Rachel Eagleton, Clinical Nutritionist
What do your kids like to eat after school? Do they go to afterschool care? Do they get something healthy to eat there?
Recently I was asked to review the afternoon tea menu of a group of out of school hours care centres. I thought this was a fabulous initiative because such centres are valuable in promoting healthy eating to children and their families. For busy working parents it would be a godsend to know that when you pick up your kid they have had something decent to eat.
It is very difficult for children to eat enough healthy foods at main meals to meet their growth and development needs. Healthy snacks throughout the day are an important part of a child’s daily nutritional intake. In 2014–15, only 68 per cent of children ate sufficient serves of fruit (2 serves), and 5 per cent of children ate sufficient serves (5 serves) of vegetables. Currently Australian children achieve about 35 per cent of their total daily food from ‘discretionary (energy dense, nutrient poor) foods’. So ideally at afternoon tea we want to make sure that in addition to increasing intake of fruit and vegetables, we reduce the consumption of discretionary or ‘sometimes’ food.
So, what does this mean when you are providing afternoon tea at home? I’ve written about this on my blog previously regarding teenagers, but how about primary school aged kids?
Usually kids are very hungry after school, and it’s a few hours before dinner. The snack needs to be enough to fill them up for a couple of hours and be nutrient dense, filling the gaps with any nutrients that they might be light on at their main meals, which would typically be fruit, vegetables, dairy and wholegrains. Some suggestions include:
- fruit and veggies. You could serve carrot sticks, capsicum sticks, snow peas or cherry tomatoes with some hummus, salsa, tatziki or yoghurt. Or how about a steamed corn cob?
- wholegrain crackers or corn thins with ricotta and tomato
- mini frittatas (I like this recipe or this one) made with leftover veggies (great for lunch boxes too)
- brown rice sushi roll
- toasted wholemeal English muffin with cheese
- air-popped popcorn. One of the best purchases I ever made was a $20 air popcorn maker – it is still going strong 16 years later!
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While you’re making the kids their afternoon tea, put your own oxygen mask on! Make yourself something to eat too. Not eating enough before 3 pm is one of the biggest reasons I see clients overeating in the evening. You’ll find some ideas here.
Dental health also needs to be considered when planning snacks. Sweet sticky foods can cause tooth decay. Always serve water as a drink. Milk is also a good choice, but not too close to dinner as it can be very filling.
Do you need help with lunch boxes? If so, I’ve written about them here.
Rachel is a university-qualified clinical nutritionist based in Balmain. She is also the busy working mum of two teenagers, so her advice is practical and realistic. Rachel offers private consultations to improve your family’s health and wellbeing. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram for more healthy tips and tricks.
Source: Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, National Health and Medical Research Council, 2013, www.eatforhealth.gov.au
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