There is now a clear link between children’s dietary intake and their health as well as academic performance. Nutritionists have studied how the right choice of menu can directly and indirectly help students to become more successful and happy individuals.
For instance, foods rich in healthy oils (like omega-3 from fish oils) can help maintain brain and cardiovascular health, and improves cognitive performance in controlled tests.
There is an overwhelming amount of research about how specific foods, like fish oil and yoghurt, can affect health and academic life. Sometimes, we as parents simply want the straight answer, or the basic principles, that can be followed without hassle.
Here are three principles anyone can follow to create a menu that is healthy for children.
1. Eat a variety of food
It’s unrealistic for children to eat the same set of menus every week, even though they contain the ideal amount of nutrition. While 60 - 90 grams of chicken breast fillet contains the required daily protein that a child needs, it’s unhealthy to offer chicken as the only source of dietary protein.
Likewise, ideally, carbohydrates should be sourced from other types of grain, not just white rice. In fact, switching to brown rice, buckwheat udon, or whole wheat pasta every now and again can be beneficial for your child’s intestines.
2. Watch out for calorie and fat intake
There are dozens of apps and websites that can help you estimate the amounts of each nutrient that is served in a single dish. While it’s good to know how much protein and fibre are contained in the dish, it’s more useful to control portion sizes in terms of calorie and fat intake.
This is because it is relatively easier to over-consume calories (sugar) and fat than any other nutrient. We as adults surely have experience in looking at a dish and determining if there is too much meat or vegetable, but we hardly ever think to reduce carbohydrate portions.
Children (and adults) love to snack on ‘empty calories’ – chocolate bars, ice cream, potato chips, candy, and sweet beverages. If it’s not possible to completely eliminate empty calories, then it’s best to watch out for calorie and fat intake at mealtimes.
3. Instill the love of salads
A bowl of salad is the best source of multivitamins and fibre, in addition to healthy fat if you use the best olive oil and salad dressings. It contains a minimal amount of carbohydrates and high-caloric animal fats.
Since the best flavors are delivered by cooked proteins (like grilling meat), the lack of them in the salad means that you must be creative with your vegetable mixing to create something that is not only healthy, but also palatable for your children.
These principles should allow you to be creative in creating your family’s favorite dish, while keeping every menu healthy for your children. Remember to enjoy the benefits of healthy food and lifestyle!
About our school
IPEKA is a Christian School in Jakarta. As a second home for your children, we ensure to meet their physical needs as well as other needs. Health and education goes hand in hand, and our school puts the greatest effort into creating healthy and balanced individuals.