Guidelines to a healthy diet for your 1st grader

A healthy lunchbox is the best way to ensure your 1st grader get all the nutrients they need for school.
A healthy lunchbox is the best way to ensure your 1st grader get all the nutrients they need for school.

First grade is a year of firsts and besides reading and writing it’s also the perfect time to learn healthy eating habits. While proper nutrition matters at any age, it’s especially important to lay a firm foundation for learning when a child is young.

Essential nutrients allow the brain to function day-to-day and therefore also influences our cognitive ability and mental performance, according to Danone . The basis of a well-functioning brain already starts very early in life, even before birth, and nutrient intake has a great influence on your child’s development.

So, the best way you can help your 1st grader while they’re at school is by stocking their lunchboxes with nutrient-rich foods that will promote their growth. Here are some guidelines to what your youngster needs to eat to boost their cognitive and physical development.

1. Vary the dairy

Your 1st grader should be according to the South African Paediatric Food Based Dietary Guideline, children should have milk, maas or yoghurt every day, because dairy contains several important nutrients such as calcium, protein, iodine, potassium, phosphorus and vitamins B2 and B12.

So what counts as a serving? For milk or maas yoghurt it's 250ml (1 cup). For added interest, add pieces of fruit into it, serve it chilled and in an attractive glass. Yoghurts are versatile snacks and desserts too. 

2. Slow down the sugar 

Many foods that contain added sugars also contain lots of calories but often have few other nutrients. Eating these foods frequently not only contributes to weight gain, but will only boost your child’s brain performance for a short sprint, according to a study by the Physiology and Behaviour Journal. Look for healthier alternatives to treats that are high in sugar. Some yoghurts like Nutriday have 7g or less added sugar per 100g, and yoghurts are also a low Glycaemic Index Food, that is slowly digested.

3. Care for their carbs 

Although sugar isn’t great, kids shouldn’t shy away from other carbs as they are still the body’s most important source of energy. They help a child's body to use fat and protein for building and repairing tissue. Carbohydrates come in several different forms (sugars, starches, and fibre) so it’s easy to include it in your child’s lunchbox daily through bread, cereal, rice, cracker, pasta or potatoes

3. Pack in the protein

Protein helps a child's body build cells, break down food into energy, fight infection, and carry oxygen, according to the Nemours Foundation. Foods that contain high levels of protein include meat, poultry, fish and eggs. Nuts, beans and dairy products are also excellent sources of protein that go well in lunchboxes. 

4. Vouch for Vitamins

Vitamins are the little soldiers in a child’s diet From vitamin A that helps with growth and sight to vitamin C that fights colds and holds the body’s cells together, they are the ultimate supplement to a healthy diet for school. Vegetables like broccoli, carrots and sweet potatoes are great for snacking while fruits like oranges and naartjies are easy to pack. Dried fruits also pack some punches when it comes to fibre, according to BBC Good Food

The Nutrient Rich Foods (NRF) Index, a system of ranking foods according to their nutritional content validated in the USA, places milk and yoghurt as the second most nutrient dense group of foods, behind vegetables and fruit. Besides looking to fruits and veggies for vitamins, some other school snacks like Nutriday have as many as 11 added vitamins to boost your child’s diet and keep them strong every day 

5. Always win with water

The easiest, healthiest and most affordable drink for school is simply water (winning!). Water helps control your body temperature, carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, cushions joints, protects organs and helps to remove wastes. Make sure your child drinks at least 1l of water a day. 

To encourage healthy living for you and your 1st grader, Danone’s “One Health. One Planet” vision is calling 1 Million South African moms to sign the Pledge for Healthy Change to make sure that their families are living healthy and nutritious lives.

The pledge is simple:

1. Eat breakfast every day.

2. Eat more vegetables and fruit every day.

3. Have milk, maas or yoghurt every day.

4. Drink more water every day.

5. Move more every day.

 Check out the pledge here and lay the foundation for a healthy life for your youngster. 

This post is sponsored by Danone produced by Brandstudio24 for Health24.

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