Our kids are getting bigger. Between junk food, fizzy drinks and lower activity levels, the rates of overweight in children are reaching frightening proportions.
In 2000, 20.3% of boys (2-19 yrs) were overweight while 4.8% were obese. The figures for girls were even more worrying, with 26.6% of girls overweight and 6.8% obese.
Sir John Krebs, the chairman of the Food Standards Agency has described obesity as a 'ticking timebomb' and one of the most serious issues facing us today. And the epidemic of childhood obesity means that, for the first time in more than a century, life expectancy is set to drop.
So, the time has definitely come to get kids into the habit of healthy eating.
Author and nutritionist Leanne Ely has come up with her list of the Top 10 Healthiest Foods for Kids
Before we get to the meat of the matter, here's a quick disclaimer: allergies will prevent a normally healthy food from being a healthy food for any child who may have allergies. This is a general list, meant to offer help and inform when making food choices for your children without allergies. If you have any questions or concerns about food allergies, you may want to ask your GP for advice.
Also, other fruits and vegetables can easily fit into this list aside from the ones mentioned - these particular ones are highlighted for the reasons listed.
Top 10 healthiest foods for kids
Optimal Oats A fabulous breakfast food, full of B vitamins, iron, zinc and calcium. Old-fashioned oats and porridge offer quick energy for busy kids with its carb load and fibre count.
Egg 'em on Eggs are a great source of protein and a host of other nutrients, including the B vitamins, vitamin E and zinc (to name but a few). The Food Standards Agency doesn?t give a limit on how many eggs we should consume but do advise that a healthy diet will include moderate amounts of all protein sources including meat, fish and alternatives such as eggs, pulses, nuts and beans. Remember that young children should not be given raw eggs or eggs with runny yolks.
Nuttin' better Nut butters are great fast foods for kids. Kids need the fat (it's a good fat if it doesn't have hydrogenated oils mixed in it) and they need the protein. And while peanuts can be problematic and even life threatening to allergic kids, other nut butters may be okay (but definitely check with your doctor first). Almond butter is a personal favourite and you can make this simply by crushing or grinding up almonds or other nuts of your choice.
Culture club Kick your child's milk consumption up a notch and include yoghurt on the menu. A great source of calcium, yoghurt is easier to digest than regular milk, and the cultures (check the label for LIVE to make sure they're in there!) are very beneficial to good colon health... especially if your child has been on antibiotics. Watch it on the sugar content though. A better idea is to buy plain yoghurt and sweeten it yourself with fresh fruit.
Mmmm, mmmm melons! My personal choice would be cantaloupe in the melon department. Vitamin C, beta-carotene, bits and pieces of B vitamins and trace minerals and calcium fill every juicy bite. Melons are not to be missed when they're plentiful and in season.
Tree cheers! Kids like to call broccoli "trees" and sometimes you can get picky kids to eat "trees" rather than broccoli. Broccoli is one of the best vegetables for anyone, especially growing kids due to its calcium content and a whole host of other nutrients, such as potassium, beta-carotene and B vitamins.
Terrific tubers Sweet potatoes contain 30mg beta-carotene per serving. It would take 23 servings of broccoli to get that same amount! And with 3 grams of fibre per serving, sweet potatoes deserve a place at the table.
Protein power The fact is that growing kids need protein to keep growing. How you're going to give it to them can vary widely, according to your preferences. Good choices include legumes, beans (combined with a grain to make a complete protein), soy products like tofu, or meat, fish or poultry.
The whole truth The best nutrition is found in the whole grain. Brown rice and whole wheat bread are a quantum leap over their white counterparts and offer necessary fibre, minerals and vitamins. Don't short-change your kids with the white stuff.
OJ is OK Kids can drink too much juice. However, that doesn't mean they should never drink juice. Just don't give it to them in place of water. Orange juice is full of vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium, folate and zinc. You can buy calcium-fortified orange juice, too - it's great stuff in moderation.
Now that you know Leanne's top 10 foods, here are a few kid-tested recipes she says will help you incorporate them into your family's diet.
(From Leanne's book Healthy Foods)
Served with a Breakfast Cookie (recipe follows), this makes a great breakfast to go!
50g tofu (I buy the silken tofu)
1 banana, frozen
240ml frozen berries
1 scoop protein powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
120ml orange juice
Put everything in a blender and LET 'ER RIP!
Serves 1. Per serving: 216 calories; 4g total fat; (14%calories from fat); 7g protein; 41g carbohydrate; 2mg cholesterol; 12mg sodium.
(From Leanne's upcoming Frantic Family Cookbook)
240ml brown rice crisp cereal (like Rice Crispies, usually available in health food stores)
2 tbs bran cereal, your choice
2 tbs powdered milk
2 tbs peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbs honey (CAUTION: Some experts say honey shouldn't be consumed by babies under 12 months; others urge you to wait until the child is 3.)
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. In a medium bowl, blend together dried cereals, oats and powdered milk. In a smaller bowl, blend peanut butter, vanilla, egg and honey together, mixing well. Make a well in the dry ingredients, then add the wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. Drop big spoonfuls of dough on a non-stick baking tray and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown slightly.
Serves 10. Per serving: 70 calories; 3g total fat; (33% calories from fat); 2g protein; 10g carbohydrate; 57mg sodium.
Cheesy broccoli soup
(From Healthy Foods)
2 onions, chopped
a head of broccoli, chopped (stems and all)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbs olive oil
1 litre chicken stock
240ml skimmed milk
100g low-fat cheddar cheese, grated
In a large soup pot, sauté onions and garlic until softened. Add chopped broccoli and continue cooking. Add stock and cook until broccoli is very tender, about 30 minutes. In batches, process soup through a food processor or blender until almost smooth (some chunks are nice). Add milk and continue cooking another 20 minutes, but be careful not to boil or the soup will separate. When nice and thick, remove from heat and serve in individual bowls. Top each bowl with grated cheddar cheese and serve with a great big salad and whole grain bread. Makes a great dinner!