Healthy Eating Habits from the Early Years
The early years are the best time to establish healthy eating habits which are a crucial part of having a healthy lifestyle.
Beginning and following healthy eating routines from as early as possible will make for lifelong habits that will improve children’s lives at school and beyond and are particularly relevant at the moment as we are spending more time at home. Our Early Years experts share some of their advice.
A balanced diet
Having a ‘balanced diet’ - a healthy mixture of different kinds of food - is key to healthy eating. Eating a balanced diet means children get the nutrients they need to grow up strong and fit. A balanced diet should contain three daily meals and two healthy snacks and include a variety of foods that contain protein, carbohydrates and some fat and sugar, along with fruits, vegetables and dairy products.
A child (and an adult!) who follows a healthy, balanced diet is more likely to:
- have consistent energy levels
- Certain foods – in particular, processed foods such as cakes, biscuits and sweets - can give your child spikes in energy which will then be followed by the inevitable low. For a healthy diet, processed foods should be best kept as occasional treats.
- concentrate better
- Eating enough foods which provide a steady calorie intake – perhaps through healthy carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread or brown rice - is a big part of helping your child to keep focused and alert, concentrate better in class and make healthy choices. Concentrating well depends on the free flow of messages in the brain and the nutrients in the food we eat helps determine how well these messages can travel.
- have improved mental health
- Eating healthily can boost people’s moods and emotional wellbeing, making them feel happier, more fulfilled and less anxious.
- help balance their mood
- As with balancing out energy levels, eating healthily helps to combat mood swings. Eating a healthy balanced diet is a great way of helping keep your child happy.
Role-modelling these healthy eating tips (and sensible and polite table manners), embedding them into your child’s life and talking to older children about healthy choices will help set them up for a happier and healthier life!
(Taken from October’s ‘Neuroscience and Child Development in the Early Years’ Parent Workshop led by Kate Umpleby)