Author

KATE BULLEN

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Only 50 per cent of Australians eat the right amount of fruit and vegetables. Here are some tried and true tips, tricks and strategies to include more fruits and vegetables in your family diet.   

We all know that fruits and vegetables are good for us, and there is very good research confirming this. Not only do fruit and vegetables have protective effects for reducing our chance of getting cancer and heart disease, but anyone who eats the recommended amounts of two fruits and five vegetables are more likely to be a healthy weight.  

Adults are recommended to eat two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables, legumes or beans. The recommendations for children can be seen in the table. 

      Serves per day* 
    13-23 months  2-3 years  4-8 years  9-11 years  12-13 years  14-18 years 
Vegetables and legumes/beans  Boy  2-3  2 ½   4 ½   5  5 ½   5 ½  
Girl  2-3  2 ½   4 ½   5  5  5 
               
Fruit  Boy  ½   1  1 ½   2  2  2 
Girl  ½   1  1 ½   2  2  2 

 

*Additional amounts may be needed by children who are taller or more active 

What is a serve? 

A standard serve of vegetables is about 75g or: 

  • ½ cup cooked vegetables 
  • ½ cup cooked or canned beans, peas or lentils 
  • 1 cup salad vegetables 
  • ½ medium potato (no chips!) 
  • 1 medium tomato 

 

A standard serve of fruit is about 150g or: 

  • 1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear 
  • 2 small apricots, kiwi fruit or plums 
  • 1 cup canned fruit (no added sugar) 

 

Tip 1: Chat about Fruits and Vegetables 

Do you know what your children’s favourite fruit and vegetable is? I found it a fun exercise to ask my children. My seven year old daughter said mango and broccoli, and my three year old son said banana and carrot. This question led into a chat about fruits and vegetables and why they are so important in our diet. It is important to keep any conversation about food fun, light hearted and age appropriate.  

 I like to tell my children that fruits and vegetables are ‘super’ foods because of their different colours. For example, strawberries have folate in them which is important for our blood cells to grow. Mandarins and oranges have Vitamin C to help us stay well and heal cuts and bruises. Broccoli and baby spinach contain Vitamin A which is important to help us see at night and grow strong teeth. An easy way to find out more about fruits and vegetables is to Google them! 

 

Berry Smoothie
Serve 2
1 cup milk
½ cup baby spinach
½ cup frozen berries
2 tsp vanilla essence
½ cup ice

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Can add some honey to taste if desired. The spinach is hidden by the delicious berries!

Tip 2: Are they really hungry? 

If only I had a dollar for every time I heard one of my children say ‘I’m hungry’! My three year old will say this often after finishing his breakfast of three Weetbix, some oats and sultanas. So I am pretty confident that he isn’t hungry and I use this opportunity to ask him if his tummy is making hungry sounds or if he would like to play with his trains/get out his crayons or read a book. Usually it is just boredom and once I have set him up in an activity he is happy. 

Children have little tummies and can easily fill up on milk or juice (which I say doesn’t count as a serve of fruit because most juices don’t contain fibre). It can be useful to keep a food diary for a few days of what your child is eating as this can provide some clues on areas to improve. 

Tip 3: Encouragement and Praise

Children need to be offered, and encouraged, to eat foods. Vegetables are the most often rejected food – but each vegetable needs to be offered at least eight times before becoming a trusted and accepted food. I know just how frustrating it can be to see a child eat only one pea and refuse any more but the key is repetition, encouragement and praise.  

The jury is still out on rewards. The long standing ‘eat all your vegetables and you can have some ice cream’ can do more harm than good. If this is something that you are saying most nights then it probably isn’t working. The time when rewards of this nature can work is to encourage a child to try a food. If your child is refusing to even try different fruits or vegetables, a promise of a reward can work to encourage tasting, but after this it loses its value and may even cause a child to dislike a food even more. Beware of this backfiring! Noticing when they have made an effort and commenting on this goes a long way to improving eating habits. 

Tips from other Mums!

– Be creative and use cutters to cut fruit and vegetables into shapes

– Hide the vegetables!

