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Melanie Sher (Registered Dietitian)

12 April 2018, Thursday

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Healthy Eating for Kids

Childhood obesity is becoming a global epidemic, and along with increasing rates of chronic diseases of lifestyle (diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cancers) during childhood, it is apparent that the state of our children’s health is in a dire situation.

In South Africa, 14.2% of primary school children are overweight or obese. At the current rate, it is predicted that a whopping 3.91 million school children in South Africa will be overweight or obese by the year 2025.  In addition, conditions such as early-onset diabetes and high blood pressure are also on the rise. We know that these conditions are related to lifestyle choices (diet, exercise and stress) and as a result, we are forced to examine how our food choices could be affecting our children’s health. In addition to these chronic lifestyle-related conditions, we are also seeing an increase in a range of other childhood diseases, from autism, ADHD and anxiety to constipation, allergies, asthma and auto-immune diseases. It may not seem obvious, but these diseases are also related to dietary and lifestyle factors. So what is the cause of this rapid decline in the health status of our children?

Our Busy Lifestyles Lead to Unhealthy Food Choices

As modern life becomes more demanding, most parents are forced to not only care for their children and look after domestic duties, but to also work full-time and spend many hours commuting on a daily basis. This leaves little time for food preparation, with most families relying on convenience options such as takeaways, ready-made meals and quick supermarket snacks. Unfortunately, most of these convenience options are packed with added sugars, salt, preservatives, trans-fats and a number of other processed ingredients which have a detrimental impact on growing bodies and developing brains. Even the most well-meaning and health-conscious parents are often forced to compromise on health due to the basic lack of nutritious and healthy convenience options on supermarket shelves as well as the lack of time available to them to prepare healthier options from scratch. Even snacks and convenience options that may appear to be healthy often have unhealthy additives, hidden sugars and preservatives which can increase the risk for health-related conditions during childhood.

For example, in 2015 the World Health Organization added processed meat to a growing list of recognized carcinogens, meaning that it has been out-rightly proven that processed meat causes cancer. In addition red meat was added as a probable cause of cancer. So what does this mean? To be direct seemingly healthy childhood favourites such as biltong, salami, viennas, lunch meats and polony have all been linked to increased risk for cancer and even unprocessed red meats like mince and steak could well be a cause of cancer.

Why Choose to Eat Plant-Based?

This is one of the many reasons I promote a plant-based diet for children. Not only are plant-protein options free of the harmful carcinogens, heavy metals, environmental contaminants, cholesterol and hormones that are often found in meat and dairy but they are also full of beneficial vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants which help to fight disease and keep children healthy. Studies have found that children who eat a plant-based diet grow to the same height as meat-eating children but have less risk of becoming overweight or obese and tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and less junk food. Children who maintain a healthy weight during childhood are less likely to become overweight or obese during adulthood and healthy eating habits that are set during childhood are often maintained throughout life which means that eating a plant-based diet early in life can establish lifelong healthy habits.

Making sure that the house is stocked up with healthy snacks is one way to ensure that children are not only getting in enough energy, but also getting in enough nutrients and protein for optimal growth and development.

Children need to eat about 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, which means that all meals and snacks should contain a small amount of fruits or veg. In addition, children need to eat lots of good quality protein, wholesome carbohydrates and healthy fats in order to have enough energy for both their busy days and for growth. Since plant-protein options are my preferred choice of protein, I always encourage parents to make sure that there is a good source of plant protein at every meal. Foods such as legumes, natural soya products, peanut butter, quinoa, and nuts and seeds are all high in good quality plant proteins. The Fry’s Crafted Range makes for a great nutritious meat alternative that is packed with good quality natural plant protein ingredients such as non-GMO soya protein, chia seeds, rice protein, quinoa and chickpeas. In addition, the Crafted Range products are a source of healthy omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids from ingredients such as chia seeds, flax oil and sunflower seed oil. Not only are these products super nutritious and free of harmful ingredients, but they are one of the few convenience options available on supermarket shelves for busy parents.

