Healthy eating can improve children’s energy, sharpen their minds, and even control their moods. While peer pressure and TV commercials for junk food can make getting children to eat well seem impossible, there are steps you can take to instil healthy eating habits without turning mealtimes into a battle zone.
As a foster carer, a good basic understanding of the health needs of the children in your care is essential. Adopting a holistic approach enables a good balance of physical, nutritional and emotional/ mental health aspects of the child’s health. Dependent on religious beliefs, some foster carers must also consider the spiritual aspects of health.
Foster Carers work with children from a wide range of backgrounds where there has been disruption, loss or even abuse. Their life experiences will have a significant impact upon their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. So it is necessary to take a broad approach to health and consider this when considering health.
Foods can have an impact on stability and behaviour
There has been much research over the past 10 years into the nutritional values in food and whether this has an impact on the stability and behaviour of a child. It has been found that many foods can have an allergic reaction in children and some can also cause hyperactivity.
‘Good health’ is a vast topic, but when considering the health needs of fostered children, foster carers need to be clear in their understanding.
Children should eat a large variety of foods to get the required nutrition they need. Children’s appetite’s will often decrease and become pickier over the years as their growth rate slows so the actual amount of food that they eat is much less important than ‘what’ they eat, providing they are gaining weight and have a normal activity level..
Some nutrition tips to keep children healthy:
• Eat a variety of foods
• Balance the food you eat with physical activity
• Choose a diet low in sugars and salt
• Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol
• Choose a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables and fruits
• Choose a diet with sufficient calcium and iron
Below is a breakdown of the essential vitamins and minerals that children and young people need for different areas of growth:
Vitamin A is important for healthy skin and normal growth and it also helps vision and tissue repair. Vitamin A can be found in in yellow and orange vegetables, dairy products, and liver.
Vitamin B helps the body produce red blood cells and assists in metabolic activities. Vitamin B can be found in meat, poultry, fish, soy, milk, eggs, whole grains, and enriched breads and cereals.
Vitamin C helps the body to fight off infection, and it also strengthens tissue, muscles, and skin. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, brussel sprouts, spinach, and broccoli.
Vitamin D is good for strong teeth and bones and assists with the absorption of minerals such as calcium. Vitamin D is found in fortified dairy products and in fish oils. You can also get Vitamin D through the sunlight; the sunlight stimulates the vitamin, which naturally occurs in the skin, to become active in the body.
Iron is important for kids, especially during periods of accelerated growth. Iron contributes to the production of blood and the building of muscles. Beef, turkey, fish, beans, and fortified breads and cereals are excellent sources of iron.
Calcium is vital for healthy bones and teeth. If children do not consume sufficient calcium during childhood it can affect growth and development, and can also lead to weak, fragile, and porous bones (potentially leading to osteoporosis later in life). Calcium is found in low-fat milk, sardines, yoghurt, and cheese. It is also present in lesser amounts in vegetables such as broccoli.
By encouraging healthy eating habits now, you can make a huge impact on children’s lifelong relationship with food and give them the best opportunity to grow into healthy, confident adults.