If your child is having a playdate with a friend at your home then it is easier to control the type of food that they are offered. Some fun but healthier snacks that you can make for playdates at home are:
- vegetable sticks with dip
- a platter with fruit and a little melted dark chocolate for dipping fruit into
- homemade juice icy poles
- homemade mini pizzas
If your child is going to a friend’s house for a playdate and you know that they aren’t going to be eating the healthiest food, don’t worry! It’s ok for our children to be exposed to unhealthier foods from time to time and is an important part of learning. After all, we won’t be able to control what our children eat forever. If they are exposed to foods that you wouldn’t consider healthy, that is ok. If they are exposed to unhealthy or “junk” foods now, it’s less likely that they will go crazy on them when they’re older and have more independence. Sometimes foods are just that, food for sometimes. So long as your child is fed mostly healthy foods, it’s not going to negatively impact their health to splurge on sometimes foods occasionally. If your child has specific dietary requirements, you can always pack a lunchbox with their favourite healthy foods, and enough so that they can share with their friend also.
2. I worry that my child is going to eat too much junk food at parties and other social commitments – how can I avoid this?
Before taking my child along to a birthday party, I like to make sure that they have had a nice, balanced meal with plenty of protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates (like boiled eggs, avocado on wholemeal toast & some veggie sticks or a nice balanced smoothie for example). This will help to keep their blood sugar levels a little more stable. If you take your child to a birthday party hungry, then they are much more likely to go overboard with sweets and junk food. In saying that, children do need to learn how to self-regulate with food and occasionally going overboard on sweets and sometimes foods and then feeling not the best afterward is one way for them to learn some self-regulation around these foods.
3. My child often rejects the food that I give them… What are some positive ways to educate my child on the importance of nutrition?
I like to educate my children on nutrition in a fun and playful way. For example, if they aren’t eating their broccoli instead of just telling them to eat their vegetables because they are healthy I like to say to them something like “Did you know that broccoli has a really important nutrient called Vitamin C? In our body, we have little tiny soldiers that fight off all of the bad bugs. Vitamin C is a special food for those little tiny soldiers and helps them to be even stronger.”
Educating your children on health in a way that they will understand and get excited about is the best way to help them understand why eating healthy is so important.
4. How often should I talk to my child about food and the importance of healthy eating? I want to ensure the relationship remains positive.
The best way to create a healthy and positive relationship with food is to speak highly of healthy foods but try not to demonise “unhealthy” foods. Sharing fun little facts from time to time and creating a positive atmosphere around dinner times is much more important than constantly educating on why a food is bad or unhealthy for us. It’s not uncommon for children to ask and ask and ask for unhealthy foods when you’re out and about. If you feel that your child has already had plenty of treats for the week and you’re trying to explain to them why they can’t have another treat, simply saying to your child “I understand that you want another treat, I feel the same way. But this is a sometimes food, not an all the time food and you’ve already enough sometimes food for now. How about we think about something yummy and healthy to eat and I’ll make it for you when we get home.” Now, children can be very persistent but it’s important to stick to your boundaries and remain as positive as you can.
5. This year, my child has embarked on a new experience – I think the stress is impacting their gut health as they complain about stomach aches. What advice do you have on handling this?
The first thing I would recommend to do is to give your child a probiotic. Science has shown that stress can negatively impact the good bacteria in our stomach so making sure that they are being supplemented with probiotics will help promote better gut health, which in turn will help with their stress. It is also, really important to address the reason they are feeling stressed or anxious in the first place and to help give them some strategies to manage that stress. There are lots of great yoga and meditation apps out there for children that can be really helpful. Talking to your child and making sure that they can talk to you about their worries can really help as well. If you feel like you need help in helping your child, a child psychologist can be really beneficial for teaching your little one strategies for reducing stress.