2.1.3 Healthy lifestyle

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Healthy eating and physical activity are promoted and appropriate for each child.

Healthy food and the five food groups

You want to provide healthy, nutritious food for your children, but what are the latest healthy eating guidelines for children?

Just like adults, children should eat a variety of foods from the five food groups every day

  1. Vegetables (lots of different colours) and legumes
  2. Fruit
  3. Grain foods like bread, cereal, rice, pasta, noodles (preferably wholegrain and/or high fibre)
  4. Meat (lean) and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds
  5. Dairy foods (milk, yoghurt, cheese)

While children aged 2 and over should eat or drink mostly reduced fat dairy foods, reduced fat milk (or food) is not suitable for children under 2.

And just like adults, children should avoid foods that are high in saturated fat or have added salt or sugar. This means foods like  biscuits, cakes, ice-cream, lollies, pies, takeaway burgers, chips and fried foods, potato chips, sausages, processed meats (eg frankfurts and devon), cordial, soft drink and sports drinks should only be consumed on special occasions.

Children should also drink plenty of water. Infants up to 1 year old should have breast milk or formula as their main drink (preferably breast milk). Soy and goat-milk based formulas are not recommended.

Around 6 months of age start infants on solid foods including iron fortified cereals, pureed meat and poultry, cooked plain tofu and legumes/beans. Foods can be introduced in any order provided the texture is suitable for baby’s stage of development. Cow’s milk products including yoghurt, cheese and custard may also be given.

Shopping and Cooking

So what do you need to be aware of when cooking or buying food?

  • Try not to add salt to food you cook or put it on the table
  • Use spices, herbs and lemon to flavour food instead of salt/sugar
  • Use polyunsaturated oils (eg olive oil) rather than saturated fats like palm oil, butter, cream, coconut oil, copha, lard
  • Trim fat from meat
  • Avoid frying and steam, bake, poach or grill instead
  • Check product labels for sugar, fat and salt (sodium) levels
  • Remember that products marked as ‘light’ may not necessarily be more healthy. They may have higher levels of sugar or bad fats, and contain similar calories as the normal product
  • Be careful you don’t end up buying a high sugar breakfast cereal which are often marketed as healthy options

Source: Eat for Health Federal GovernmentAustralian Dietary Guidelines 2013Infant Feeding Guidelines 2012

Why is physical activity good for children?There’s increasing research which shows a link between a lack of physical activity and illnesses like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. So it’s important to develop healthy habits in children to help protect them against disease in later life.There’s also growing evidence that physical activity helps children improve the way they process information, concentrate and remember what they’ve learned.

That’s good news for most children who naturally love to explore and run around.

Of course when children play they also learn about how their world works and develop the social skills needed to interact harmoniously with others.

Floor based play is best for babies who can’t walk yet eg tummy time. It’s important that the environment inside and outside is stimulating and encourages babies to explore. There should be exciting spaces (eg tunnel), sounds (eg things to bang) and textures. Educators can encourage greater activity and learning when they interact with babies, mirror their actions and talk with them.

The Federal Government recommends at least 3 hours of physical activity every day for children aged 1-5 years. It’s important to remember that everyday routines and activities contribute to this time.

Activities can include things like dancing to music, ‘make believe’ games, riding bikes, kicking balls, moving like an animal, yoga, sandpit play, treasure hunts, gardening (eg watering and weeding), water play and walking instead of riding in a stroller.

Exceeding Theme Core

All educators consistently promote healthy eating and physical activity in line with current recognised guidelines which they can discuss, actively engage with families about their child’s healthy eating and physical activity needs, strengths and preferences and include these in the educational program, and build partnerships with the community  to enhance children’s health and activity outcomes. All educators regularly reflect on opportunities to enhance health and activity outcomes, and make identified changes..

Where is your practice compared to the above statement?

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