These simple changes can make your meals more nutritious, lower in fat and salt – and tastier.
1 Breakfast Benefits
It’s an old wives tale that breakfast is the most important meal of the day but don’t let the rush of the nursery run stop your family from eating a filling breakfast. ‘Breakfast is essential to restore blood sugar levels after the overnight fast that happens when we sleep,’ says Holland & Barrett in-house nutritionist Alex Thompson. ‘Skipping breakfast will lead to a blood sugar crash mid-morning, lowering mood, physical energy levels and leading to poor concentration. Opt for a hearty breakfast based around slowly digesting carbohydrates with protein to give sustained energy across the morning and to minimise the need for over-snacking throughout the day – good choices are porridge, muesli, egg or baked beans on wholemeal toast.’
2 Oil Overhaul
Olive oil is good for you, but not all the time. And rapeseed oil. A study by the International Olive Oil Council showed that the UK is consuming 59,000 tonnes of olive oil per year – 8260 tonnes of which is saturated fat. Your family’s saturated fat intake could be halved making the quick and easy switch to British rapeseed oil. Oil producer Tilly Fuller says, ‘We’re finding more and more people are switching to rapeseed oil in place of olive oil in their everyday cooking. It’s such an easy change to make and is half the saturated fat and packed with omegas 3, 6 and 9.’
3 Spaghetti Swap
If you’re making your signature spag bowl for the family – swap your regular pasta noodles for spaghetti made from the superfood chia grain. They’ll help you all feel fuller for longer and increase your family’s fiber intake. But we can’t guarantee the Bolognese still wont end up on the walls…
4 Go Fishing For Health
Not all kiddie-friendly fish comes finger shaped. ‘Eating fish, especially oily fish such as salmon, sardines or mackerel helps to maintain a healthy heart and circulation,’ says Medical Nutritionist Dr Sarah Brewer. ‘Aim to eat fish twice a week, with one portion being oily. Marinade oily fish in lemon or lime juice, garlic and herbs, wrap in aluminium foil and bake (to reduce cooking smells).’
5 Dip, Dip, Hooray!
Eating vegetables is probably high on your toddler’s list of least favourite activities but not if you make your own your own sauce or salsa. It's super easy and you'll get more vitamins out of it. Turn an avocado into guacamole LINK or finely chop fresh tomatoes with basil and a little spring onion for kiddie-friendly salsa. Serve with carrot, cucumber and pepper strips. Who said it were only kids that liked puree?
6 Colour Palette
If getting your toddler to eat vegetables is impossible – vary the vegetables and their colours. Foods that are naturally colourful tend to be high in vitamins, minerals and fibre. ‘Include as many different coloured vegetables on your plate as possible,’ says nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville. ‘The recommendation is to “eat a rainbow” at dinnertime as the different colours give us different antioxidants which are important for everyones health.
7 Ice, Ice Baby
If you always end up cooking too much then freeze it for another mealtime. ‘Cooking large batches of meals for the family, such as soups, stews and pasta sauces then freezing them is a great way to always have healthy evening meals ready to use,’ says in-house nutritionist for Holland & Barrett, Alex Thompson. ‘This is ideal to avoid the temptation to eat commercially available sugar and fat laden ready meals or takeaways when tired or if you’re busy in the evening.’
8 Green Fingers
All kids love helping with the cooking and it tastes so much nicer when you’ve grown it yourself! ‘Encourage your children to help daddy or you in the garden with growing your own herbs, cut-and-come-again lettuce, radishes, or sprout beans as it’s always fun to eat what you yourself have produced,’ says GP and nutritionist Dr Sarah Brewer. ‘Even if you don’t have access to a garden, you can grow simple things in tubs and on windowsills.’ Plus it’s a great hobby to share with your tot.
9 Go Bananas
If your little one isn’t the only one who’s guilty pleasure is Ben and Jerry’s and you want to find a family snack for sitting in front of the television that’s less calories and more nutritious then opt for bananas. Freeze bananas and then blend them for a yummy banana soft serve for all of the family. Frozen fruit also helps if your little one is teething too – bonus!
10 Drink Up
Always have a jug of water on the table at mealtimes. You may be drinking plenty of water, but when your little one is constantly reaching for the beaker of orange squash, we’ve got to remember water is as essential to their developing bodies as it is to us. Nutritionist Zoe Gray says, ‘It’s really important to educate children about what it feels like to be thirsty and what it feels like when your thirst is quenched so that they grow up knowing how to listen to their bodies’.
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