SingleMum.com.au Expert Opinion Panel Dan Davis – Nutritional Therapist
How to get the kids eating healthy!
Dan Davis for SingleMum.com.au | February 17, 2011
I’m a huge fan of anyone’s valiant efforts to get our kids eating healthier. Its no secret that the nations young are getting bigger, are less active and are more at risk of preventable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke than ever before. But in addition to the strong efforts, it is my honest opinion that we need to step one generation back and lead by example.
I have raised my son as a single dad for nearly eight years, since before he turned one. Through one reason or another I piled on an extra life threatening 60 kilos reaching a peak of about 165 kilos. My own diet was a gluttonous mix of take away and convenience food, from gas stations and mini marts. But in all the time I was eating chinese take out banquets for two on my own or family sized slabs of ready meal lasagna, with a side order of roasted potato and garlic bread, I would do my best to make sure my baby son was eating as best as I could. When I stop and think about these times, I realise that I, as any decent father will do, was putting my son’s wellbeing before mine. But heres the reasoning that woke me up to making the life changes that bring me here today. If I’d carried on the way I was going, which I have no doubt was an early death, I wouldn’t be around to care for my boy in any case. In fact, it was his comparison of me to a fat insect on a disney film that shocked me into taking my life back. He actually asked me when he would get a belly like mine. So there is my point. We lead by example, and if done early enough, we can install these examples into a permanent lifestyle.
I’m not here to tell anyone they’re doing anything wrong. What I’d like to be able to do is tell you about some of the changes I’ve made, little “tricks” I’ve used and recipes that my son and I follow together in our own kitchen, in hope that you find it useful. I’ll tell you of scenarios and situations that I’ve heard from other single parents. Some that are very common and some you may recognise yourselves. And i’ll pass on the same advice I gave to these mum’s and dad’s too.
So where shall we start? I think the best sentence I can open up with is, don’t make food an issue. By which I mean, avoid using food as a punishment. I remember so many times as a kid being told I wasn’t allowed to leave the table until I’d finished my greens, especially if i’d misbehaved that day. It’s hardly surprising that greens weren’t high on my list of favorites if I only had to finish them when I’d been bad. The same can be said for using food as a treat constantly. I’m not saying that we can’t give the odd surprise now and then, but if constant, it seems to install a routine. And when you don’t treat with food, our kids might start to think they haven’t behaved well enough or maybe worse start to associate sweets and treats with love. Insisting on cleaning their plate before leaving the table, I’ve heard this a lot.
My son doesn’t ever finish his dinner”. When I ask them to tell me what was on the plate, I realise that maybe I’d even struggle to eat it all. Portion size is very important, it might take some fine tuning but you need to figure out how much your kids can actually eat. You can always give a little more if they polish it off, not too much mind, but rather this than constantly throwing food away and getting frustrated yourself. Lastly, get out of the habit of cooking two meals, one for you and one for the children. Eating the same as each other encourages a wider variety of foods to both adults and kids alike, and also may push the youngsters to try new things. This is where a star or reward chart really comes into its own. I’ll explain more about this next time.
Here’s a very simple recipe, if you can even call this one a recipe. Fruit kebabs make a simple desert or snack. Thread chunks of apple, pineapple, mango, red grapes and kiwi fruit onto some skewers and let the kids, or yourselves, dip them into plain natural yoghurt with a little honey stirred in. As well as being tasty, the kiwi is packed with vitamin C, the red grape skins are loaded with immunity boosting anti-oxidants, pineapple has compounds that aid digestion and inflammation from sinus problems and sore throats, mango contains nutrients important for skin, lung and gut health and apples are a great source of fibre and pectin to help keep a smooth and regular digestive path. All this plus a host of other important vitamins and minerals. Make them fresh and get the kids involved with making the kebabs up. Dan
About the author…
Dan Davis is a Nutritional Therapist based in London and Kent in the UK and a member of the SingleMum.com.au Expert Panel. To learn more about Dan, please go to his Biography page here