Parent's Guide to Healthy Eating for Kids

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Parent’s Guide to Healthy Eating for Kids By Dima Sharif

Introduction “...Kids involved in the preparation of food, are more enthusiastic eaters. They tend to eat healthier foods and as grown-ups make healthier food choices!� Food is a basic need, we need food for surviving. However, when seen only from that perspective it becomes boring and a chore! That is especially true when dealing with little ones and young children. Everything has to be fun to appeal to children. - The more fun, colourful, active & positive things are, the more likely those kids will take part and enjoy them. The same applies to food. - The more positive and open minded you are about food, the more your kids will enjoy it. - The more involved they are in the choice, preparation and portion size, the more willing they will be to explore new foods. - The more foods they explore the more varied their diets are and the healthier they become.

This booklet is designed to help you understand your Children’s Nutrition Needs, Healthy Eating Habits and How to Raise Children with a Healthy Attitude Towards Food. The booklet also includes some fun food activities and recipes that you can do together for added food fun... Let’s Begin....

Children Nutritional Needs

Diagram 1

Healthy Eating Habits The many researches done throughout the years have come to teach us a great deal about health and nutrition. We now know more about healthy eating habits and the effects of our diets on our lives and well-being. We also know how many diseases can be caused or made worse by bad eating habits such as arthritis, diabetes, elevated levels of cholesterol...etc. These diseases are nowadays also affecting children at a very young age! Healthy Eating Choices & Habits can prevent the young from contracting these diseases. It is only normal that most of us give our children foods that we remember from our childhood. Food traditions are a major part of culture. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with adjusting old recipes to a healthier, leaner version. There is also nothing wrong with adopting new recipes to include different food types. A mix and match of old and

new in a balanced and healthy way. Balance is always a good way to go. First, here is some information about food types and portions that are good for our kids: Nutritional knowledge keeps changing and evolving. Each new study comes up with new results and this can be confusing to most parents. However, it has been established that having a plenty of SOME foods is unhealthy.

Foods to have just a little of (preferably sparingly): -

Fatty meats and animal fat Large portions of cheese and dairy products Fried foods Highly processed Foods (junk) Sweets (Sugary foods and drinks)

Foods you should NEVER ALLOW children to have: - Caffeine (coffee, energy drinks, or foods and desserts including caffeine) - Artificial Sweeteners (to include diet drinks) - Alcohol or alcohol containing foods and drinks With that said, a diet based on consuming fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes is the best diseasefighting nutritional programme. Add to that some LOW FAT dairy products and small portions of meat and you will have your kids eating a very healthy diet. Please note that full fat dairy products have been found too fatty and not very healthy for kids as they can cause children to be overweight! It is better to substitute with LOW FAT milk, and cheeses instead. Parents or caregivers have to incorporate these healthy foods into the children’s diet at varied times

in the way that best fits the family life. Please refer to diagram 1 for guides on what children’s daily servings of each food type should be.

Sensible Food Choices: Vegetables, grains, beans and fruits should take centre stage. They provide the nutrition children need to grow and avoid the cholesterol and animal fat that can cause health problems. Here is how you can carry it out: - Vegetables: Should make up 25 – 30% of your child’s diet. These make up children’s vitamins and minerals intake. They provide them with energy and help them fight diseases. Prepare your vegetables in a variety of ways to avoid the kids from getting bored. Include 2-3 servings of leafy green vegetables a day (lettuce, spinach, mlokhieh, watercress, rocket leaves...) and don’t forget about beans (green beans, white beans, red kidney beans, foul...). If you involve the kids in

choosing and preparing the vegetables they are more likely to eat them. - Fruits: Should make up 15% of your child’s intake. Fruits are delicious and most children would have them willingly. Try to offer a variety as to benefit from the different vitamins that different fruits have to offer. Since fruits are sweet in flavour, they make an excellent substitute to candies and other sweets. Serve them alone or with some honey spread on toast and you got yourself an excellent dessert that is much healthier than candy. You can also use fruits in muffins, which is also a very healthy snack your children will love. - Whole Grains (Carbs) This group includes Whole Grains, Breads, Cereals, Healthy Muffins, Rice, oats, pasta...etc This group should make up

