• Chantelle Vischer

Nutrition tips for the busy parent

Hi there,

It’s been a while. With all the COVID-19 / lockdown things bombarding our day-to-day, I’m sure we can all agree that it’s been a little bit hectic as of late. I’ve personally just been trying to make the most out of the quality time that I get to spend with my little one. Having said that, it’s been tough trying to balance healthy eating, staying active, working and resting all at once, which is why I’m so excited to share a blog post written by an amazing guest blogger, Cecile van Niekerk. She is a Clinical Dietitian with a Master’s degree in Nutrition from the University of Pretoria with a special interest in pediatric nutrition and enjoys giving talks to parents and teachers on the subject of healthy eating and the prevention of childhood obesity. So sit back and enjoy!


With school going children, we as parents or caregivers find that we have to be smarter than before to get our family to eat healthy. Healthy, nutritious foods are important for brain development and concentration, growth and immunity as well as skin and general health. There will be good eating days and bad eating days. Here are a few tips and remember to keep your expectations realistic.

1. Make a Schedule: Children need to eat every 3 to 4 hours. This include 3 meals and 2 snacks daily with lots of fluids. If you plan for these, your children’s diet will be much more balanced and they will be less cranky because they won’t be famished. Put a cooler bag in the car when you go out and keep it stocked with apples, naartjies, carrots, cheese, sandwiches, popcorn, pretzels, yoghurt and water so that you don’t have to rely on fast food.


2. Make mornings count: Many families do not eat enough fibre on a daily basis and breakfast is an easy place to sneak it in. Take a bowl of oats, add a tsp of salt and cover with boiling water. Cover the bowl for 5minutes and serve with a hand ful of raisins. Choose high-fibre cereals like Weetbix, Futurelife, Wholewheat Pronutro, Muesli, All bran and High fibre bran. Choose brown or wholewheat bread with scrambled eggs or replace a third of the cake flour in your flapjack recipe with Oatbran or Wholewheat Pronutro.


3. Plan Dinners: If you think that a weekly menu is too daunting, start with two to three days at a time. Freeze left over meals for the next day’s lunch. A good dinner doesn’t have to be fancy but should be balanced.


a. Start with a veggie like baked butternut, carrot salad, boiled sweet potato, corn on the cob, mixed garden salad, cole slaw, spinach, green beans etc.

b. Add a starch like basmati, brown or wild rice; or potatoes, pasta, samp or bread.

c. Choose a lean protein like lean minced meat, chicken, fish, cheese, beans.

d. Add a tsp of healthy fat like olive oil, olives, avocado pear, peanut butter.

e. Have a fruit or a yogurt for dessert.

f. Always have water to drink, limit milk to one glass per day and after meals.


4. Keep your opinion to yourself: Try not to comment on what or how much your kids are eating. Be as neutral as possible. Remember, you have done your job as a parent by serving balanced meals; your kids are responsible for eating them. If you play enforcer, saying things like “eat your vegetables”, your child will only resist. Children may resist new foods so introduce it slowly. your child that his taste buds sometimes have to get use to a flavour before they will like the taste.


5. Get kids involved with buying, preparing and cooking food. Children in general are more interested in eating foods that they themselves have created. Take your children to the shops to choose fruit and vegetables for you. If they are old enough, let them cut veggies or grate the carrot and mix them into a salad. Let them bake banana or apple muffins with you.


6. Minimize junk foods by keeping less in the house. Remember that you are responsible for what foods are available. However, allow some treats by having less-healthy foods occasionally. Call these foods weekend foods, or sometime foods. If too strongly forbidden it may even make them more appealing.


7. Be a role model: If you are following a risky diet, or have erratic eating habits, your children will grow up thinking that this sort of behaviour is normal. Be honest with yourself about the kinds of food messages you are sending Trust your body to tell you when you are hungry and when you are full; and your kids will learn to do the same.

Enjoy spending time with your children by having popcorn at the movies or eating ice cream after your Sunday afternoon walk. A healthy lifestyle with smart food choices and regular physical activity is more important than the perfect diet every, single day.

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