– Eat together as a family

– Get the children to help prepare and cook the meal. From about the age of two children can start to use peelers to peel carrots/potatoes/sweet potatoes

– Grow some vegetables in your backyard

– Make fresh fruit ice lollies – puree some watermelon and add some sliced bananas, kiwi fruit and strawberries and put in ice moulds

– Frozen peas and corn make great snacks over the warmer months

– Vegetable pizzas with different vegetable pictures, such as a garden – broccoli for trees, carrot and peas for flowers

– Lots of different vegetables in small amounts often work better than just a couple of vegetables in big quantities

Tip 4: Plan to eat fruit and vegetables 

As parents we are in the powerful position of influencing what our children eat – but of course we aren’t the only influence – and our level of influence decreases as the children get older. So start early is my advice! If children see their parents eating and enjoying plenty of fruit and vegetables, then children are more likely to do the same. Children are more likely to adopt healthy eating behaviours when they have more than one person to imitate – so recruit as many family members as possible! 

 Children are often wary of foods, particularly foods that they haven’t enjoyed previously. Dinner time can be a particularly difficult time of day to encourage children to eat as they are often tired after a long day. If this is the case try lunch time and snacks to offer new fruits and vegetables when they are likely to be more receptive. Whole pieces of fruit such as bananas, apples and pears, or offering tomato and avocado on crackers or some vegetables sticks with peanut butter or a dip, are some easy, healthy snack options. 

Tip 5: Shop together 

I know that shopping with children is often one of the least favourite things to do. It is frustrating how things can take longer, packets can jump off shelves courtesy of little hands, and tantrums can occur. Consider visiting a fruit and vegetable market or your local farmers market with your child or children as an outing and opportunity for them to choose a fruit or vegetable that is in season that they would like to try. The rule is that whatever your child chooses you must buy and prepare, and you as the parent must try the food too. 

Empowering your child to make decisions about fruits and vegetables means they are more likely to try the food because they have been involved in the process.  

Finally, consistency plays a big role in getting children to eat their fruit and vegetables. There are always going to be those days where it comes down to a boiled egg and toast for dinner – but it is all about what happens most of the time.   

Almost every packaged food we pick up in the supermarket will have a food label – but who knows how to read and interpret the information on the food label? I am the first to put my hand up and say that food labels can be confusing, but armed with some handy information, food labels can become useful tools in helping choose the right foods for you and your family. 

 

Here in Australia, food that is packaged and manufactured must have a food label. There are a few exceptions to this rule including fresh food such as fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, very small packages or single herbs and spices. A food label will usually including the following: 

  • Ingredient list 
  • Nutrition information panel 
  • Allergen statement  
  • Product and brand name of the food 
  • Use by date or best before date 

 

Ingredient list 

Let’s start by looking at the ingredient list. I will often refer to the ingredient list first when I look at a food label as I like to know what I am buying and eating. Ingredients are listed in order of descending weight, so the first ingredient listed is the main ingredient in the food and the last ingredient is the smallest. If you see that sugar, fat or salt are one of the first three ingredients, then perhaps that food isn’t the healthiest choice. It’s also important to note that sugar, fat and salt may be listed as many different names.  

Other names for Sugar, Fat & Salt 

Below is a copy of a nutrition information panel from a yoghurt that was in my fridge. 

 

Nutrition Information Panel 

Servings per package: 4 

Serving size: 250g 

Here are my five steps to successfully reading a nutrition information panel: 

 

  1. Always look at the ‘per 100g’ column as this is always on foods and allows you to compare between products. The other column ‘per serve’ is determined by the food manufacturer and may be much smaller than the amount of food that you eat. Breakfast cereals are a good example – the serve size of breakfast cereals will be different from Weetbix to Cheerios to muesli, for example. But if you look at the per 100g column you will be able to compare and decide which is the best choice for you. 
  1. Energy per 100g – after the ingredient list, this is the second thing that I look at on a food label as it gives me a quick idea of whether a food is going to be a good choice. Great when you don’t have much time and a child or three in tow! 
  1. Total fat and saturated fat – As a quick scan, the best choice is to look for products with less than 3g total fat/100g and less than 1.5g saturated fat/100g. Next best is between 3-20g total fat/100g and 1.5-5g saturated fat/100g – which is where my yoghurt from the above nutrition information panel fits, as this is a full fat yoghurt. 
  1. Sugar – look for foods with less than 5g sugar/100g. Keep in mind that sugar includes naturally occurring sugar, such as lactose in dairy products, as well as added sugar as in biscuits. So if you are choosing muesli, you might see it is high in sugar and wonder why. This is where it can be useful to look at the ingredient list – where is the sugar coming from? Is it coming from dried fruit (where you also get the benefit of fibre) or is it from honey that is used in toasting the muesli? Again, this is shown in the above nutrition information panel, as the extra carbohydrate and sugars is from lactose. Next best option is to look for sugars between 5.0-12.5g sugar/100g. 
  1. Sodium/salt – look for foods with less than 300mg salt/100g. 

