Friday, March 18, 2011

Information | Establish good dietary lifestyle early

This past week, I had the pleasure of going into my daughter's kindergarten class to discuss healthy eating with her classmates.

There was plenty of energy and excitement around the room and I felt like a rock star when I left.

But then, smoothies and fruit with dip are always a hit with the under-six crowd.

Helping children understand why their little bodies need healthy food can be challenging and I am very careful to not demonize less than healthy foods lest I trigger some food issue later in life. Developing healthy eating habits early will lead our children to a healthier adulthood and all the grown-ups around them have to join in the effort.

Schools around the world are wrestling with food policies that will enable them to deliver healthy food to children while still being fiscally responsible. I have the honour of working with the Calgary Board of Education on healthy eating policies and initiatives and it is a daunting task.

What, after all, is healthy food when there are so many definitions and interpretations? Add in religious, health and economic issues and it gets even more complicated.

For example, when I go out to talk to a school group, I have to consider food allergies, intolerances and dietary restrictions if I'm bringing a treat.

So, Jell-O fingers may sound like a good idea, but as gelatin is derived from animals, I might need to find a halal or even vegetarian option so that all the children can enjoy the treat and not feel left out. I also have to ensure that ingredients for the take-home recipes are accessible to all students regardless of geography and economic means. If they can't recreate it when they get home, then the learning is lost.

What amazes me most is how open-minded young people are; they do want to talk and learn about food. While a five-year-old may not care abut a food's glycemic index or how an animal was dispatched, she knows that food is important for survival and may also have a sense that what we eat is part of who we are.

My daughter does not really understand why her friend next door doesn't eat pork or regular marshmallows, but she does know that we need to have halal snacks on hand if her friend is to enjoy afternoon tea at our house.

Healthy eating doesn't have to be difficult and, as an example, I have included our recipe for Apricot and Banana Squares. They are a great snack for a quick pick-me-up and they freeze well.

There is oat bran, which is a good source of fibre and other essential nutrients, in this recipe. The apricots and bananas let us check off another selection from Canada's Food Guide, and the macadamia nuts make a nice change from the ubiquitous walnut-banana pairing in so many recipes.

I encourage you to have conversations with the young people in your life about healthy food choices. Canada's Food Guide (easy to find on the Internet) is a good place to start, but you have to make sure children understand what it means beyond the colour coding and pretty pictures. We can't just assume they understand why making healthy choices matters.

The more we talk about food with our kids, the more we raise smart eaters.

Courtesy By:Business Journal

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