Child’s Play

With the school holidays in full swing and mothers across the city frantically searching for new school uniform and lunch boxes for their wee ones, I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to discuss their fitness and nutritional needs whilst you have all this time on your hands.

I am often asked by parents for some key elements to include in their children’s diets and what they should be doing to keep them fit with the increased use of electrical devises and distinct lack of a good old game of tag. These are the most commonly asked question and the answers on how to improve and sustain your child’s strength, development concentration and general well being;

What should my child be eating for breakfast?
Start their day with a healthy high in fibre whole grain cereal with whole milk or whole meal toast, with almond butter or marmite. The milk contains fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K which strengthen your child’s immune system, fights against infection and keeps their bones strong and healthy, while the whole grains provide sustained energy and a full tummy for the day ahead. This should set them up for a good morning’s work or play.

How much physical activity should my child be doing daily?
If your child is attending nursery or school this part should be taken care of but if this isn’t the case:

Children between 0-5 should be getting up to three hours of exercise per day, this can be achieved by basic movement and nothing else. Rolling, sitting up and playing is all they need for good development. However, children between 5-18 should be doing about 60 minutes of moderate activity daily, this can consist of running, swimming, cycling and general play and will keep their cardiovascular systems efficient and bones strong.

Should my child be sna
cking during the day?
Let your children snack on healthy, portable snacks such as peppers, cucumber and celery with a hummus or almond butter dip, full of fibre, protein and fun. Oat or rice cakes are always reliable to ward off hunger and maintain blood sugar levels along with bananas, which are slightly more appetising and can cool you down on a warm day.

It is important to be organised and prepare snacks as being caught short with hungry children leads to convenient eating opposed to healthy. This applies to mornings and afternoons.

What is an ideal packed lunch?
Prepare a sandwich of ham or boiled egg with salad to provide carbohydrate, protein and fibre. This will keep them motivated and able to concentrate thought the afternoon. Add a piece of fruit and yoghurt and all bases will be covered.

How much sun should I allow my child during the day?
It is better to allow your children time in the sun earlier in the day as it too has health benefits. Your child’s body turns sunlight into vitamin D, which aids the absorption of calcium; essential for strong bones.

Sunlight increases the production of the mood lifting chemical serotonin, which will naturally make your children feel happier. Exposure to sunlight during the day increases the natural production of melatonin at night.

Keep your children out of the sun after lunch or cover their heads with a hat whilst the sun is at its hottest and remember to constantly hydrate them using water; fizzy drinks and squashes are full of unnecessary sugars and serve no purpose in rehydration.

Children can often mistake thirst for hunger so unless a large gap between each meal has occurred offer a glass of water before food just in case.

Should my child be eating the same
as me at dinner time?
Dinner should consist of the five food groups regardless of your age. Ensure the whole family includes a portion of either grains such as pasta or rice and vegetables, three if do-able, accompanied by meat or fish with fruit or dairy such as a frozen yogurt for desert.

I struggle to get my child to sleep, is there anything that can assist this?
The sun paired with a full day of nutritious food and drink will definitely ensure a good quality night’s sleep. It is important to establish a period of rest before bed so that your child is calm when the inevitable and dreaded bedtime occurs.

I would suggest an early dinner of around 5pm followed by a bath and some story time. This will relax them and should prepare them to drop off willingly.
Sarah Hitchman is our monthly fitness writer and lifestyle guru so if you would like to contact her for more information please email or call 07702 224451.