 

There are always exceptions. For example choosing an olive oil means that you will not be able to find one with less than 3g total fat/100g – so here is where common sense needs to kick in.  

Nutrition Claims 

I would encourage you to be a savvy label reader. Food manufacturers want us to buy their products. Here are a few common claims that you may see on food packaging – and what they really mean: 

  • ‘Lite’ or ‘light’ does not necessary mean it is low in fat. It may also be referring to the colour or taste of the food. 
  • ‘Baked not fried’ sounds like it must be healthier doesn’t it?! Always check the nutrition information panel as it can have just as many kilojoules and fat as a fried food. 
  • ’93 per cent fat free’ still contains 7 per cent fat (or 7g fat/100g) which doesn’t make it the healthiest choice. 
  • ‘Reduced fat’ means the product should have at least 25 per cent less fat than the original product. But the food may still have more fat than another similar food. 

Accredited Practising Dietitian, founder of and Mum of three, Kate Bullen has gone from A for Additives to Z for Zinc, providing you a guide to keeping your family’s food healthy and nutritional.

 

 

 

Additives – may include preservatives that help keep our food safe to eat, or colours and flavours added to make food tastier and more appealing to eat. Most people don’t react to food additives, but some people do. If you think your child might be reacting to food additives, please speak to an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Breakfast – it really is the most important meal of the day. Research has shown that children who eat breakfast are more likely to have a healthy diet. Quick and easy breakfasts include a piece of fruit, some toast, a smoothie or a couple of Weetbix with milk.

Calcium – needed for strong bones, which is most important in growing children. Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt are our best sources of calcium. But, we can also get calcium from other foods including almonds, tahini, salmon and dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and bok choy.

Drinks – the easiest, cheapest and healthiest drink is water, followed by milk. Drinks are important to stop children getting dehydrated – particularly in our hot summer months. Encourage regular drinks of water throughout the day and get children in the habit of having water as their first choice of drink.

Eggs – boiled eggs are our family’s easy meal. My children will have boiled eggs at least once a week – add a bit of salad to the plate, and some toast – and an easy, healthy and tasty meal is ready to eat. Children typically love eggs and they are a good powerhouse food with plenty of protein and other vitamins and minerals.

Fruit – summer fruit is the best! Watermelon, grapes, mangoes, stonefruit – all so tasty and plentiful. Fruit is great for snacks, but also delicious when whizzed up with some milk and yoghurt to make a smoothie, or used in baking muffins. Frozen grapes are an easy fruit to add into the lunchbox – and stay cool till lunch which increases the chances of them being eaten!

 

Genetically Modified Food – relatively new in Australia, and really comes down to personal choice. As yet we don’t know if there are any long term effects of eating genetically modified food. Most foods will be labelled if they contain genetically modified ingredients.

Hunger – does this phrase sound familiar “Mum – I’m hungry”? I hear this many times a day! Sometimes it’s true hunger, sometimes it’s ‘boredom hunger’. Children typically need to eat every two to three hours as they only have little stomachs – so this can be a clue as to whether they are truly hungry. If you don’t think your child is hungry, try re-directing them to another activity until it is time to eat to avoid ‘boredom eating’.

Iron – if you have a teenager at home, you might want to check if they are getting enough iron as the amount of iron they need increases during the teen years. If they don’t get enough iron, anaemia can develop. The best sources of iron are red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, wholegrain breads and cereals.

