Last updated on Jun 23rd, 2021 at 03:47 pm

Without putting your child on a strict diet, it is important to be considerate of how many calories they eat as well as the fat content of their food…

Increasing childhood obesity numbers suggest that although children do not make the majority of their own food choices, their diets are contributing to bad health.

Anne-Marié De Beer, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Health and Wellness Manager at Nestlé, says checking the sugar content of snacks is just one of several important checks you should be doing.

READ MORE: Should children be eating snacks between meals?

Counting calories counts

Most South African food labels show Kilojoules instead of calories, but both are units of energy. There are a little over 4 KJs in a calorie.
Comparing the amount of energy in food with the nutritional density can help you make a better decision on whether the food is healthy or not. Foods that are high in calories or kilojoules and have a low nutritional value are likely packed with unhealthy ingredients like sugar and fats.

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“Look out for empty calorie snacks – these are normally high in sugar and or fat with very little or no additional nutrients such as vitamins and minerals or fibre,” says Anne-Marié.

Calories affect children in the same way they affect adults. An excess of calories contributes to weight gain while a calorie deficit contributes to weight loss.

READ MORE: Avoid estimating calories incorrectly

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Introduce a variety

Children, especially picky-eaters can end up with a dull and monotonous diet. Anne-Marié encourages parents to introduce variety into their children’s diets, especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables.

“Nutrition is key to ensure a child’s healthy development. Encouraging kids to eat more veggies and fruits, ensuring their meals are as nutritious as possible and incorporating diversified protein sources – including plant-based options – is very important, but can sometimes prove challenging for parents and caregivers. The reality is that most South Africans consume a monotonous diet with very little variety, especially when it comes to the consumption of fruit and vegetables. This contributes to obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure problems,” she says.

READ MORE: Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet for better heart health

Teach your children to make healthier choices

Parents can’t always be with their children 24/7. It is important to teach them to make the right choices for themselves not only by providing fun and healthy snacks at home but by teaching them what to look out for and how unhealthy choices can affect their health.

“Build skills – let the children be part of planning, shopping for and cooking of meals or preparing snacks,” says Anne-Marié. “Talk to your children about lower fat choices and stock the cupboard with lower-calorie choices such as raw vegetables, fruit, and milk,” she adds.


While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.