Encouraging healthy eating patterns in childhood already sets the stage for habits that will endure throughout life. Good nutrition affects children’s health and well-being throughout their development, from conception to adolescence. Children who eat well develop lively minds and strong, active bodies.
Including a variety of foods from all the food groups will give children the energy and nutrients they need. Here are some ideas:
- Offer plenty of vegetables and fruit every day and include beans and legumes (e.g. baked beans) in meals at least three times a week.
- To ensure sustained energy, make unrefined and minimally processed starchy foods part of most meals. These include wholegrain bread, cereals or porridge and root vegetables such as potatoes and sweet potatoes.
- Include milk, amasi or yoghurt in meals each day and use other dairy products such as cheese and flavoured milk to help children meet their calcium needs. Choose full-cream milk for children.
- Lean meat, fish, chicken, eggs or alternatives for meat, such as peanut butter or cheese, can be eaten daily.
Dairy: a source of essential nutrients for children
Dairy products are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet and help to improve overall nutrient status. Children and adolescents should have 3–4 servings of dairy every day.
- Milk and other dairy foods deliver a unique package of many nutrients important for children’s development. These include high-quality protein, minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and iodine, and vitamins A, B12 and B2.
- Dairy products contain vitamin B12, which contributes to good physical and cognitive development.
- During childhood and adolescence, bones need good-quality protein, calcium and vitamin D to become strong. Dairy products are considered the best dietary source of calcium and provide good-quality protein at the same time. With 20–30 minutes of sunshine per day children will get all the vitamin D they need.
- High-quality protein in milk and dairy foods contains many essential amino acids and many bioactive ingredients, which help children grow and develop strong, healthy muscle tissue.
- Many observational studies also suggest a positive link between dairy intake and dental health. Eating cheese and yoghurt particularly appears to help protect against dental caries in children.
Dairy is for everyone
There is a dairy product to suit everyone’s taste and dietary preferences. In fact, dairy complements most meals! Browse our recipe selection for easy mid-week meals and consider these tips to make dairy part of your family’s diet: https://www.rediscoverdairy.co.za/resources-and-tools-2/recipes/
- Add milk to cereal at breakfast.
- Make a fruit smoothie using fresh fruit, plain yoghurt and milk.
- Cheese and yoghurt are convenient snack options.
- Offer cold milk, flavoured milk or drinking yoghurt instead of cold drinks or energy drinks.
- Prepare sauces with milk or amasi or add them to soup.
- Stir smooth cottage cheese into soup or mashed potatoes.
- Spread cottage cheese on wholewheat bread or rolls as part of a tasty sandwich filling.
- Make a healthy snack platter with fresh vegetables, fruit and cubes of cheese.