Junk food – it is almost impossible to completely avoid junk food, but keep it to special occasions. Once a week is occasional, when junk food is eaten every day then you may need to reassess a child’s diet.

Kilojoules – the preferred unit of measuring energy in Australia, abbreviated to kj. Kilojoules are what you will see referred to on food labels. Calories are the alternative measure of energy. One calorie = 4.186 kilojoules.

Legumes – baked beans, chick peas, lentils and kidney beans are all lentils (sometimes also called ‘pulses’). They are a great sources of protein and fibre – try adding some legumes into your next mince dish. Lentils go almost unnoticed by children, so can be a good one to try.

Meat – choose lean meat with very little visible fat. Red meat such as beef and lamb is a great source of iron and zinc.  Eating lean meat a couple of times a week is a great way to make sure your kids get plenty of these nutrients.

Nuts – fantastic sources of protein, fibre and vitamins. Great snacks for older children, although not appropriate for taking to school due to the risk for any children with nut allergies.

Overweight and obesity – current research shows that 23 per cent of primary school aged children are overweight or obese. If you are concerned about your child, speak with your GP and an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Probiotics – good bacteria to help keep the digestive system healthy.  Most useful to reduce the likelihood of antibiotic-induced diarrhoea. Whenever my children have a dose of antibiotics, I usually get some probiotic yoghurt and milk drinks to have daily for a couple of weeks.

Recipes – involve your children in cooking and planning family meals, and they will be more likely to eat the food. This is a win-win!

Sugar – naturally occurring sugar in fruit and milk is unlikely to be a concern in a child’s diet as they provide other important nutrients. Added sugar in foods (eg. biscuits, cakes) is something to watch out for, as sugar can be easily over-eaten – particularly by children.

Trans Fat – avoid as can increase cholesterol levels. Most often found in processed foods such as biscuits and pastries, fried foods and takeaways.

Underweight – less common than overweight, but can still be cause for concern. If you are worried about the weight of your child, please speak to your GP or an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Vegetables – very few of us eat enough vegetables. Children will typically model their eating from their parents. If there is one change you make to your families eating, then I would strongly encourage it to be eating more vegetables. This is a change you won’t regret!

Whole grains – choose whole grains instead of refined and processed grains to get more fibre and antioxidants.

Zinc – essential for normal growth and development in children. Good sources of zinc include lean meat, chicken, fish, lentils, nuts, seeds and wholegrain cereals.

For more information, head to Kate Bullen’s website www.dietitianonline.com.au

Meal sizes have increased and consequently our bodies are getting are consuming extra kilojoules that we usually don’t need. Take the quiz to see how switched on you are about knowing the right portion to eat?

Let’s look at portions and how much we eat. Have you noticed that portion sizes of food have increased over the last few decades? The size of a slice of white bread has increased by 11 per cent, blocks of chocolate are now readily available as 350g giant blocks while 10 years ago the standard block was 250g. Even the size of the standard dinner plate has increased! 

When eating out, there is often the option to upsize your takeaway coffee, smoothie or soft drink. Meal deals come with a soft drink and there are those ginormous buckets of popcorn at the movies – I don’t remember those when I was a kid!  Unfortunately what our bodies are getting is extra kilojoules that we usually don’t need.

Research out of America shows that it only takes an extra 82 kilojoules (about one-third of an apple) each day for us to gain one kilogram of fat each year.

Research out of America shows that it only takes an extra 82 kilojoules (about one-third of an apple) each day for us to gain one kilogram of fat each year. It all adds up!

It is easy to overdo food portions, so rather than avoiding the food, know your portions.

Here are a few quick quiz questions to help you get your portions right:

1. A serve of nuts is:

a) 10g

b) 30g

c) Unlimited as nuts contain good fats

2. A muffin bought from a shop can contain 10 teaspoons of sugar:

a) True

b) False

3. A 600ml bottle of regular soft drink has around 16 teaspoons of sugar and over 1000 kilojoules. This is equivalent to:

a) 3 Tim Tams

b) 3.5 whole apples

c) 1 cup of ice cream

d) All of the above

4. One serve of pasta or rice is:

a) One cup

b) Half a cup

c) Two cups

5. A serve of meat is:

a) About the size of a deck of cards

b) The size of your hand

c) The size of your foot

6. A serve of avocado is:

a) 1 whole avocado

b) ½ avocado

c) ¼ avocado

Nuts are a great source of healthy fat – but they are easy to overeat. Limit the amount of nuts to a small handful and bulk it up with some freshly popped corn or puffed rice.