Here are my top tips for making healthy, nutritious meals for the whole family without needing to spend hours in the kitchen:

  1. Make use of healthy and nutritious convenience products. Healthy and nutritious ready-made snacks may be few in number but you can take advantage of the great products that are readily available on our supermarket shelves. Natural dairy-free yoghurts, pre-cut veg sticks, commercial hummus, plain popcorn, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, whole-grain crackers, Fry’s Kasha, pretzels and Fry’s Crafted Range Chickpea and Butternut Balls and Chickpea and Quinoa Falafels all make for quick healthy snack options.
  2. Make one-pot meals. Yes, a variety of food groups are needed at each meal to make a healthy balanced meal, but that doesn’t mean that meals need to be made up of a number of different dishes in order to make them balance. In fact, putting all your different food groups into one dish can help to reduce preparation time and reduce wastage as well as making certain food groups, such as vegetables, more acceptable for picky eaters. So, why not try a hearty pasta, risotto, shepherd’s pie or veggie bake as your next family meal?
  3. Minimize chopping and cutting. Most of the time that goes into healthy meal preparation is not necessarily spent cooking but in preparing vegetables and other ingredients for cooking. This process is known as pre-preparation. Minimize pre-preparation time by investing in a good electric chopper, buying pre-cut vegetables, soup packs and stir fry mixes or by pre-preparing your vegetables in bulk ahead of time. You may spend a little bit extra on things like pre-cut veggies but the investment in your families’ health and the time you save will be totally worth it.
  4. Prepare. As they say, “failing to prepare, is preparing to fail” and preparing some of your food in advance for the week is a sure way to save time during the week and ensure a healthy diet for you and your family. From planning family dinners, to pre-cutting veggies, or even batch cooking and freezing meals in advance, every bit of preparation you embark on will save you time in the future. Don’t forget to also stock up on healthy snacks such as veggie sticks, cut up fruit, hummus, whole-grain crackers and popcorn for when those munchies hit.
  5. Get the kids involved. Getting kids involved in cooking and meal preparation can seem to be more work than benefit, especially when you’re having a busy week but empowering your kids to make their own snacks and lunch boxes and take a turn or two to cook dinner, will teach them about good nutrition and pay off in the long run.
  6. Simplify lunch boxes. Don’t get bogged down with complicated lunch box ideas. Get a lunch box with various compartments and fill each compartment with different fruits, veg, protein options and crackers. This will save you the time of having to make sandwiches and salads and the variety of fruits and vegetables will keep your kids interested.
  7. Variety. Variety is truly the spice of life and when it comes to kids, nothing keeps them interested in food like variety. But this doesn’t have to mean a lot of work or time on your behalf. You can use the same basic ingredients in 3 or 4 different ways without kids feeling bored or noticing that they’re eating the same foods over and over. For example, one could use the Fry’s Crafted Chickpea and Quinoa Falafels as a pita bread filling, as a finger food on a snack plate or as meatless balls in a pasta.

The Super Plate

The Super Food Plate was developed to help parents to understand the nutritional needs of their children and to plan balanced meals.

Super Meal Plate for Kids

Explaining the Food Plate

Fruits and Veg: 5-7 servings per day (about 1/3 of the plate). Includes all fresh vegetables and fruits e.g. apple, banana, berries, pineapple, watermelon, dried fruit, salad, tomatoes, spinach, kale, cucumber, corn, baby marrows, mushrooms, etc.

Grains and Starches: 7 servings per day (about 1/3 of the plate) Includes all whole-grain products and starchy vegetables e.g. brown rice, quinoa, oats, cornmeal, potato, sweet potato, butternut, barley, whole-wheat bread/ crackers, etc.

Proteins: 2-3 servings per day Includes all legumes and soya products as well as nuts and seeds e.g. Fry’s products, tofu, chickpeas, lentils, beans, chia seeds, peanut butter, etc.

Fats: 3-4 servings per day. Includes all oils and added fats e.g. avocado, tahini, nuts, seeds, nut butters, olives, olive oil, sunflower oil, flax oil, etc.

Outside of the plate: 3 servings per day of non-dairy milk/ milk products. Includes all plant milks/ milk products but preferably soya milk e.g. soya milk, almond milk, soya yoghurt, etc.

