I am still really passionate about helping everyday families think about the many ways they can grow happy healthy kids which is why my strap line for my nutrition and wellbeing business is ‘nourishing families sustains wellbeing’.
Having worked with children and families since 1987 and in Social work for many years, I have worked hard at supporting troubled children and families who have unfortunately neglected themselves due to poor parenting. I see the difference intervention makes to these families and have many success stories that keep me motivated to stay involved.
As I am a mother of 3 children 2 adults and a teenager (a daughter 22 and son 20 and Daughter 15) I am just like other parents I too face the ongoing challenges of suggesting good nutritious and satisfying meals that can be enjoyed by everyone.
It was when my children were much younger that I trained as a Nutritionist ( 4 and 6 ) and my training helped my become better informed on the essentials of good nutrition.
I am a great advocate that everyone should eat the same meal as I grew up in a house that had different preferences and food intolerances and my brothers was gluten intolerant and my mum always catered for him in the meal which taught me to be inclusive and mindful of every one’s food tolerances. This is a really great way of offering food and I have I taught my children that there is something on the plate for everyone and we should all try to be sensitive to each other’s likes and dislikes. This helps build mutual respect, regard of different children’s taste buds as they develop as they grow and a key stage of their child development. Try introducing different food as this increases their experience the world and what is available and so as their bodies develop, so do their taste buds.
Providing children with nutritious food can be easier than many people think and educating children to understand how to make healthy food choices is essential. Children need more Carbohydrates, protein and fats in their diets and Children’s nutritional needs are different form adults who in contrast do not need fat unless highly active. Children should be active and need protein as this is the building blocks of life and cell regeneration.
Eating healthy does not need to be unattractive. Replacing shop bought cakes biscuits for home cooked ones using healthy whole grain flour or organic protein flour such as buckwheat or pea rather than white bleached flour which are empty calories is a good way of raising happy healthy children Baking at home can be a great bonding time for children and an ideal choice if budgets are tight. Replace cane or refined sugars with natural sugar such a maple, raw honey and sugar cane or stevia to sweeten or try adding natural fruit as these are all healthier alternatives. Other Carbohydrate-rich foods such as whole grains, fruit, nuts, lentils, seeds, eggs or milk are key sources of these nutrients and provide suitable protein sources that could be made available to hungry children who will benefit from these in the long run.
Try arranging a finger salad or vegetables that can be eaten raw on to a large plate. Fruit rich in fiber, calcium and vitamin D which are three important nutrients many children can often lack. Cut them up large or small or in imaginative ways using cutters to make them interested in the food. Providing alternative protein sources with these will help build children’s relationship with food and increase their desire to eat new foods offered. Children in my experience enjoy serving themselves and this helps build confidence and their self-esteem for all ages. Adding different soft or hard cheeses to the salad if you know your child can try with the meal or providing other protein sources if you’re worried about them eating enough.
There are many challenges facing families to provide a balanced diet that offers things children like to eat rather than what they want to eat. Fussy kids may play with food so indulge their curiosity and cultivate their interest.
Children need clear and consistent parenting and helped to understand how to make good food choices. Parents can be good role models by helping their children understand how to eat well and it is important that children are given what they need rather than what they want to reduce their risks to obesity and other later life health issues. Reducing portion sizes can be instrumental for children who are overweight or overeat and find a quiet time to talk through any potential anxiety that may be causing this behaviour. Providing them regular exercise or play opportunities to burn off calories is also vital to their well-being.
The World Health Organisation states sugar should make up no more than 5% of our daily diet. In the UK, that figure is 11.6% for adults and 15.2% for children. All food has natural sugar and salt and using less is best or none at all. Surprising our pallets get used to this. Give it a try and see for yourself. Otherwise replace with a natural mineralised salt such as Celtic or Himalayan salt.
Having clear boundaries in place is important to support emotional resilience and well-being and should include monitoring oral hygiene to prevent oral decay. Children need guidance to brush properly and understand that sweets and fruit juice cause tooth decay and therefore replacing juice with water is a safe alternative. Juicing at home is better than shop bought juices however still requires monitoring. Having these will meals is much better, and research has reinforced this through clinical trials.
The adults in children’s lives are instrumental in being positive role models for their children and putting this into practice by showing their children they make sensible choices and eat a balanced diet is essential to the family’s norms. Visual impact will be seen clearly by the children and reinforces the consistent message that health is important. Adults taking a form of exercise is also a great message for children and experimenting with different forms of exercise, so children see adults can be active.
Consulting a Qualified Nutritionist is a great way of learning about the food that is right for you and loved ones and having a bespoke programme to follow can be highly supportive as this helps families make sustainable changes for long term benefits and is money well spent.
My Article for Positive Kids issue 2: February 2018
Randhiraj Bilan DNN, DipSW, DMS, LCPH, DipHE, ACSFT.