Keeping your family healthy
The council’s early years team has compiled a handy guide with advice for parents on how to take charge of their child’s health and wellbeing.
Healthy eating and being active go hand in hand in making sure children thrive and are able to focus at school or nursery.
There are benefits for adults too as it can help you to maintain a healthy weight, reducing the risk of certain diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer.
Ideally, good eating habits should begin in childhood, which is why as a parent or carer it is important to establish these habits early in the life of your child.
Healthy habits should start with a healthy breakfast and carry on throughout the day, including some physical activity.
A good breakfast gives you energy and sets you up for the day. Try:
- wholegrain cereals rather than sugary varieties
- wholemeal toast, but avoid sugary spreads
- fresh fruit – this could be added to cereal, eaten on its own, or added to natural yoghurt
- lean protein - back bacon instead of streaky bacon, eggs (boiled, poached or scrambled), fish, hummus, or lower fat cheese.
Snacking can be part of a healthy diet. Ideal snacks are ones higher in fibre and protein that will keep you fuller for longer.
To make healthier snack choices, you can replace processed foods such as crisps, cakes and biscuits, which are higher in fat, salt and sugar content, with these options:
- plain popcorn, low salt/sugar crackers such as rice cakes, bread sticks, crispbreads
- fruits and vegetables…these are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fibre
- low-fat fruit yoghurt or natural yoghurt with chopped fruit
- small handful of nuts and seeds (swap salted for unsalted)
- hummus dip with pitta bread, vegetable sticks or breadsticks.
Healthy meals should be made up of a balance of the main food categories:
- Starchy carbohydrates – these give us the energy we need, and include rice, potatoes, pasta, bread and cereals. Wholegrain varieties are higher in fibre and keep you fuller for longer. Aim for 3-5 servings a day.
- Protein – this includes meat, fish, eggs, and vegetable protein such as nuts, peas, beans, lentils, soya and Quorn. These foods help your body to grow and repair itself. Aim for 2-3 servings a day.
- Fruits and vegetables – this could be frozen, tinned, dried, and juices of fruits and vegetables. They provide us with vitamins and minerals, which keeps our body in general good health, as well as fibre which keeps our digestive system healthy. Aim for 5 portions a day.
- Milk and dairy foods – this includes yoghurt, cheese, and fromage frais. These foods mainly provide calcium for strong bones and teeth, as well as protein and some vitamins. Aim for 3 portions a day.
- Fats and sugars – this includes butter, margarine, cooking oils, cream, salad dressings, chocolate, crisps, sugary soft drinks, sweets, jam, cakes, biscuits and pastries. These foods may be tasty but they are high in calories, and low in nutritional content. Try not to overindulge.
It’s about getting the balance and portion sizes right. If you decide to change to a healthier diet, it’s best to make small significant changes, rather than big changes which are unrealistic long term.
Home cooking goes a long way towards helping you eat a healthier diet, because when you prepare your own meals you know what goes into them.
Here are some tips:
- plan your meals ahead of time and use a list when shopping - it saves time and money
- double up and freeze leftovers – it saves money and prevents you eating more
- change how you cook your food e.g. grill instead of fry, or if you do choose to fry, use less oil
- use frozen vegetables – they can often contain more nutrients than fresh.
The Public Health recommendation of fluid intake is:
- men - 10x 200ml glasses of water
- women – 8x 200ml glasses of water
Hot drinks (tea and coffee) count towards this intake, but milk and water are the healthiest options, especially for children. Try to limit flavoured milks and milkshakes, as they have added sugars, which can cause tooth decay.
Healthy and active lifestyles
Living a healthy lifestyle helps to lower the risks of serious illness, but being healthy also means maintaining a healthy weight, managing your mental and social wellbeing, and enjoying an active life.
Regular physical activity is important for healthy growth, development and wellbeing, especially from a young age. One in three children does fewer than 30 minutes of physical activity a day, which is half the recommended requirement for 5-18 year olds.
Look for ways to increase your activity levels and remember, small changes are significant - such as taking the stairs instead of the lift, parking further away from the supermarket entrance, going for a walk after a meal and walking your children to nursery or school, if possible.
Spend less time as a family staring at screens and join in activities together. Being a good role model for your children will lead to a healthier you, healthier child and healthier family.
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