Practical advice for parents from nutritionist, Shane Bilsborough.
The diets of children not only play an integral role in their health and cognitive function, but also impacts on their future risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. Providing a healthy eating foundation for children not only corrects nutritional deficiencies but also sets up good practices for life. In providing good nutrition for kids there are a range of foods that can act as super-foods. The super-foods below are both practical to include in everyday diets and easy to find in local supermarkets. While there are other emerging super-foods such as garlic, pomegranate, cherry juice and dark chocolate, the foods below are particularly child-friendly. In order to help parents I have focussed on foods that are accessible and cost-effective for both homes and lunchboxes.
Tuna serves as the perfect platform to launch a child’s super-food lunch box. While a small 100g tin of tuna might not look imposing, each serving packs an impressive omega-3 punch of between 100-200mg. Our brain is made from omega -3 fats and needs them to be replenished regularly; they also play an important role in memory, brain function, and even heart health. Omega-3s may even help children who have behavioural and learning challenges. Fish, in particular oily fish, are the number one super-food for children.
Per serving, berries provide the highest levels of antioxidants of any foods, protecting the cells of the body against damage. Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are packed full of antioxidants, as well as vitamin C and fibre. Whether frozen or fresh, a handful of berries make a great tasty snack or after meal treat.
Dairy products are rich in dietary calcium, a key ingredient for strong bones and teeth, and a healthy heart and nervous system. Recent evidence also points to dietary calcium playing an important role in maintaining a healthy weight. Certain dairy products such as yogurt and milk also contain protein, vitamin A, vitamin B12, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin and zinc. There is also research to suggest that immunolglobins found in milk can boost the immune system. Low sugar varieties of yogurt are a great way for kids to get beneficial bacteria in the form of probiotics which can help promote inner health.
Fruits and vegetables (all):
Any diet, whether child or adult, should centre on the age old message of eating lots of fruit and veg. While evidence abounds for the wonders of tomatoes, broccoli and avocados, eating a wide variety of different coloured fruit and vegetables provides the human body with lots of different plant ‘goodnesses’ that all work together. Without plenty of fruit and vegetables which are rich in vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre, super-foods have a limited platform from which to launch. Some carrot or celery sticks, a handful of snow peas, and a few slices of mango, apple or orange complete any lunchbox.
Nuts and seeds:
A handful of almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts (or any combinations of) are ideal as a mid-morning snack. Even though some schools now have restrictions on nuts, they are still a great option for children to nibble on when they come home. Rather than children snacking on junk food, nuts and seeds provide a great, healthy practical alternative. They contain good fats, fibre, protein, omega-3 and -6 oils, and vitamins and minerals including vitamin E, copper, magnesium, folic acid and potassium.
Shane Bilsborough is one of Australia’s leading and most sought after Nutritionists. He has a Masters Degree in Human Nutrition from Deakin University and is involved in medical research having published research papers in the area. He has presented a series of lectures on Childhood Obesity for the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) across Victoria. In June 2007, Shane was appointed as the Ambassador of the State Government’s ‘Go For Your Life’ healthy lifestyle initiative, where he promotes being active and eating a healthy balanced diet through the state of Victoria. He is the author of three internationally best-selling books on diet and exercise and has sold over 350,000 books worldwide.