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Nutritional Advice
Courtesy of Catherine Gould DipN (Inst NH), a nutritionist based in Harare

What to Give Your School-Age Child

School-age children need to eat three meals a day and at least one snack per day. Breakfast is important as this will help their little minds to stay alert until the next time they eat. Generally after school children are hungry, and healthy snacks such as fruit, vegetables, yoghurt, and cereal with semi-skimmed milk, will keep them going until dinner time. Please see a sample menu for a year old below:
Breakfast – 3 tbsp low-sugar cereal with semi-skimmed milk and a banana, and 150ml orange juice.
Snack – Wholemeal toast with peanut butter and 120ml of apple juice.
Lunch – Cheese sandwich, 6 carrot sticks and 1 medium apple.
Snack – 200ml fruit smoothie made with yoghurt or milk, alternatively you could give your child, a small pot of fruit yoghurt.
Dinner – 55-85g baked crumbed chicken strips with fresh tomato sauce, 4-8tbsp cooked rice with vegetables and 200ml milk or semi-skimmed milk.
Plus they should drink at least 1x500ml bottle of water.
Lunch Box Ideas

When preparing packed lunch for your child, make sure to include foods from each of the food groups and vary these throughout the week. You could try and get your child to make his or her own sandwich, choosing healthy fillings together.

Try some of these suggestions for your child’s lunch box, and follow some storage tips at the bottom:
  • Provide a carton of 100% fruit with each lunch. Also always add one or more piece of fruit, and vary the choices daily.

  • Raisin bread, or an English muffin spread with low-fat cream cheese and topped with jam or spread; include a pot of yoghurt.

  • Wholemeal pita pocket filled with tuna, sweet corn, mayonnaise, and shredded lettuce, include some cherry tomatoes.

  • Tortilla wrap filled with red kidney beans, grated cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce and a mild salsa, include some baby carrots.

  • Pasta salad with shredded chicken breast, sweet corn, diced cucumber, and chopped parsley in a dressing, include a muesli bar.

  • Whole grain sandwich filled with stripped chicken breast or sliced roast beef, shredded lettuce and mayonnaise with some carrot and cucumber sticks.

  • Involve Children in Preparing Family Meals

    One of the most effective and fun ways to teach kids about healthy eating is to involve them in preparing meals for the family. You can do this by planning a menu plan together and going to supermarket to buy the groceries together, this helps to expose children to reading food labels and the cost of food. Helping you in the kitchen stimulates their interest in cooking and making healthy meals.

    Children develop a sense of pride and ownership as they learn to cook for the family. Engaging children’s interest in preparing healthy meals and snacks will give them skills that will stay with them for life. Cooking can also put into practice what they learn at school, such as colours, shapes, sizes and to recognise the names of fruits and vegetables. Make up a guessing game as you wash vegetables for dinner. Always start simple when teaching your child to cook, ask them what their favourite meal is and cook that once a week or once every two weeks with them helping you. Encourage them to find healthy recipes that they would like to make, combing lots of different colours such as red tomatoes, green beans, orange carrots, and yellow sweetcorn.
    Serving Sizes for 3-5 Year

    The serving sizes of vegetables, and protein foods for a 3-5 year old are about the same as those for a 1-2 year old, but they will eat more. Below is the number of daily servings and examples of what a serving is.
  • At least 4 servings of starchy carbohydrate foods: a serving is ½-1 slice of wholemeal bread or 4-8 tbsp of cooked rice.

  • 2-3 servings of vegetables: a serving is 2 tbsp of peas or carrots.

  • 2-3 servings of fruits: a serving is ½ fruit, such as an apple, pear, or peach, or a s small banana.

  • 2 servings of dairy foods such as a small pot of yoghurt, or at least 350ml milk.

  • 2 servings of protein foods: a serving is 30-55g meat, chicken, fish, or tofu, 1 egg, or 1 tsp of peanut butter.
  • Keeping Teeth Healthy
    Sugary and starchy foods that stick to teeth feed the bacteria that cause tooth decay. To ensure that your child’s teeth develop properly and remain healthy, give a variety of foods to provide all the necessary nutrients for tooth development.

    Limit the amount of sugary drinks and foods, such as biscuits and sweets, that you provide. Good, teeth-friendly snacks include cubes of cheddar cheese, yoghurt, fresh fruit, and vegetable sticks with dips. In addition, fluoride; which helps increase tooth mineralization, bone density and reduces tooth decay; is present in many water supplies. Once teeth begin to erupt, make sure that your child has regular dental checkups and brushes his or her teeth in the morning and before going to bed.
    Avoiding Foods That Trigger Allergies
    Just 8 foods account for 90% of all food allergies. They are eggs, milk, fish, shellfish, soya, gluten, peanuts and tree nuts (e.g. walnuts and almonds). Typically the protein compounds of a food are responsible for the allergic response, hence you should always remember to check food labels carefully. Click here to learn which foods commonly contain peanuts, eggs, milk, gluten and soya as ingredients.
    Case Study : Active Ten-Year-Old Child with Food Allergies
    ProblemAt age two and a half, Malik developed eczema and a runny nose. After repeated episodes, his doctor suggested that his mum keep a food and symptom diary. This helped identify eggs and chocolate as potential triggers of his symptoms. A skin-prick test gave positive results for walnuts, chocolate, watermelon and eggs, but negative for peanuts, soya, citrus, gluten and dairy. Since then, an elimination diet has kept Malik free of symptoms. As he gets older he will be exposed to more situations where he is at risk. He wants to know what he can and cannot eat.
    LifestyleMalik is a busy child who loves sport. He eats breakfast at home, which is usually cold cereal with semi-skimmed milk, a banana, and a glass of orange juice. He takes a packed lunch to school most days, which includes a turkey or cheese sandwich. On the days he buys lunch at school it’s usually a slice of pizza. Malik has either football or lacrosse practice for most of the year. He usually eats a snack before practice – some oatcakes with peanut butter or a piece of fruit and a sports drink. For dinner, he eats whatever is prepared for the family, which may be pasta with tomato sauce, or steak or chicken with green vegetables.
    AdviceMalik has continued to show signs of food allergy when he has been tested by the doctor and has therefore not yet outgrown it, which happens with many children. Being allergic to chocolate, eggs and walnuts can be a challenge for a child, as well as his parents. Reading labels for these ingredients is the best bet for preventing exposure to the trigger foods. Homemade cakes and biscuits may also be a problem since they are likely to contain eggs. Now that Mailk is more independent, he can be allowed to make choices and may make some mistakes. He needs to learn to ask questions and to read food labels to avoid the foods that give him symptoms.

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