50% of your child’s daily intake. Carbohydrates are important as they give your child energy required for the active life of growing children. It is better to go for whole grains (complex carbs) as they have more fibre and vitamins in them than white or processed grains (simple carbs). - Fats & Oils Fats and oils do not have to be completely omitted from your child’s diet. They are good for digestion, and some have very essential vitamins like Omega... but this group should be minimised as much as possible. With that said, always go for the healthier fats and oils, such as vegetable fats as opposed to animal fats. The healthiest oils are olive oil, sesame oil, and polyunsaturated oils. Use a small amount to brush the bottom of the pan rather than spilling bigger amounts to cook with.

- Meats (Poultry – Fish – Red Meats) This group also includes eggs, nuts and dry beans; which are a source of protein and energy. Lean meats can provide quality proteins, there is no need to go for the fattier meat options, which are in fact unhealthy. Children should have only 2 servings a day from this group. A serving is about 85g (the size of a deck of cards). It is good practice to trim away any visible fat, and remove skin before cooking. It goes without say that frying is the unhealthiest option, go for stews, bakes or grills instead. Fish are particularly good as they are a source for iodine and some are a source of the omega group, especially oily fish such as tuna, or salmon...etc. Serve fish whenever possible and if available. Tuna cans are second best to fresh fish.

- Sweets / Sugars Sweets and sugars are simple carbohydrates, which means they are full of calories but with little nutritional value! The sugars and the colourful packaging of these foods make them very attractive to children. But also our attitudes towards these sweets make them all the more attractive, as we often refer to them as ‚Treats‛, and give them out as rewards for good behaviour ...etc. This attitude sends the message to kids that they are important foods, although they are far away from being good. Sweets should be consumed sparingly, and avoided if possible. Consumption of these sweets ruins children’s palates and understanding of desserts and sweet foods, as they are full of sugar, which is extra sweet; and anything less sweet will be seen as not sweet enough. Go for fruits and fruit juices as desserts instead of sweets. There are also sweet vegetables like sweet potato and pumpkin that taste very good and are sweet

yet healthy. These make healthier options than the processed sweets. It is worth mentioning here, that excessive intake of sweets can lead to obesity, and it can lead to diabetes and not to forget tooth decay. Children must have a drink of water after eating sweets, and better still they should brush their teeth to avoid decay. - Beverages The only beverage that children really need is clean drinking water. It is best that you offer water, but if you want to serve other beverages for variety, make sure they are not soda or fizzy drinks, caffeine containing drinks, sweetened drinks and go for unsweetened real fruit juices. It is ok to serve them caffeine-free herbal teas too. Please note that many

beverages marketed for kids actually contain caffeine, so make sure to check the labels first. Make sure that children stay well hydrated, especially during the warmer seasons. Water is essential and dehydration is one main reason for children’s fatality rates. - Salt Most of us don’t know that excessive salt intake makes it harder for us to stay in calcium balance, as it can lead the calcium to be passed through the kidneys into the urine. This is why salt intake should be minimised. It is advisable not to get children used to over salted foods. If you do not have access to fresh fish, iodised salt makes a better option because of its iodine content. Yet, even then salt has to be minimised. With all that in mind, a balance is always a good way to go. It is ok to have fast food, and even sweets occasionally. The damage happens when that is all that the children consume & when consumption is regular. We are here more concerned about children’s daily diet and daily intakes, rather than

occasional indulgences. Just bear in mind that because children are unaware of the many health benefits and threats, it is harder to stop them from making bad choices once they get in the habit. This is exactly why, it is better to minimise the intake of those foods. Another point worth considering, is that some foods, such as sweetened jellies and jams which we tend to give as snacks, can satisfy kids hunger temporarily but ruin their appetites for the healthier main meals. Therefore, try to keep snacks as healthy as possible and leave occasional treats to just occasional times.

Sample Healthy Meals for Kids These suggested simple healthy meals are to give you an idea, but use them as guidelines and fill in other similar options as suits your family needs, food preparations and available foods at your local area. Recipes are in the recipes section...

