideas (other than the ill-reputed boring sandwich or wrap) can include hard-boiled eggs or tinned tuna/salmon with a green salad and pre-prepared salads are also available at most supermarkets if you are in a hurry.  Baked beans and avocado on multigrain toast, vegetable omelet with mixed frozen vegetables to save even more time, vegetable frittata that can be made at the start of the holidays and freeze until needed, and leftovers from previous night’s dinner are all healthy options. Taking healthy snacks and packed lunches with you on outings can also prevent having to purchase highly processed foods.  Herbs and spices can be used to make different variations of dishes to be more interesting and add a dose of culture to the recipes!

Secondly, get your kids involved in healthy eating habits early. Research shows us that young children who are involved in meal preparation and cooking have a healthier and more positive relationship towards food. It helps them to learn many vital skills and is a good opportunity to introduce fussy eaters to new foods. Allow your child to pick a recipe which uses a food they’ve never tried before. You may even discover the next MasterChef in your household!

Thirdly, by getting the kids involved in the kitchen, use the holidays to teach children about where their food comes from by helping them to grow their own fruits and vegetables. This can be a fun, hands-on and educational activity for them to do during their holidays. Easy fruits and vegetables to grow include strawberries, tomatoes, green beans, snap peas and make it a family project.  Great for show and tell at school about doing things together, getting green fingers, and learning food is fun! Happy Eating!

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