The availability of healthy food for children in primary school settings promotes health, growth and intellectual development. When children are encouraged to eat nutritious foods regularly, it will lead to enhanced brain function and an overall healthy lifestyle. When healthy food is offered in the home and at school, children tend to do better on tests and classroom work.
Children need a combination of nutrients, minerals and vitamins to maintain healthy eating and improve focus and brain function. By using the food pyramid, creating meals with the proper amounts of each food group is easy and basically drawn out for you. Children should have at least five portions (85.1gr. each) of fruits and vegetables daily. Starchy foods such as breads and pasta should be whole-grain as much as possible. Calcium helps build strong bones, so milk of some type should be consumed daily along with yoghurts or cheese. Fish, meat and poultry should be consumed daily and can include lean meat, eggs, tofu, beans, peas and lentils. Foods high in sugars and fat should be consumed in small amounts along with meals.
Prepare and serve family meals at the same time each night. Children are comfortable with routine, and when meals are prepared and dinner is attended by every family member, young children are more likely to eat a well-balanced meal that is placed in front of them. When meals are planned for the same time each day, it will discourage snacking before dinner. Take children with you when your grocery-shop and allow them to select the types of healthy food for their lunch box and snacks. Allow children to select one meal for each week and teach them the nutritional value of the meal. Purchase and place fruits or juices within reach of children so they can grab a snack when they are hungry.
As children grow, so do their dietary needs. Children require more vitamins and minerals to assist with their growing bodies, so foods should be adjusted to provide those benefits. Whole grain should be served more often as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. Milk or another calcium supplement should be consumed for strong bones, and proteins such as eggs, fish, poultry and nuts should be included in a child's diet. Try substituting healthier foods for the child's favourite junk food. For example, switch out french fries from fast-food restaurants for a baked potato, or offer frozen yoghurt instead of ice cream. Change these foods gradually to avoid a meltdown by the child.
Children go to school and sit behind a desk where the teacher expects them to pay attention, participate and do their assigned work. If a child leaves home without a well-balanced breakfast, chances are she will burn out well before lunchtime. Take advantage of school breakfast programs if they are available or be sure the child is served a full, well-balanced breakfast each morning at home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that children from low-income homes who participated in a breakfast program did significantly better on tests than those who did not.
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