Breakfast  Hummus spread on 1 slice toast or ½ pita bread topped with chopped tomatoes or cucumbers.  Foul made with Sesame Tahina on 1 slice toast or ½ pita bread topped with tomatoes or cucumbers.  Whole grain cereal, or vitamin fortified cereal with low fat milk.  Chopped fresh Fruits with Yoghurt or Cream cheese and 1 toast.  Plain or fruit Pancakes* with Honey and chopped fresh vegetables  Banana Muffins* and chopped fresh fruits & ½ cup skimmed milk  1 boiled egg with 1 tbsp labneh and bread  Zaatar, Labneh, or cream cheese sandwich with chopped tomatoes or cucumbers.  Omelette made out of 1 egg, ½ small onion chopped, chopped tomatoes and chopped capsicum. Fried in a pan lightly brushed with olive oil.

Lunch  Raw or cooked Vegetables, baked potato & tuna salad filling for baked potatoes*  Rice & your favourite stew with meat or chicken cubes (example: Mlokieh & Chicken, Peas & Carrots Stew with beef cubes, Green Beans stew or fasoolia with lamb cubes..)  Soups with a slice of bread or cubed toasted bread (try lentil soup, chicken soup, vegetable soup...) and ½ grilled chicken breast or a small piece of steak.  Simple Spaghetti* with minced veal and a bowl of green salad on the side  Very simple Vegetable and Chicken Lasagne* and a bowl of salad on the side  Stuffed potatoes* with minced meat or cooked chicken pieces and a bowl of salad on the side.  Baked whole chicken stuffed with onions, carrots & potatoes (serving size is ½ chicken breast or equivalent with a serving of the stuffed vegetables).  Bukhari Rice*, with vegetables and minced meat with a serving of yoghurt cucumber salad.

Dinner  Soups with a slice of bread  Low fat Halloumi cheese sandwich with tomato and black olives  Row vegetable and bread sticks with Hummus dip  Yoghurt and cucumber salad with grilled ½ breast of chicken.  Tuna Pasta Salad*  Zaatar, low fat labneh, Hummus, Foul or low fat cheese sandwich with sliced cucumbers and tomatoes.  All breakfast options are good for dinner. Just go for the options that are lower in carb.

Snacks     

Fruit Salad Bread sticks with hummus dip Fruit Muffins Low fat Fruit yoghurt Toasted Almonds & pine nuts for the nonallergic children  Simple Pizza Breads*

Raising Kids with a Healthy Attitude Towards Food

Our attitudes towards food are reflected into our kids. They are most probably going to adopt the same attitudes we have. Therefore, lead by example. If you are eating and making healthy choices, you are most likely to cook healthy, and your kids are most likely to eat and choose healthier food options. If you choose junk, and only settle for high sugar desserts after meals, your children are most likely to be the same. Being open minded and trying out different foods, allows children to have healthier attitudes towards food, therefore, willing to try new foods. A varied choice allow for varied nutrients to be absorbed and therefore a healthier being.

Never use any kind of food as reward. Food is essential. Food is not a treat nor a punishment. Using food for reward suggests that this type of food is more important than other types. It also makes kids become emotional eaters! As grown ups they will reward themselves with food when happy, or miserable, which leads to eating disorders and overweight issues. The same applies to using food as punishment! Involve kids in choosing, preparing and presenting food. Rather than being passive eaters, let them be involved and have a say. This way even as adults, they will be more aware of their choices. They will be better equipped to prepare healthy food and they will grow to like more foods. Just because your child doesn’t like bananas today, does not mean s/he never will. However, fussing about it and making it a big deal will definitely make it a NO LIKE item. When they say ‘I don’t like it’, don’t make a big deal, rather act surprised and say: ‚am sure you will one day, it is the best!‛ or ‚Oh no! You are really