 

Here are some healthy meal ideas, making use of the Food Plate, without having to spend hours in the kitchen:

BREAKFAST

Kasha berry smoothie

Ingredients: frozen berries, banana, Vanilla & Chia Kasha, soya milk

√ Fruits/ veg

√ Grains

√ Protein

√ Milk

√ Fats/ oils

Chocolate protein flapjacks

Ingredients: whole-grain flour, Cacao Kasha, ground flax, mashed banana, soya milk

√ Fruits/ veg

√ Grains

√ Protein

√ Milk

√ Fats/ oils

Peanut butter oatmeal

Ingredients: oatmeal, soya milk, peanut butter, cinnamon, banana, strawberries

√ Fruits/ veg

√ Grains

√ Protein

√ Milk

√ Fats/ oils

MID-MORNING SNACK

Veg sticks, whole-grain crackers and hummus

Ingredients: veg of choice (baby tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, sugar snap peas) + hummus

√ Fruits/ veg

√ Grains

√ Protein

√ Fats/ oils

Chickpea and Roasted Butternut Balls with peanut dipping sauce

Ingredients: Crafted Range Chickpea and Roasted Butternut Balls + peanut sauce (peanut butter, maple syrup, water)

√ Fruits/ veg

√ Grains

√ Protein

√ Fats/ oils

Banana chia muffins

Ingredients: oat flour, banana, chia seeds, soya milk

√ Fruits/ veg

√ Grains

√ Protein

√ Milk

√ Fats/ oils

LUNCH

Rice Protein and Chia Nuggets with baked sweet potato batons and pink beet hummus

Ingredients: Crafted Rice Protein and Chia Nuggets, sweet potato, hummus, beetroot

√ Fruits/ veg

√ Grains

√ Protein

√ Fats/ oils

Country Roast sandwich

Ingredients: Crafted Range Soy and Quinoa Country Roast thinly sliced, whole-grain bread, mustard, lettuce, tomato, cucumber

√ Fruits/ veg

√ Grains

√ Protein

√ Fats/ oils

Falafel in pita bread

Ingredients: whole-wheat mini pita breads filled with Crafted Range Chickpea and Quinoa Falafels, hummus, dairy-free yoghurt and chopped salad

√ Fruits/ veg

√ Grains

√ Protein

√ Milk

√ Fats/ oils

LATE AFTERNOON SNACK

Fresh fruit and soya yoghurt

Ingredients: fresh seasonal fruit, soya yoghurt

√ Fruits/ veg

√ Protein

√ Milk

Snack plate

Ingredients: Crafted Range Chickpea and Butternut Balls, seed crackers, guacamole, olives, cherry tomatoes, popcorn

√ Fruits/ veg

√ Grains

√ Protein

√ Fats/ oils

Chia seed pudding

Ingredients: chia seeds, cinnamon, soya milk, fresh chopped pineapple, coconut

√ Fruits/ veg

√ Protein

√ Milk

√ Fats/ oils

SUPPER

Lentil cottage pie

Ingredients: lentils, stock, carrot, celery, onion, spices, potato mash, soya milk

√ Fruits/ veg

√ Grains

√ Protein

√ Fats/ oils

Meat-free meat ball pasta

Ingredients: whole-grain pasta, Crafted Range Chickpea and Quinoa Falafels, roasted tomato and pepper pasta sauce, mushrooms, spinach dairy-free basil pesto

√ Fruits/ veg

√ Grains

√ Protein

√ Fats/ oils

Butternut risotto

Ingredients: short-grain brown rice, soya milk, stock, butternut, carrots, onion, nutritional yeast, Crafted Range Chickpea and Butternut Balls. Optional: dairy-free cheese

√ Fruits/ veg

√ Grains

√ Protein

√ Fats/ oils

 

Ensuring that your children have the best start in life has been made easy and convenient thanks to Fry’s Crafted Range of natural plant-protein products. With just a little bit of planning, preparation, and the use of a few healthy convenience options such as those found in the Crafted Range, a nutritious plant-based diet is within reach for the whole family. This type of diet will not only allow for healthy living in a time-limited modern world but will also prevent many of the chronic debilitating conditions affecting today’s children and allow your children to develop to their full potential.

For more information on the Green Dietician head here: https://thegreendietitian.co.za/

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