We have all heard the saying ‘you are what you eat’ and this is just as relevant for our little ones. Children who eat well will have the nutrients and energy they need to grow, as well as perform better at school, sports and in other activities.

You can help your child develop healthy eating habits from a young age that will benefit them for life.

Below are our top 10 tips and tricks to get you started on creating a culture of healthy eating in your home:

  1. Ensure meals are rich in protein: They are the building blocks for growth and are a great source of iron and other important nutrients.
  2. Carbs are important for children: Starchy food should be part of most meals as it provides energy. Encourage more fibre, such as wholegrain bread and cereals, oats, wholewheat pasta, samp, brown rice and potatoes.
  3. Encourage vegetables and fruit: These foods are great sources of a wide variety of important nutrients. Plan between five and nine servings of vegetables and/or fruit every day. Hint: Add veggies to your children’s favourite meal. A good idea is to plant a veggie garden. Children are more likely to eat veggies that they grow themselves.
  4. Limit sugar: Children who frequently have biscuits, sweets, chocolates and sugar-sweetened drinks may be missing out on more nutrient-rich food. Keep treats to special occasions and restricts kids’ intake of sugar on cereal and in beverages.
  5. Shake the salt habit young: Help your children get used to the natural taste of food by not adding salt to their meals.
  6. Keep nutrient-rich food visible: Make sure your children can see healthy food – place it on lower shelves in the fridge, pantry or cabinet – and keep treats hidden or high up so they’re less visible.
  7. Give children variety: Different types of food offer different nutritional benefits, so expose your children to as much variety as possible.
  8. Try make your child’s lunchbox fun: No matter how healthy your children’s lunches are, they won’t provide any nutritional value if the food doesn’t get eaten! Draw a face on a banana with a marker pen, cut sandwiches into novelty shapes using a cookie cutter, cut fruit into little cubes or do fruit kebabs, roll cheese inside cold meat slices, include a boiled egg, add humus in a small tub for dipping raw veggies.
  9. Get them drinking water: Enjoying water as a drink will remain a worthwhile habit for life.
  10. Keep them active: Healthy eating is just part of a healthy start in life – encourage your children to be physically active too.

To create healthy habits for life, plan a regular meal schedule. If meals are skipped, children tend to snack more and are less hungry at mealtimes. Use their tummy space primarily for food that provides good nutrition. You can do this in a fun way of using colourful stickers to mark off meals on a calendar on the fridge.

The more you are able to get your children involved in the healthy eating process, whether it’s helping you meal-prep in the kitchen, or allowing them to decorate their plate with healthy food items, the more excited they will be to eat their food, and to even try some new foods.