Healthy eating for kids

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The foods children and teens consume on a daily basis directly influences their energy levels, attention, growth and development. And while professionals and parents may know how important good nutrition is, getting kids to eat what we want them to can be easier said than done. It is for this reason that focusing young diets’ around nutrient rich superfoods, along with regular family meals are two easy ways you can set your family’s nutrition on a sound path. Of all the child friendly foods out there, eggs are one of the most versatile and nutrient rich options to include in your family’s diet. Packed full of protein and a range of key nutrients, eggs are a perfect option to compliment family meals.

When the dietary staples offered at home include nutrient choices at each meal and snack you will be on the right path with your family’s nutrition. In general, protein rich options including eggs, lean meat, fish along with dairy foods and brightly coloured vegetables are all natural superfoods that can easily be incorporated into child friendly meals such as scrambled eggs, pies, omelettes, fried rice and baked products such as healthy muffins and frittatas. While busy families often resort to grabbing quick meals and snacks on the run, incorporating whole natural foods means you tick a number of key nutritional boxes compared to more processed meal and snack choices. Take a breakfast of an egg on a slice of toast compared to toast alone. The egg adds up to 8g of high quality protein, essential fats and more than 13 essential vitamins and minerals including iron, zinc, selenium and Vitamins D and A, contributing a significant number of key nutrients into the diet of a growing child in a single meal. 

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 2.52.09 PMInvolving children in the process of planning, cooking and preparing meals is another key step in improving the nutritional intake of your family as they are much more likely to eat the food they have had some role in cooking. Spending time as a family each week planning the meals in advance will give children and teens something to look forward to and helps to further create a unique family ritual around meals in your home. Even better, as kids get older assigning them the task of making breakfast; a slice for after school snacks or even a quick dinner is a great way to get them intrinsically motivated when it comes to involving themselves with both their nutrition and the family meal time routine. Quick and easy meals that even relatively young children can be involved in making include scrambled eggs, muffins, fritattas, fried rice and a stir fry. 

The next thing to consider is how your family generally enjoys their meals. Is dinner at your house scoffed in front of the television or do you routinely sit down at the table with the television switched off? Family meal times are important for a number of reasons – the simple coming together, at a table, without distraction on a regular basis has been shown to support both the cognitive and psychosocial functioning of children and teenagers. It appears that there is something very simple, yet also quite complex about the act of a family enjoying meals together on at least four occasions each week that impacts behaviour long term. 

The other known benefit about enjoying meals together as a family, is that the nutritional quality of the meal is superior. Take a sit down breakfast for example, a nutritionally rich breakfast of eggs and toast offers much more than a quick grab and go breakfast, and also facilitates the modelling and conversation linked to long term health and well-being outcomes seen in studies specifically examining the benefits of family meal times. In a similar way, evening meals served at a table are more likely to be nutritionally balanced options that offer lean proteins such as fish, meat and eggs, along with salad and vegetables – all foods which offer the key proteins, vitamins and minerals that growing children need as opposed to quick on the go meal options such as frozen meals, fast food and high fat takeaway options.

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 2.58.37 PMSo knowing that there are both psychological and nutritional benefits of enjoying family meals together as frequently as possible, how can you make it work in modern life when schedules are pushed to the max? First of all start small – if you can only manage a family meal a couple of times each week, it is better than nothing. You may find a weekend breakfast of eggs, along with a Sunday lunch or Friday night dinner are a few meals in which most family members will be home, and where you can start to introduce the ritual of enjoying a meal together at the table. Next when you can commit to family meals, turn the television off. It appears that the natural flow of conversation between family members is the key to family meal time success and creating a special time in which both nutrition and relationships flourish. Where you can focus on superfoods such as eggs to supercharge your family’s nutrition. And finally, try and enjoy the process. Food, eating and family are life’s greatest and most simple pleasures, it is not supposed to be so stressful so try to relax and enjoy the process. 

This post is sponsored by the Australian Egg Corporation. For more information, please click here.