Store bought or even packaged cakes and biscuits often contain as much sugar as you need for the entire day. Choose a healthier option such as a punnet of berries, a banana or even a plain wholegrain bread roll.

Soft drinks just don’t provide any value to our diet at all. They are high in sugar and kilojoules, and they are easy to drink too much of. Diet soft drinks are an option, but your health is going to thank you if you reach for a large water – still or sparkling. While on the subject of drinks, energy drinks, cordial, juice and sports drinks all fall into pretty much the same category as soft drink. They don’t offer any nutrition and can easily just add unnecessary extra sugar and kilojoules.

Pasta and rice are very easy to over serve. One cup – or about the size of a tennis ball – is one serve. Instead load your plate up with green leafy vegetables such as rocket, broccoli or spinach.

If you are cooking up a BBQ then this analogy of a meat serve is a good one to keep in mind – a deck of cards is all we need as a serve each day. Keep your meat trim and add flavour with marinades.

Avocado is a brilliant summer food – but it is easy to overeat. Certainly a fantastic choice and I would rather you chose avocado over soft drink, but always a good reminder that eating that one quarter of an avocado is a portion. And I quite like adding avocado to a greek salad – it’s a great flavour addition.

Here are a few tips to help control your portions:

– Share a meal – halve your meal when eating out and your portion will be much closer to what it should be. And you will save money – another bonus!

– Use a smaller plate – we eat with our eyes first. A smaller plate will look full, but you will be eating less.

– Skip second helpings – slow down your eating and be more mindful of when you are feeling full.

– Don’t finish everything on your plate – most of us have been brought up to eat everything served to us. Instead, eat slowly and stop when you are full.

Enjoy!

Meatballs

The meatballs are perfect in burgers or the next day as picnic food.

Ingredients:

  • 1kg lean beef mince
  • Ground pepper
  • 4 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon or honey mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon tabasco sauce
  • 2 egg yolks

Method:
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and make into balls.
Cook on a BBQ or frypan over medium high heat until browned and cooked through.

Greek Salad

Ingredients:

  • 6 firm ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cucumbers, chopped
  • 1 red capsicum, deseeded, chopped
  • 200g olives
  • 200g feta, chopped
  • 1 teaspoons dried oregano
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 30ml white vinegar

Method:

  1. Combine tomato, cucumber, capsicum, olives and feta in a bowl. Sprinkle with oregano.
  2. Whisk together the oil and vinegar. Drizzle salad with dressing and toss salad to combine. Serve immediately or place in fridge until ready to eat.

Quiz Question Answers: 1 b. 2a. 3d. 4a. 5a. 6c.

Take a trip to your local market to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables to improve your mental health and happiness. Fresh fruit and veggies contain important carbohydrates, B Vitamins and antioxidants and we can’t expect tablets to provide us with the same results.

Recent research from Australia and England measured 12,000 people’s happiness and wellbeing. The research focused on whether there were improvements in people’s wellbeing after eating more fruit and vegetables. People were asked a few questions about how often they ate fruit and vegetables and how much they ate. Two years later they were asked the same questions. The outcome was positive for those who had increased the amount of fruit and vegetables, resulting in increased happiness and wellbeing.

Why am I writing about food and happiness? We know mental illness is common. Around 20 per cent of Australians experience a mental illness in any year. Teenagers and young adults (18 to 24 year olds) are most likely to show signs of mental illness of any age group. If we can set up good eating habits now for our children, then this could help reduce and improve their happiness, and maybe improve their mental health.

Of course food is just one part of improving our mental health and happiness. There are many, many factors including genetics and where we live, for example, that also impact on our happiness. Exercise, getting out in the sunshine, fresh air and being with supportive friends, are all healthy strategies that we can encourage our children to do.

