Every day we are exposed to more information about the food that we eat. It’s hard to sort fact from fiction. Lets look at some of the more common myths about nutrition and children.
- Eat your vegetables; Yes we all need the vital nutrients that vegetables provide but for most children fruit provides a good range of these vitamins and minerals also. So if your child will only eat fruit or vegetables but not both remember to serve a variety. Choosing different coloured fruits (or vegies) is good way of making sure you serve up all the essential nutrients this food group provides.
- Home prepared is much better for you than bought baby foods. Nutritionally jars or cans of food for babies are quite similar to home prepared meals. What does happen though is that individual tastes of foods are lost in the mush and the texture is often overly fine and doesn’t give older babies any chewing challenges. For busy families though the convenience of jars can be a life saver.
- Juice is just good as fruit; Juice does contain many vitamins, however what is lost is fibre and the challenge of chewing. Children will sometimes consume large amounts of juice in place of water or milk and this has been linked to poor food intakes, diarrhea and tooth decay. Children don’t need juice as part of a healthy diet.
- An apple will clean your teeth: For many years we were told to finish lunch with an apple to clean teeth. In fact the natural acids in the apple can be erosive to tooth enamel. Finishing a meal with a piece of cheese or some milk is much more protective of precious tooth enamel as the casein protein helps protect teeth from decay.
- Bananas are constipating; No food actually causes constipation. In most cases increasing fibre intake by eating fruits, vegetables and wholemeal breads and cereals as well having more fluid is enough to deal with this problem. If it persists it needs to be discussed with a doctor.
- Milk makes mucus; For most children milk does not produce more mucus or cause asthma to worsen. What happens is that proteins in milk mix with saliva and make the saliva thicker and stickier but does not actually make more mucus in the lungs. So its OK to keep having milk and other dairy products to provide essential calcium for growing teeth and bones.
- Sugar makes kids hyperactive; Many kids come home from parties over excited and misbehaving and it’s easy to blame the sugary foods or artificial colours. Studies over recent years have shown that sugar doesn’t usually make kids hyperactive but a very small number of kids do react to the artificial colours in foods. Problems more strongly linked to high sugar consumption (in foods such as lollies, cakes, biscuits and soft drinks) include dental caries and obesity. These foods don’t provide any important nutrients so should be given as treats not included as an everyday part of the diet.
- Children shouldn’t have low fat dairy products; With obesity in children rising sharply in our society we have to be watchful of children’s foods as well as the amount of exercise they get. Very young children (under 3) need the fat in full cream milk and other dairy products for energy and for brain growth but after this age most children should be fine on lower fat dairy products. This simple change may be helpful but for most individuals increasing activity and reducing TV watching or computer games is more useful.
- Any breakfast is better than none. Breakfast is an important meal for children. It provides essential nutrients in the diet such as calcium, carbohydrates for energy and B vitamins. Having breakfast gets the metabolism going for the day. That’s is important for school age children and can help stop excessive snacking. For most kids, any breakfast is better than nothing, but preferably offer healthy foods such as cereal, toast, milk drinks, yoghurt and fruit. Cereals which have a low glycaemic index (GI) provide a slow release of glucose over a few hours. These include Vita Brits or Weet Bix, porridge, Special K and Just Right.
Summer Fruit and Vegetables
- Blend fresh fruit like strawberries or bananas with milk, yoghurt and ice-cream to make a delicious smoothie. Try freezing them for another treat!
- Offer a fresh fruit platter of bite sized pieces of fruit for children (and adults) to enjoy as a dessert
- Hunt through the cutlery drawer for a melon baller. Children love making and eating these tasty treats
- Fresh frozen grapes are also appealing to kids
- Sticks of vegetables like carrots, celery and cucumber to dip are fun
- Involve children in washing and chopping salad vegetables to help improve the chances of them eating salads
- Serve some fun meals that include salads as part of the creation.
- Use lean meats to make tacos, fajitas, burgers, souvlaki and san choy bau. New presentations sometimes help reluctant eaters.
- Picnics and barbeques are another way of changing the scene and getting kids to eat what they often refuse at the dining table.
Anzacs - tried and true blue!
1 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp boiling water
1 tsp bicarb soda
1 cup sugar
1 cup plain flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup desiccated coconut
- Preheat the oven to 150C. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
- Melt the butter, add the golden syrup, boiling water and bicarb soda (it will froth up!).
- Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir in the melted butter mixture and mix well. Put small spoonfuls on the tray and flatten them slightly.
- Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes.
1 tblspn olive oil
1 cup Risoni (rice shaped pasta)
1 tin tomatoes
2 chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 red capsicum, cut into strips
2 tsp garlic
1 onion, sliced
1 tsp chilli (optional)
2 cups chicken stock
- Fry garlic, onion and chilli in olive oil until soft
- Add the chicken and brown, then capsicum.
- Add the tinned tomatoes and squash them a little to break them up.
- Add risoni and stock and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes until the pasta is soft and the liquid absorbed. You can also add other vegetables such as zucchini, snow peas, green capsicum and mushrooms after the chicken.
by Evelyn Volders
Clinical Specialist Dietitian, Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne
This article was first published in Australian Family Magazine, March 2003.