The lesser-known benefits of healthy eating that will help boost your child’s overall wellbeing
It is widely known that a balanced diet is important for maintaining a healthy weight, but nutritious food provides so many more health benefits, particularly for little ones. Gymfinity Kids Ambassador for Nourishment, Annabel Karmel MBE, talks us through the lesser-known benefits of healthy eating for children and shares her top tips for preparing nutritious and delicious meals!
We often emphasise the physical benefits of healthy eating for children, but healthy eating also greatly enhances children’s mental wellbeing. Diet has a direct impact on children’s mental health and a recent study found that children who eat a better diet, packed with fruit and vegetables, have better mental well-being. So much so that children who consumed five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day had the highest scores for mental wellbeing!
We often hear people say that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, which I wholeheartedly agree with. This is particularly important for busy and active children, but it can often be a tricky meal to get right, especially with picky eaters. Children need the right food at the start of the day to fuel their play, learning and development, as well as to boost their mood and to support their happiness.
TOP TIP: Porridge is by far one of the best breakfasts for children – not only is it a crowd-pleaser, but it also releases energy slowly to keep children full until lunchtime. Adding things like a pinch of cinnamon can turn bland porridge into a delicious meal and it is also the perfect base for adding fruit to make sure that children get their five a day.
When thinking about oral health the first thing that springs to mind is good teeth brushing, but a healthy diet is also critical for protecting little ones’ teeth, which can be much more vulnerable to decay than adults. Children aged 4-6 years old should have no more than four and a half teaspoons of sugar per day, but many processed supposedly ‘healthy’ snacks can contain as much as two teaspoons of sugar in a single serving!
TOP TIP: The good news is that it is very easy and affordable to make healthy and tasty snacks at home. My favourite snacks that are kind to children’s teeth include raw vegetables, nuts, unsalted rice cakes or toast. Or if you’re feeling more adventurous you can try making things like energy balls or veggie balls.
Getting a good night’s sleep is critical for children to ensure that they have enough energy throughout the day, the attention span to concentrate in school and their happiness – we can all feel grouchy if we don’t get enough sleep! But what is often overlooked is the impact of a nutritious diet on children’s sleep. Diets low in fibre or high in unhealthy fats may decrease the amount of deep sleep your child gets, whilst excess sugar can cause them to wake up more frequently. Healthy eating habits will encourage healthier sleeping patterns and vice versa, which is why it’s so important to maintain a balanced diet.
TOP TIP: Sweet potato is a fantastic source of fibre, it releases energy slowly and is yummy too, making it a great addition to your child’s diet. Some of my favourite high-fibre meals for children are sweet potato gnocchi or dippy eggs with sweet potato soldiers.