In Australia we have the ‘Go for 2 fruit and 5 veg’ campaign which aims to increase awareness of the need to eat more fruit and vegetables. The campaign also offers useful tips and strategies to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables we eat.

The research suggests that fruits and vegetables might impact on our mental health and happiness based on the following components that are in fruits and vegetables:

 

Fruits and vegetables with a low glycemic index release glucose in a slow and steady fashion which may help to regulate our moods and our happiness.

Carbohydrate type

We know that when we eat fruits and vegetables, our body releases insulin and causes the carbohydrate to be broken down into glucose. Our brain is then triggered to make important neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which can affect our mood. Fruits and vegetables with a low glycemic index release glucose in a slow and steady fashion which may help to regulate our moods and our happiness. Unlike highly processed food (think: lollies, cake, biscuits) which give that sugar hit that we can all relate to (think: kids just came home from a birthday party) usually results in a pretty big crash in mood. So, slow and steady wins the race.

B vitamins

Fruits and vegetables are great sources of B vitamins, including folate and vitamin B6. These two vitamins are again important in our brains making serotonin and other chemicals that affect mood.  Low levels of B vitamins may be linked to depression. As an aside, Vitamin B12 is also an important B group vitamin in helping making serotonin and other neurotransmitters. Vitamin B12 is not usually found in fruits and vegetables, but instead in fish, lean meat, eggs and dairy – so all food groups are important.

 

Take a trip to your fruit and vegetable market and stock up. Even better take your children with you and let them choose some of the fruits and vegetables.

Antioxidants

Research looking at antioxidant content in fruits and vegetables has increased over the last few decades. Vitamins C and E and other components such as phytochemicals, are all found in fruits and vegetables. It is thought that these types of antioxidants protect our body cells against damage and they may also reduce body inflammation, which has been linked to poor mental health.

I would like to emphasise the importance of eating fresh (or frozen, tinned) fruit and vegetables and not just taking a few multivitamins and antioxidant tablets. Not only are fruits and vegetables cheaper, but more and more the research is showing the importance of eating the whole food and we can’t just isolate certain components of food into a tablet and expect the same results. So, take a trip to your fruit and vegetable market and stock up. Even better take your children with you and let them choose some of the fruits and vegetables.

Low glycemic fruits and vegetables

Fruits: Apples, bananas, strawberries, kiwi fruit, oranges, berries (fresh or frozen, mango, pear

Vegetables: Sweetcorn, carrots, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, capsicum, celery, tomatoes, zucchini, snow peas, green beans, eggplant, mushrooms, avocadoes

Make a toastie with these delicious fruit and vegetable fillings:

  • Banana, ricotta cheese, sultanas and pinch cinnamon
  • Grated cheese, tomato, avocado
  • Baby spinach, avocado, cheese
  • Ham, cheese, pineapple
  • Baked beans, mushroom, cheese
  • Tinned tuna/salmon, cheese, sweetcorn
  • Chicken, coleslaw, cheese

Recipe – Chicken & vegetable kebabs

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

500g chicken breast fillets, sliced

1 cup of chopped vegetables per person (eg: mushroom, capsicum, cherry tomatoes, zucchini)

½ tsp ground coriander

¼ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp curry powder

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon fish sauce

Steamed rice to serve

Method:

1. Alternate vegetables and chicken onto skewers, place in shallow dish.

2. Combine coriander, cumin, curry powder, olive oil, brown sugar and fish sauce in bowl. Pour over skewers. Cover, refrigerate skewers for at least one hour.

3. Grill skewers until cooked. Serve with steamed rice.

Dietitian, Kate Bullen, provides a Survival Guide for keeping your family’s nutrition on track this Christmas.

Christmas is a time of holidays, celebration, relaxing and having fun. It is often also a time for over indulging, with many adults gaining a couple of kilograms from eating extra kilojoules. And it happens quickly – an extra rum ball here, an extra glass of champagne there and a couple of slices of camembert on water crackers and BAM! There is your extra couple of kilograms over a month.

Here are my five top tips to get you and your family through the Christmas holidays in the healthiest possible way:

Quality not quantity

This season mangoes are predicted to be expensive. Don’t let this stop you from buying this delicious fruit or other expensive fruits such as cherries. Cherries might be $15 per kilogram or more – but compare this to a block of chocolate at around $20 per kilogram and suddenly it is all put in perspective.

