Optimal Nutrition For Your Children  
     
 

Providing your child with optimal nutrition is a lifetime investment.

Optimal nutrition is to:

  • sustain energy levels – a key factor in managing behavioural disorders and will help your child focus and concentrate in class, stabilize moods, reduce irritability and restlessness and even control aggression.  What’s more, they will have sustained energy to improve performance on the sports field.
  • achieve and maintain ideal blood sugar levels, which helps to reduce your child’s risk of developing diabetes, is an essential component in the effective management of diagnosed diabetes, and also helps to achieve and maintain ideal body weight.
  • include an appropriate fat and kilojoule content, reducing your child’s risk of developing heart disease and becoming overweight, and also benefits those who are trying to lose weight or lower cholesterol levels.
  • optimize fibre content to prevent and manage constipation, a common problem in children.
  • include foods known not only to promote optimal growth and development, but also to contribute towards preventing chronic diseases in the future.

What is an ideal child’s menu?

Use your child’s hand for an indication of the amount of food that he/she should be eating

The portion size will depend on the age and activity of your child

Starch – at least a fist sized cooked starch

Protein – hand palm size (meat, chicken or fish)

Vegetables – half the volume of the plate for lunch and supper

Fruit – best as snack between meals

Fat – controlled portions, avoid fried foods

Children should eat small meals often, starting with a nutritious breakfast – even if this means making a smoothie (1 small tub yoghurt, 1 fruit and enough milk to make it drinkable) for the child to drink on the way to school or giving him/her a peanut butter sandwich to munch on in the car. 

Make sure that the lunch box taken to school is crammed full of nutritious foods, in the correct proportions, so that your child will have no problem coping with the demands of school.  Remember that the stomach of a child is the size of his/her fist, so do not overfill it unnecessarily.  Keep meal small and appropriate for the child’s age.  In addition, every meal or snack offered to a child should have some nutrient benefit.

Check that all food given to children has one or more of the following:

Vitamins and minerals (fruit & vegetables), slower release (low GI) carbohydrates, fibre (wholegrain breads and starches), protein, appropriate sugar content (only small portions of sweets preferably after exercise), appropriate fat content (only one added fat per meal).

Skipping meals is taxing on the body.  When blood glucose levels drop due to a skipped meal, the body runs out of petrol, and does all it can to secure energy from another source.  The liver will make glucose by converting muscle tissue into glucose.  Thus the nett effect is the loss of lean body mass (muscle) – not exactly what should happen in a child’s body.

By sticking to the guidelines for every meal as given above, one can ensure that a child will get all the nutrients it needs for growth and development, and prevention of chronic diseases in the future. 

By:  Jeske Wellmann                                                              073 179 4907
Registered Dietician

 
 
 
   
       
 

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