It was lunch time. My six-year-old had eaten his yoghurt, carrot sticks, and apple slices but then he stopped in his tracks. “Why do I have to eat my sandwich?” he asked.
It was a light bulb moment for me because, although I knew my kids were already familiar with the basic food groups we eat from each day, I then realised that I had neglected to share the specific benefits of certain types of foods. Surely knowing that certain ingredients would make his bones strong, help his tummy feel good, and give him more energy to play would be motivation to eat healthy, right?
To answer my son’s question about the sandwich, I described what all the items on his lunch plate offered his body and luckily he decided it was important to eat the full variety of foods I had prepared. However I knew that only so much of this short chat would be internalised to affect longer-term eating choices… if any at all. We would need to discuss this topic more at length, numerous times, and in more engaging ways!
Creating a Learning Tool
Since my goal is to help my children develop personal responsibility for their own eating habits, I feel that providing them opportunities to learn about food is important. Therefore I created this simple printable chart for us to visually organise some of our regular foods into various categories and discuss the main reasons that we try to make them a regular part of our family’s diet.
You can print out the chat by clicking here.
Here is an overview of what is on the chart and how I explained each category:
Fibre is made up of the parts of plant foods that the human body isn’t able to digest or absorb. Unlike proteins, fats and carbohydrates (which the body breaks down) fibre passes through body mostly intact. Getting plenty of fibre ensures you do not become constipated!
Low Glycemic Index (GI) Carbohydrates prolong digestion and therefore help you feel fuller for longer. A short explanation of the “Low GI” part is that carbohydrates are rated on a scale called the glycaemic index (GI) which ranks them based on their effect on blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates that break down quickly have a higher glycaemic index and carbohydrates that break down slowly have a lower glycaemic index.
Vitamin C helps the body resist infection and heal wounds.
Calcium helps your body build strong healthy bones and teeth.
Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen around the body, which is important for maintaining energy.
Probiotics help keep the gut regular specifically combating bloating, gas and discomfort. They also boost immunity. How to explain them to kids? Probiotics are living bacteria present throughout the intestinal tract. They are different to the cultures that make yoghurt what it is (these are called fermentation or starter cultures). Probiotics are added in addition to these cultures and have health benefits when consumed at the right levels. They help bodies maintain a healthy gut and restore the balance of “good bacteria” in the intestines. Each person should aim to get about 1 billion bacteria per day to increase the chance of health benefits. Documented health strains include Bifidobacterium BB-12®, LGG®, Bifidus Actiregularis® and ABC.
After discussing each section we drew pictures of food that fit into each category.
Then we created a goal for ourselves to concentrate on consuming more of one of the categories…
7-day Probiotics Yoghurt Challenge
I grew up hearing about probiotics but I only recently learned about the move of many yoghurt companies to stop putting probiotics into their products.
That’s right: currently, less than 50% of all yoghurts available in Australia contain probiotics (compared with three years ago when close to 95% of yoghurts did) and less than 10% contain enough probiotics to make a health claim. Therefore it is very important to check your yoghurt packs specifically for probiotics!
We challenged ourselves to get the recommended amount of probiotics for 7 days (one billion bacteria), incorporating yoghurt with probiotics into different meals throughout the week.
The different brands of yoghurts containing probiotics that we found were:
Vaalia – 150 million each of 3 different probiotics in one 150g serve
Danone Activia – 4 billion probiotics in a 125g serve
Jalna – no information on the pack but their website states they contain 600 million probiotics in every 200g pot of yoghurt
Five:am – says their packs contain probiotics but don’t specify how much
Yoghurt makes a great breakfast food, snack, lunch side dish, or dessert. One of my favourite ways to eat it is with granola or nuts in the morning, and my kids love it in smoothies as a snack. Because we spent last year travelling around Australia, we also found that the yoghurt pouches make a great snack in the car or for a picnic – quick, tidy, and delicious.
Here were some of our favourite combinations for snack time:
Pictured: Coconut and peaches; cranberries and granola; fresh apple, walnuts and cinnamon; chocolate chips and Maltesers; banana and honey; strawberries and blueberries.
Are You Up For The Challenge?
Teaching kids about a balanced diet will help them develop more personal responsibility and interest in their lifelong health.
I loved the probiotic challenge because it gave us a specific health goal to aim towards during the week. My kids loved trying out different flavours of yoghurt and experimenting with new combinations as well!
Join in the probiotic challenge and share your own favourite yoghurt combinations. What will your children come up with? You can either comment below or upload a photo to my Facebook page. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!
What other tips do you have about how to teach kids responsible eating habits?
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