Proper nutrition is crucial to performance

“Making sure your children have the proper nutrition is crucial to their performance both in the classroom and on the sports field,” says nutritionist and fitness expert Dawn Thelen.

“As a parent, you have to first and foremost be educated about food. This will empower you to make good decisions and stick to them.”

She shares that as a rule of thumb plates should always contain a complex carb, lots of veggies, a protein, some ‘healthy’ fat, such as avocado or fatty fish. Half of your child’s plate should be filled with veggies. Fruits should ideally be eaten earlier in the daytime due to the easily digestible, energy-giving carbohydrates they contain.

Always make sure your kids’ snacks are whole, real foods such as veggies, fruits and nuts rather than the packaged snacks that come with a long list of chemical ingredients. “If an item that you are feeding your family contains ingredients that you cannot pronounce or do not know what it is, then you should eliminate it from their diet,” she adds.

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Thelen shares her top five tips for making mealtimes fun and healthy:

1. Select and make meals together

Turn mealtime into something the whole family can participate in and enjoy. Take your children with you to the grocery store or local farmers market and have them select a vegetable from the produce section that looks interesting. Then go home and find a recipe and prepare the dish together. You will be amazed by how much fun kids have in the kitchen when they feel like they’ve been a part of the process.

Turn mealtime into something the whole family can participate in and enjoy

2. Encourage your kids to ‘eat the rainbow’

Have your children pick out fruits and vegetables of various colours and then recreate a rainbow of coloured foods on their plate. Another option would be to assign a colour to each day of the week, create a colour poster and hang it on the fridge. The goal is for your child to pick out a fresh fruit and veggie of that colour to have with their meals that day. For instance:

  • Monday can be red (apple, berries, watermelon, red pepper, radish, tomato)
  • Tuesday can be orange (mango, spanspek, papaya, orange, persimmon, apricot, peach, pumpkin, carrot, orange pepper, sweet potato)
  • Wednesday can be green (pear, kiwi, apple, avocado, celery, cucumber, kale and all leafy greens, fresh herbs, baby marrow, green beans, peas, broccoli, lettuce)
  • Thursday can be purple (plum, grape, berries, figs, purple cabbage, egg-plant, beetroot, purple lettuce)
  • Friday can be yellow (banana, yellow watermelon, yellow pear, yellow apple, yellow pepper, squash, corn-on-the-cob)

Include a fruit and vegetable with every meal. Make Saturday and Sunday ‘free-colour days’, where the kids choose the colour.

3. Add flavour!

Test out different seasonings to help make foods taste better. Various fresh herbs, spices, nuts and seeds can turn a raw veggie into something rich and flavourful.

Keep the fridge and pantry stocked with ready-to-eat healthy foods for the entire family

4. Stock up on the good stuff

Keep the fridge and pantry stocked with ready-to-eat healthy foods for the entire family, that way, when they are hungry and want a snack, there will be an array of nutritious choices for them to enjoy.

5. Take a cooking class

Often people fail in the nutrition department because they cannot cook. Go online and check out local establishments that offer cooking classes and attend the classes as a family. If money or time is an issue, look up some cooking videos on YouTube and learn to cook in the comfort of your own kitchen.

It’s vital to create a positive impression on children when it comes to your lifestyle and eating habits

Kids are a sponge for information and learning, and what better way to encourage that than in the kitchen? Learning proper nutrition starts at an early age and more often than not, the child will mimic the behaviour of the parents when it comes to decision-making in the grocery store and the kitchen. That’s why it is vital to create a positive impression on children when it comes to your lifestyle and eating habits.

More about Dawn Thelen

Born and raised in Illinois, Thelen lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee with her husband and two rescue Greyhound dogs, Roopert and Cooper. She has been coaching in both the fitness and nutrition arenas for 20 years and offers custom-built nutrition programs tailored to clients’ individual goals, time constraints and diet preferences. She also provides custom-built fitness programs tailored to assist in reaching fitness and physical goals, working with any injuries, physical challenges and time frames. Her services are offered online to a global network. Visit her website at www.dawnthelenfitness.com

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.