Have School-Aged Children At Home? 12 Tips For A Balanced Diet

Parenting school-going kids can be both rewarding and challenging. As children enter their school years, they undergo significant physical and cognitive development, requiring proper nutrition to support their growth and learning. 

Amidst the busy schedules and juggling various responsibilities, it becomes increasingly challenging for parents to ensure their children maintain a balanced diet. However, understanding the importance of mindful eating during this crucial stage of development is essential for their overall well-being and academic performance. 

According to a study in Nutrition Reviews, Volume 81 “After the first 1000 days, the school-age years represent the most dynamic period of change in somatic and cognitive development before an individual reaches maturity, with multiple changes and inflection points in growth and development trajectories.” A lot of that cognitive development as well as physical well-being is based on the diet they follow.

A balanced diet is crucial for children aged 5 to 12 as it provides the necessary nutrients for their growth, development, and overall health. During this age range, kids are constantly growing, and their bodies require a wide variety of nutrients to support their physical and cognitive development. 

Here are 12 tips to create a balanced diet for school-age kids:

  1. Fruits and Vegetables: These should form the foundation of a child's diet. Encourage a colourful assortment of fruits and vegetables, as they provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Aim for at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Include options like apples, bananas, oranges, berries, carrots, broccoli, spinach, and sweet potatoes.
  2. Proteins: Protein is crucial for growth and tissue repair. Incorporate lean sources of protein into meals, such as chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, tofu, and dairy products like yoghurt and cheese. Protein should be included in every meal, but the portion sizes should be age-appropriate.
  3. Whole Grains: Opt for whole grains over refined grains to provide sustained energy and essential nutrients. Whole grain options include whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, oats, and whole grain pasta. These help in maintaining stable blood sugar levels and provide dietary fibre for healthy digestion.
  4. Dairy or Alternatives: Dairy products are rich in calcium, which is essential for bone health. Include low-fat or non-fat milk, yoghurt, and cheese in the diet. For children with lactose intolerance or those who prefer plant-based options, consider fortified alternatives like soy milk or almond milk.
  5. Healthy Fats: Healthy fats are essential for brain development and overall health. Include sources such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil in the diet. However, keep portion sizes in check, as fats are calorie-dense.

  1. Limit Added Sugars: Minimise the intake of added sugars, such as those found in sugary snacks, desserts, and sweetened beverages. These provide empty calories and can lead to dental issues and unhealthy weight gain.
  2. Hydration: Encourage children to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Limit the consumption of sugary drinks like soda and fruit juices, as they contribute to unnecessary calorie intake.
  3. Snack Smartly: Choose healthy snacks like fresh fruits, cut vegetables, whole-grain crackers, nuts, or yoghurt. Avoid relying on processed and unhealthy snacks, such as chips and cookies.
  4. Portion Control: Pay attention to portion sizes to avoid overeating. Children have smaller stomachs, so it's essential to serve appropriate amounts of food.
  5. Family Meals: Whenever possible, try to have family meals together. Eating as a family can encourage healthier eating habits and provide an opportunity for bonding.
  6. Limit Processed Foods: Processed foods are often high in unhealthy fats, sodium, and additives. Minimise their consumption and opt for fresh, whole foods as much as possible.
  7. Be a Role Model: Set a good example by practising healthy eating habits yourself. Children are more likely to adopt healthy behaviours when they see their parents and caregivers doing the same.