Khadija Kapasi, Clinical Dietitian, Ministry of Health Kuwait, gives her advice on planning a wholesome diet for little ones as they return to school
Prepare a list and change the menu
Start working on school lunch menus based on the foods your child agrees to eat. It helps to make a list of all foods your child eats, but it’s also important to find different ways to serve them. For example, if cucumber is the only vegetable your child will eat, try serving it with different dips or roll it up with meats and cheese. There are a variety of recipes created on the internet to help you find new school lunch ideas. Changing it up is key to keeping your child from losing interest in the few healthy foods they like.
Healthy eating plate
The Kid’s Healthy Eating Plate was created as a fun and easy guide to encourage children to eat well and keep moving. The plate’s guidelines emphasise variety and quality in food choices. The formula is simple: fill half your plate (or lunch box) with colourful fruits or vegetables (aim for two to three different types), one-quarter with whole grains, and the remaining quarter with healthy proteins. Healthy fats and a small amount of dairy (if desired) round out a tasty meal that will fuel an active, healthy lifestyle.
Think outside the box
Children, especially younger children, can be influenced by how the food looks. Fun shapes and bright colours may grab their attention and encourage them to take a bite. Below are some of the ways that can help you with the creative presentation for your child’s meals.
Avoid introducing new foods at lunch
It’s important to keep introducing new foods to your child, as it can take 10 to 20 times trying a food before a child may start liking it. However, school lunch may not be the best time for it. Children tend to get distracted during lunch and often don’t have enough time to finish everything they have in their lunch boxes. They may start with more familiar foods and are more likely to ignore new items. Try introducing new foods at dinner when the whole family can encourage the child to try something new.
Khadija Kapasi, Clinical Dietitian, Ministry of Health Kuwait
Fluid needs vary based on a child’s age, size, gender, and activity level. Seven to 14 cups of water is recommended per day, with the lower end for toddlers and the higher end for teenage boys. Part of this amount can come from flavoured and unsweetened seltzer or fruit-infused waters. Only when your child participates in vigorous sports lasting long periods (over one hour) should sports drinks be considered to supplement water. Sugary drinks are a major contributor to the rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes in children. Children and teens should consume less than 25 grams or six teaspoons of added sugar per day, and sugary drinks should be limited to no more than eight 250 ml per week.
When kids are up late, either playing games or watching TV, their brains don’t switch off in time for them to get the rest they need. You will want to give your child a hard stop on screen time so that they have an easier time falling asleep. That stop time will vary depending on the child, but it should be at least two hours before bedtime, so that your child can secrete more melatonin (relaxation hormone) and reduce cortisol (stress hormone) that increases due to blue lights of digital screens. An hour is a good starting point and then you can gradually increase.
It’s very important to make sure that your child is not deprived of vital vitamins. Give them age-appropriate doses of Vitamin D3 and Vitamin C for a healthy immune system. You can also give them a botanical boost with elderberry syrup. it is a good antiviral and can be used preventatively during cold and flu season. Do this under the supervision of your dietitian or a doctor.
Send your kids off to school with a reminder of the importance of handwashing. Frequent handwashing is the best defence against getting sick.
Don’t let your healthy lifestyle fall to the wayside when school starts. Use these parenting hacks to stay on track and fuel your child for long days of school, activities and fun with friends. Here’s to a healthy school year and creating good habits that will last a lifetime!
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