missing out!‛ and leave it at that. These positive attitudes will keep it open for the child to explore and come to terms with new textures and flavours. Please Remember:  Never Force children to eat more than they can. Children will not starve and will eat when hungry. They will also stop eating when they are full. Teaching them to eat until the plate is finished will only teach them to eat more than their capacity. This leads to overweight issues in the future. Make sure not to over load their plates, and to trust them when they say they are full.  Be positive around food. If you turn the experience into a negative one or a battle, you are in for some hard time. The fussier your are about what your kids eat, the fussier they become about food. Fussy eaters are mainly created by parents. A positive attitude and some space will get your child there.  With that said, always remember that everything is new to your child. Which means,

they need some getting used to before they accept new foods, flavours and textures. Most kids will reject these new experiences at first, if you do not overreact they will go back and try again. Introduce new flavours separately before expecting your children to jump in joy. Allow them to experience, reject, retry and eventually like. If they don’t, they most probably will in the near future, just keep offering these foods and don’t treat them as battles.  At the end of the day, your child is human, just like all of us. They are entitled to not liking specific foods. We all have foods that we don’t like. Keep that in mind, but keep offering different foods.  Finally enjoy. Food is fun! Keep it fun, and turn it into an activity. Cooking is a very accessible activity that does not require extraordinary set up. Even boiling an egg is fun for your child. Cook with them, and rave about how good they cooked it and how super they are as helpers

and cooks. This allows you to spend quality time with your kids without any extra measures or requirements! Please note that the recipes in this booklet are ‚Child friendly‛ which means they are easy recipes that can be prepared with children.

FUN FOOD ACTIVITIES In this section, I have included for you some fun food activities that you can do with your kids. Here are some colouring pages of different food items. Have your kids name the item, colour it, practice writing its name and suggest foods this item can go into. Once done, go to the kitchen and try to incorporate this item into the food your child suggested. See if it works, if it goes well in that dish. If turns out good, then name the recipe after your child (example: Yousef’s Banana muffin). Then make this recipe and

have the whole family try it, announcing it is Yousef’s creation or secret recipe...etc. There are also some colouring pictures of kids cooking. Have your child colour the picture and talk about what the child is cooking in the picture. Talk about your child’s favourite foods, and new foods s/he would like to try. This all serves the being positive around food purpose and allows children to explore foods in a fun way. Feel free to photocopy these pages and go over them as many times as you like.














FRUITS What’s in it?

SALAD What’s in it?

SANDWICH what’s in it?

What am I cooking?

What am I cooking?

FOODS I LIKE Collect points for every extra food item you add to the list. Every point entitles you to choose an activity you like to play. 1 2 3 4 5












Tell the time! Make 2 hands for the watch and place them at different fruits. See if your friend can guess the time. The winner is the one who gets more right guesses...

RECIPES ď Š Yummy Pancakes for Fast Runners These are simply delicious! They are a perfect breakfast. Sweeten with fruits and if necessary honey, instead of syrups. Serve these delicious pancakes with chopped fresh fruits...

Ingredients 1 cup flour 2 tsp baking powder 1 cup milk 2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp sugar Âź tsp salt 1 egg

Mix flour sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and set aside. In another bowl, combine egg, milk & oil. Add all to the flour mixture. Stir just until combined (the mixture should be lumpy). Preheat non-stick frying pan, and place 1 ladle full of batter in the centre. Keep until bubbly on top, flip and cook on the other side, until lightly browned. About 2 minutes on each side.

Delicious Banana Muffins for Healthy Children These muffins are all children’s favourite. They are delicious and healthy too...

Ingredients 3 cups flour 1 tsp baking soda ¾ cup milk 1 cup mashed bananas 1 egg

1 cup brown sugar or regular sugar ½ tsp salt 1 cup raisins (optional) ½ cup butter, melted Sliced bananas for garnish

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease muffin holes and place baking cup inside each hole. Set aside. Mix flour sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and set aside. In a large bowl, break the egg and beat with a whisker until bubbly on top. Add the mashed Bananas, raisins and milk stiring until well mixed. Add the melted butter and mix. In another bowl, combine flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda and salt and mix well together. Make a whole in the centre of the flour mixture and put the liquid mixture in the centre of the whole. Stir until moistened without over stirring. The mixture should be lumpy. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin. Fill the paper cups. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until tooth pick inserted near the centre comes out clean. Remove baked muffins from pan and cool.

