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Healthy eating for kids

Whether or not your child has diabetes, it’s so important for them to get the nutrition they need to be healthy and strong. We asked Pick n Pay’s dietician, Leanne Kiezer, for some tips on healthy eating for kids.

10 tips for healthy eating for kids (and parents!)

Eating well is vital for children to ensure they reach their optimum mental and physical potential. These guidelines will help them develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.

Encourage children to enjoy a variety of foods.

Children need adequate energy and nutrients to fuel their rapid growth and development. Different foods offer different nutritional benefits, so expose your children to as many different healthy foods as possible by offering them new foods regularly.

Provide plenty of vegetables and fruit every day.

Different vegetables and fruit contain different nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and fibre. That’s why it is so important to eat a variety each day. “Plenty” means at least five servings of different vegetables and/or fruit a day.

Children should have milk, yoghurt, maas or cheese every day.

These dairy foods are sources of calcium – a crucial mineral for the development of strong bones and teeth. The other nutrients in these foods, like protein and potassium, also help to keep your body in good working order.

Fish, chicken, lean meat and eggs can be eaten every day.

These foods are vital sources of protein, which is essential for growth. They are also sources of easily absorbable iron and other nutrients. Also include regular servings of dried beans, split peas, lentils and soya.

Focus on “good” fats.

Children should not have very low-fat diets because fats have a vital role to play in healthy growth and development. However, the quality of the fat you choose is important. Restrict animal fats and choose unsaturated fats more often, like olive and canola oils, oily fish, avocado, peanut butter and nuts.

south african food guide

Make limited starchy foods a part of most meals, as they provide energy.

Always feed your children the high-fibre version, such as wholegrain bread and pasta, brown rice, potatoes with their skin, and high-fibre breakfast cereals.

Use salt and foods high in salt sparingly.

Avoid salty ingredients like stock cubes and soup powder in your cooking. Help your children to enjoy the natural taste of foods by not adding salt to their meals.

Use sugars sparingly.

Sugar can be part of a balanced eating plan, but in moderation. Limit foods with added sugars, such as cookies, sweets, chocolates and sugar-sweetened drinks. If your children fill up on these foods and drinks, they may miss out on the nutrient-rich foods they really need. Give your children water, milk and fresh fruit most of the time and keep sugary foods and drinks as “special occasion” treats.

Encourage them to drink lots of clean, safe water.

Water is the cheapest yet best drink of all. Start your children on water when they are young and it will remain a good habit for the rest of their lives.

Keep them active.

Healthy eating is just part of a healthy start in life – encourage your children to be physically active too. Remember that children learn from your example, so if you have a healthy outdoor lifestyle, they are more likely to be active themselves.

Pick n Pay Health Hotline

Did you know that Pick n Pay employs a registered dietitian to provide free food and nutrition-related advice to the public? Contact Leanne via the Health Hotline on 0800 11 22 88 or email her directly on to start your nutrition conversation.

What to read next?

Free Healthy Food Guide – how to eat healthy with diabetes or to lose weight: This Healthy Food Guide shows you exactly which foods to choose (and which to avoid), as well as sharing which portions to eat.

Let’s talk about diabetes and food: Each month, Sweet Life co-founder Bridget McNulty talks about something personal when it comes to diabetes… This month she tackles diabetes and food.

How to interpret food labels for diabetics: How do you know if a product is going to be good or bad for your blood sugar? Once you understand what to look for on food labels, you’ll be able to choose the right products to help control your blood sugar.

Photo by Hannah Tasker and Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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  1. jenny jenny

    can you eat wholewheat pasta if you are diabetic

    • Wholewheat pasta is better than regular pasta because it has more fibre, but it’s still a carb. So you can eat it, but keep your portion small (1/2 cup has the same amount of carb as a slice of bread).

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.