I like to consider quality when it comes to protein foods – as you often get what you pay for. Sausages may be liked by your children, but they are typically high in salt, fat and many other things when you look at the ingredient list. Instead choose seafood, lean meat or chicken without skin. Did you know that an average thick sausage contains around 1100kJ – the same as in 3 cups of prawns?

Christmas is also a time of buying a lot of food and it is easy to over-buy. Keep a check on this – the shops only shut for one day so there really is no need to stockpile anything. Remember – fresh is best! Even better plan your Christmas shopping in advance and shop online and avoid the chaos and queues.

Cherries might be $15 per kilogram or more – but compare this to a block of chocolate at around $20 per kilogram and suddenly it is all put in perspective.

More vegetables and fruit

Summer fruit is the best! Berries, stone fruit, melons – there are so many delicious options. And don’t forget about frozen options. I always have frozen raspberries and mangoes in the freezer to whip up some smoothies. And I chop and freeze those slightly overripe bananas – great instant ice cream when blended. Add some cocoa to make it choc-banana. Frozen grapes are another favourite in our house. Great on hot afternoons.

We live on salad in summer – so many greens to choose from. My children are not the biggest fans of lettuce or baby spinach, but I serve it up and ask them to at least try it. Increased exposure is key to expanding taste buds. No force feeding – it doesn’t work.

Try finding opportunities for extra vegetables. When getting out the cheese and biscuits, take a few extra minutes to chop up some vegetables and add some dip to go with it. Pre-chopped vegetables last for a good few days in the fridge – great to do ahead and save time. Fresh corn on the cob is another popular vegetable – so easy over summer and healthy

 

The shops only shut for one day so there really is no need to stockpile anything – remember, fresh is best!

Make it fun

We are all very visual in our eating – especially children. Add some fun by buying Christmas plates to enjoy summer meals on. Dinner with a Santa plate might just help get that extra serve of salad eaten by your children. Fresh air popped corn served in Christmas cupcake cases make it all that bit more special and appealing. A pop corn machine is a fantastic Christmas present I might add!

Stay cool

We have hot summers here in Australia and my children are loving having icy poles for breakfast – yes breakfast! Blend some oats, ripe banana, milk and freeze. Sometimes I blend some almonds and chia as well for a protein kick. Also great for our hot afternoons when everyone is getting a bit tired.

My children will often go to the freezer and get a plain ice block to suck on – instantly cooling and refreshing. So we now make some tasty fruit and vegetable blocks that they can enjoy. Current favourite combinations blended up are:

  • Strawberry & baby spinach
  • Avocado & coconut milk
  • Orange & carrot
  • Watermelon & raspberry
  • Blueberry & cucumber

I often make a batch of chocolate protein balls and keep them in the freezer. Such a tasty pick me up in the afternoon and the children love them – as do I!

Enjoy!

Everyone is busy at this time of year – so take some time for yourselves and your children to relax. Your bodies and your health will thank you!

Another important part of enjoying the festive season is to not deprive yourself. If you really enjoy Christmas stuffing then have some – just don’t eat all of it. Same with desserts – have some and don’t go back for seconds. Weight loss is probably not going to occur at this time of year, so instead aim for weight maintenance until Christmas is over. It is all about being realistic!

Deluxe Chia Puddings

(Serve 4)

1/3 cup chia seeds

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 can lite coconut cream

Chopped fruit to serve

Place chia seeds, maple syrup and coconut cream in a bowl and stir well. Cover and place in fridge overnight to thicken. Top with fruit.

Breakfast icy poles

(makes 4)

Green layer – ½ cup baby spinach & 1 kiwi fruit – blended with a handful of ice

Banana layer – ½ cup oats blended until fine, 1 banana, ½ cup milk – all blended with a handful of ice.

Put green layer into each icy pole mold. Place in freezer for 30 minutes. Add banana layer on top and return to freezer until solid.

 

 

Kate Bullen is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Mum to a seven year old, four year old and 18 month old. More information can be found at www.dietitianonline.com.au.