10 steps to healthier kids
Calgary Avansino tells the Tot how raising healthy kids can be easy! Here are Calgary’s Top 10 tips for healthier kids.
Calgary Avansino is a bit of a wonder woman – a contributing editor at British Vogue, a prominent superfoodie, a fitness guru and perhaps the most challenging of all – a mother! It seems as though she has got it nailed though and with a good splash of organisation, Calgary is able to keep herself and her kids on the health wagon at all times. Here is how she does it…
1. Plan ahead: Mealtimes can become stressful when you realize on the way home that you don’t have any idea what to cook and your cupboards are empty. That ultimately leads to bad choices. I always find it beneficial to sit down on a Sunday and write out a general mealtime menu for the week ahead. I find it helps when I engage my daughters in this process – they then feel as though they have influenced our dinner times. Then do a big weekly shop together at the Farmers Market or the grocery store and be inspired by what is in season.
2. Keep your cupboards clean: When you and the children are really hungry, you tend to have an ‘anything goes’ mantra. Trying to tell your child in that moment that junk food is off limits will only ever end one way – screaming, shouting and a great deal of stress. The easiest way of preventing this from happening is simply by not buying it in the first place – for them or you. Lead by example. Don’t let any junk food or sugary items into your house. By doing this, the next time you find them rooting through the cupboards, you can breathe a sigh of relief that the only things they find will be healthy, wholesome and nutritious.
3. Keep an eye out for hidden sugar: Cutting out sugary and processed food from your child’s diet is important. However, once you have removed the more obvious items, you will be surprised how many other foods have sugar hidden inside. Fruit juices, cereal, granola, canned fruit, dried fruit, snack bars, fruit flavoured yoghurts, tomato-based sauces, soups, salad dressings, and anything marked with low-fat or ‘diet’ are all filled with sugar. The easiest way to eradicate sugar from your child’s diet is by simply buying food that doesn’t come in a packet. Fresh, organic foods are key. However, if it does have an ingredients label, make sure you read it. As well as looking out for ‘sugar’ and how high it ranks, also look out for the sneaky terms the brands use instead, such as glucose, maltose, fructose, lactitol and dehydrated cane juice – just to name a few.
4. Don’t forget to freeze: Looking after children is an organisation minefield. Early starts, school runs, sports clubs, appointments – it’s no easy task, and that’s before you have even begun to think about dinner. It is here that I find the freezer to be one of my closest friends. When I get some spare time at the weekend, I make up large batches of sauces, blanch off my vegetables, cook grains and portion out my meat and fish (marinated if required) before freezing it all down in portions ready for the week ahead. It makes those long days and busy evenings so simple – I just whip out whatever is required, finish off any cooking that it needs, and plate it up ready for my children to enjoy.
5. Get them involved: If you have a bit of extra time available, try getting your children involved in the cooking process. That way, when they come to eat dinner, they know they have played a part in it – my daughter always says the tastiest meal she has ever eaten was a soup she helped make herself. It is also good to involve your children in the shopping process, whether that is walking around the supermarket together or visiting the farmers’ market and talking about where their food comes from. By engaging them in the whole process, they will begin to learn all the important elements of cooking, and how each ingredient functions. This kind of education is just as important as getting them to eat healthy food.
6. Make it fun: Food shouldn’t be boring, but when we get into our weekly routines of getting food onto the table as quickly as possible, we often forget to make it fun. Pick meals that require mixing lots of brightly colored vegetables together and then, while eating it, get kids to name every color they can find. Arrange the food in cute ways on the plate (a smiley face is always my favourite) or chop up your vegetables into fun shapes and get them to hunt it out. Another great thing is giving food interesting names. As a snack, I often cut up celery, layer it with almond butter, add some raisins on top and tell my children it is called “ants on a log”.
7. Reduce portion sizes: Kids don’t need adult portions of food – and some adults could probably benefit from eating kid’s portions – but the most important thing is to fill 1/2 of the plate with greens and veggies and rest with carbs and protein. Not the other way around! And teach your children to stop eating once their tummies are telling them they’ve had enough. It is important we train our brains from an early age not to overeat just because it is on our plate.
8. Don’t miss breakfast: It can be very easy to rush breakfast altogether in the chaos of trying to get everyone out the door in time for school. However, it is crucial for your child to eat a wholesome meal at the start of their day. After all, they have just spent 10-12 hours fasting while asleep. Food is fuel, so the greatest way to give them enough energy for the whole day is through breakfast. It is also important to mix breakfast up, so they don’t start getting bored. If you’re pinched for time, chia seed pudding, bircher muesli or gluten-free porridge can both be made the night before and stored in the fridge. Alternatively, some toasted rye bread with almond butter or peanut butter is always well received. If you have more time, an omelette or scrambled eggs can be quickly whipped up. On weekends, we always make buckwheat pancakes, which make a great treat – and are still super healthy.
9. Watch out for school dinners: Jamie Oliver has done a brilliant job of reforming what our children eat while at school. Turkey dinosaurs are – I’d like to think – almost as extinct from our little one’s lives as the real thing. However, that’s not to say that everything they will be eating while in school is healthy and nutritious. It is important to keep an eye on this – ask to see the school dinner menu and, if you’re not sure about anything, speak to someone about the ingredients used. Even better, send your child to school with a pre-packed lunch. That way, you know exactly what they will be eating. A piece of fruit, a small bag of nuts, salad and some homemade chia seed pudding will keep their energy levels high all day.
10. Don’t stress: It’s easier said than done, but don’t stress too much if you arrive at a birthday party to collect your child and find them tucking into a handful of sweets. Or if they go to a friend’s house for dinner and come home reciting tales of crisps, cake and glasses of soda. The key is to balance it all out with healthy food at home. Put a plate of chopped veggies and hummus out for them to snack on, or chop up some fruit and let them dip it in almond butter. Alternatively, make some delicious green juices together to drink later that evening, filled with organic vegetables, vitamin-filled seeds and water. The key is that they know the difference – not that they aren’t going to want the cake but they understand it’s a treat. Try to adhere to a 80:20 household. Nothing and nobody is perfect. Just try your best for your little ones.