Baked Potato & Tuna Filling for Hungry Kids Although simple, but baked potatoes are very healthy. They are an absolute nutritious lunch. If one potato is too big for your child then split in half between 2 children...

Ingredients 2 large potatoes 1 tbsp olive oil 1 can sweet corn A pinch of Black pepper & Salt

1large can of tuna 1 small onion, finely chopped ½ cup shredded low fat cheese juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 400F or hot. Wash and scrub your potatoes clean, do not remove skin. Score the potatoes with a fork, wrap with aluminium foil, and bake for 1 hour. Meanwhile prepare the tuna filling. Place tuna flakes in a bowl, top with lemon juice, black pepper and salt. Mix. Add the sweet corn and chopped onion and mix. Refrigerate till ready to serve. Once potatoes are ready, make a slit down the centre. Place stuffing, top with shredded cheese and drizzle with olive oil.

Simple Spaghetti Bolognese for the Sporty Children Who Doesn’t like Spaghetti? Kids love it and refer to it as “fun food”. This meal is very healthy and super delicious...

Ingredients 500g minced meat 1 large onion, chopped 1 tbsp olive oil 2 cans chopped tomatoes 1 pinch Black pepper and salt

1 packet brown Spaghetti Noodles 3 cloves garlic, minced 2 tbsp tomato paste ¼ cup chopped parmesan cheese

Place 1 litre water in a pot, top with some black pepper, salt and a couple of drops of olive oil. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, place spaghetti noodles and cook till tender. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, prepare the Bolognese sauce. In a large sauce pan, sweat the minced garlic and onions in a little bit of olive oil. Add the minced meat, black pepper and salt & cook stirring till juices run clear. Add chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and stir to mix. Once boiling, reduce the heat and cook for a further 15 minutes. Place Pasta in a bowl, and top with Bolognese sauce. Top with grated parmesan cheese and serve with a bowl of salad.

Simple Chicken & Vegetable Lasagne for Strong Muscles Lasagne is super yummy. In this healthy version, I have incorporated eggplants, mushrooms, and zucchini. Feel free to change the vegetables as you wish.

Ingredients 1 package lasagne noodles 2 cans chopped tomato 1 onion, chopped 6 button mushrooms, thinly sliced 4 cloves garlic, minced 2 tbsp tomato paste 3 zucchinis, thinly sliced and roasted 1 packet shredded mozzarella cheese 2 large eggplants, sliced into circles and roasted in the oven 1 whole chicken, cooked and meat pulled from bones. To roast zucchinis and eggplants, place on a tray, drizzle with a little olive oil, salt & black pepper and place in preheated oven till cooked and tender. Make tomato sauce, by sweating onion and garlic in a little olive oil. Add chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and oregano, mix well and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Assemble lasagne: In a deep baking dish, place some tomato sauce and spread along the bottom. Top with lasagne noodles, then a layer of chicken then shredded cheese, eggplants, zucchinis and mushrooms. Then another layer of cheese. Top with lasagne noodle and tomato sauce then another layer of chicken, vegetables, cheese, noodles, tomato sauce and so on till you have filled the dish. Make sure the last layer is cheese. Cover with foil, allowing space between cheese and foil and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes extra or until slightly browned. Serve with Salad.

Stuffed Potatoes for Big Boys & Girls No matter what you do with potatoes, they always turn out great ď Š You can make this recipe in tomato sauce, or in plain chicken broth for variation.

