Kids and food, eh? Parenthood is full of pitfalls it seems, and food is one of the big ones. If it’s not a government health campaign or well-meaning TV chefs that are haranguing us to feed our families ‘properly’, it’s the kids themselves that are setting up blogs and photographing their school dinners for the international media to make a meal out of. While many of us may be embarrassed at the prospect of a mini-photo-investigative journalist harassing the local school’s dinner ladies with images of some less than satisfactory fare, you can’t help be a bit jealous that the mini-blogger in question is at least interested in her food! Many of us might even consider swapping one like that for a chicken-nugget obsessed alternative. So what’s the truth behind the hype about what we should be cajoling our kids into eating?
Five a Day – Fact or Fiction?
This is likely to come as bad news to some people, but all that stuff about five a day is, generally speaking, true. It would be fair to argue that it seems that science and nutritionists can’t make up their minds about some foods – with many foods enjoying sudden popularity only to be branded lethal the next day. However, fruit and vegetables are amongst the most natural foodstuffs and our bodies are designed to make the most of them. Fresh fruit and vegetables really are essential for our health and are particularly important for adults and kids. The reason that they’re so important is the vitamin and mineral content contributes to healthy bodies, especially of the rapidly growing kind. The vitamins in vegetables dissolve rapidly in water, so it’s best not to cook them for too long. Try steaming vegetables for the best results. When it comes to fruit (and vegetables for that matter) they’re better with the skin on, as many of the nutrients are lurking in the surface layers; different vegetables provide different levels of essential minerals and vitamins – carrots for example are packed with vitamin A which is important for our eyesight. Chopped, uncooked carrots and peppers are a good addition to the pack-up for school lunch and can be used for dipping into soft cheeses.
Then there’s the Three a Day – Sorry
Speaking of cheese, I’m afraid it doesn’t end at the “five a day” rule; there’s also a three a day rule as well. The three a day rule applies to dairy produce; this is important, like the five a day regulation, for adults but is crucial for growing humans effectively. The reason that milk and dairy products are so important in our early years is that they contain calcium. This is well known for building bones and teeth but it’s also responsible for regulating the contraction of muscles – including your heartbeat – and calcium is even essential for blood clotting. The good news with the five plus three a day requirements is that dairy products include handy things like yogurt which means you can mix and match. You really don’t need a five star Michelin ranking to whip up a homemade fruit yogurt; chop and mix and you’re done. For breakfast a fruit smoothie or milkshake can go down well; bananas, strawberries or blueberries are easy to blend up with milk. This gets a couple of those five a day out of the way along with a decent helping of calcium rich dairy goodness. Fruit also has a relatively high sugar content as well – beloved of kids – so this type of smoothie rarely needs additives and is much healthier than the type you can buy off the shelf.
Understanding the importance of fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy is relatively easy, compared to persuading some kids to actually eat them. However, simple tricks such as fruit smoothies and a little imagination in the presentation department can make all the difference. Involving kids in the cooking and preparation of meals can also encourage their interest and in the long term they will thank you for teaching them the importance of great food.
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