Good nutrition affects children’s health and well-being throughout their development, from the time of conception right up to adolescence. Encouraging healthy eating and exercise patterns in childhood already sets the stage for habits that will endure throughout their life.
The key to health
Registered dietitian at Rediscover Dairy, Maretha Vermaak, says: “Eating well helps children develop lively minds and strong, active bodies, improving their ability to listen and concentrate.’ A healthy eating pattern includes a variety of foods across all the food groups.”
Consider these guidelines to give children the energy and nutrients they need:
- Offer plenty of vegetables and fruit every day and include beans and legumes in meals at least three times a week.
- Make unrefined and minimally processed starchy foods part of most meals to ensure sustained energy. These include wholegrain bread, cereals or porridge and root vegetables such as potatoes and sweet potatoes.
- Include milk, amasi or yoghurt in every day’s meals and use other dairy products such as cheese and flavoured milk to help children meet their calcium needs.
- Lean meat, fish, chicken, eggs or meat alternatives 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, helping to improve our overall nutrient status. Health authorities across the world recommend daily consumption of milk and dairy products during all life stages. Children and adolescents specifically are encouraged to 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.
- Having dairy products also contributes to good physical and cognitive development, keeping healthy and establishing good eating habits for life.
- During childhood and adolescence, bones need high-quality protein and calcium to become strong. Dairy products such as milk, amasi, yoghurt and cheese are naturally rich in both these nutrients.
- High-quality protein in milk and dairy foods contains many essential amino acids and bioactive ingredients, which help children grow and develop strong, healthy muscle tissue.
Dairy is for everyone
There is a dairy product to suit everyone’s taste and dietary preferences. Here are some easy tips for making 3 servings of dairy part of your family’s daily diet:
- Have cereal with milk or flavoured milk at breakfast.
- Make a fruit smoothie using fresh fruit, yoghurt and milk.
- Cheese and yoghurt are convenient snack options.
- Have 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.
- Enjoy fresh fruit together with cubes of cheese.