Ingredients 500g minced meat Toasted Pine nuts to taste 1 large onion, chopped 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 tbsp olive oil 2 tbsp tomato paste 1 litre fresh tomato juice 1 kilo small potatoes 1 handful chopped coriander or parsley for garnish 1 pinch Black pepper and salt Wash and scrub potatoes clean, without removing the skin. Using a corer, core the potatoes in the centre like you would zucchini or eggplant. Soak in salted water, drain and bake potatoes, drizzled with a little olive oil in preheated oven till softer and slightly browned. Around 1 hour. Turning 3 times throughout. Prepare Stuffing. In a large saucepan, sweat garlic and onion in a little olive oil. Add meat, black pepper, salt, and mix to coat. Cook stirring till juices run out. Remove from heat and add toasted pine nuts. Stuff cored baked potatoes with meat stuffing and place in a baking dish. Top with tomato juice mixed with tomato paste or plain chicken broth if using. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Serve with salad and rice if desired.

Bukhari Rice for Special Kids This rice is a full meal on its own. Serve it with a side of yoghurt and cucumber salad and see the looks of indulgence on those tiny faces ď Š

Ingredients 500g minced meat Toasted Pine nuts to taste 1 large onion, chopped 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 tbsp olive oil 1 packet frozen peas and carrots 4 cups rice 6 cups water or chicken broth 2 tsp ground all spice 1 tsp salt 1 handful finely chopped coriander or parsley for garnish Cook rice in water or chicken broth as usual. In a large saucepan, Sweat onions and garlic in olive oil. Add meat, spices and salt and cook stirring till juices run out. Add thawed peas and carrots and cook for 6 minutes extra. Toss meat mixture with rice and transfer to serving plate. Garnish with pine nuts, chopped parsley and serve with a side of cucumber and yoghurt salad.

Tuna Pasta Salad for Pasta Monsters Tuna is a good source of omega, which is very healthy for your kids. Pasta is one of kids’ favourite foods. Together they make a wholesome meal that you kids will love

Ingredients 2 large cans tuna in water, drained 1 packet your favourite brown pasta Toasted Pine nuts to taste (optional) 1 spring onion, chopped 3 tbsp sliced black olives 2 carrots, shredded juice of 2 lemons 1 tbsp mustard 2 tbsp olive oil 1 bunch parsley, finely chopped Salt & Black pepper to taste 1 medium red or green capsicum, chopped Cook pasta in salted water till tender. Drain and set aside. In a large bowl, place drained tuna and vegetables, olives and nuts, sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a separate cup, place lemon juice, olive oil and mustard. Mix to combine. Add lemon mixture over tuna and vegetables and toss to coat. Add drained pasta and toss to mix all.

This pasta salad is also great as a healthy snack when kids get hungry out of meal times.

Simple Pizza Breads for Mama’s Favourite Kids Kids & Pizza!!! Everyone loves Pizza, this recipe is super easy to make so you will love making it! Why not have the kids make their own pizzas, and add new vegetables? Please feel free to put your favourite pizza fillings...

Ingredients 1 packet burger buns or pita rounds 1 can chopped tomatoes 2 tbsp tomato paste 1 large capsicum cut into circles 3 tbsp sliced black olives 1 tbsp olive oil 1 tbsp dried oregano 1 packet shredded mozzarella 1 can sweet corn, drained 6 mushrooms, sliced mortadela chunks (optional) Cut burger buns across the centre to make 2 slices. If using pita bread, separate the 2 layers and use each layer as base for the pizza. Set aside. Make tomato sauce. In a large saucepan, seat chopped tomatoes in olive oil, when bubbly, add tomato paste and oregano. Cook for 3 minutes more, then remove from heat. Spread tomato sauce on the bread bases, add your desired vegetables and olives. Top with shredded mozzarella. Bake in preheated oven till cheese is totally melted.


Healthy Eating is not so hard to do. Just alter the amounts of oils, salts and sugars used and you will see how much healthier you children and yourself are going to be. After a while, you will all find that too greasy, too sweet or too salty foods are no longer appealing. This is a change that will influence the rest of your children’s life, and will make them healthier individuals through their childhood as well as their adult life. Food is fun and social, and it should remain as that. It should never be boring, negative or a source of misery! Your children are growing and very soon they will be eating many new foods. Keep a positive attitude and you will never have to suffer from fussiness. Hope you found this booklet helpful and that you will commit to Healthy Eating from now on. If you have access to the internet, check out my blog: for more recipes and tips. May all your food experiences be wonderful always!

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