The importance of healthy eating for the whole family

A healthy lifestyle for the whole family starts by adopting a few healthy habits that everyone can follow.

 Make time to serve nutritious, wholesome meals for the health of you and your family.

Cancer cases are on the rise, and many believe that this is because of bad lifestyle choices. You can reduce your family’s risk of contracting this dreaded disease by instilling healthy lifestyle habits and being a role model for good health that your children look up to.

You are what you eat

The benefits of exercise are not only to keep in shape; you and your family will have more energy, stamina, be happier, handle stress better, and see improvements in your hair and skin. Being overweight also increases your family’s chances of developing some cancers and other diseases like diabetes. Choose an activity you all enjoy and try to be active as a family whenever possible.

Include healthy carbs

Carbohydrates have an important role to play when eaten as part of a balanced diet. The good ones contain roughage to keep your family’s digestive system in peak condition and should be included with all meals. Some healthy carbohydrates your child should be eating with meals are:

  • Breakfast: bran flakes, muesli, oats
  • Lunch: wholewheat pasta, mealies, samp
  • Dinner: brown rice, potatoes with skin (sweet potatoes are even better)

The ‘five a day rule’

The ‘five a day rule’ is repeatedly stressed in so many healthy eating guides that you and your loved ones cannot afford to ignore it. The latest research shows fresh strawberries are amazing cancer fighters, and in communities where spinach is eaten daily, cancer rates are the lowest in the world. Fruit juice does count, but whole, fresh fruits eaten with their skin on are the best ways to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

Bananas are great breakfast accompaniments for stamina to last you through the day (tennis players and other sports players eat them during big matches) and fruit salad is a nutritious breakfast when you have the time to chop and peel.

Top tip: When your children have that afternoon blood sugar slump, rather encourage them to eat an apple instead of chocolate.

Salads and soups

Serve up plenty of salads in summer and vegetable-packed soups and stews in winter. Make sure your children get a variety of different colour vegetables in their diet.

A word on fish, red meat, and eggs

Red meat, although high in protein, is also high in animal fat and therefore cholesterol, so avoid serving it more than once or twice a week. Chicken and fish are healthier options and should be eaten in low-fat form.

Top tip: Fish is the ideal “brain food” so it’s a good idea to encourage your child to eat more fish.

Most kids love eggs, and they’re an easy meal option for parents on the go. Serve your child boiled, scrambled, or poached eggs.

Some tips for cooking chicken, meat, and fish:

  • Remove the skin and grill instead of frying.
  • Use lemon, herbs, chilies, garlic, and ginger instead of salt (processed meat, packet soups, and sauces contain lots of salt, so use these sparingly).

A word on being vegetarian

If you and your family follow a vegetarian diet, make sure you don’t forget the protein. Protein is essential for building and repairing cells, and fruit and vegetables alone can’t do the job. Nuts, dried beans, peas, and soya are a must for anyone following a vegetarian diet. Add them to your family’s meals in the following ways:

  • Breakfast: Soya products are available in the form of yogurts, milk, and custard.
  • Lunch: Baked beans on toast provide fibre, as well as protein.
  • Dinner: Soya mince is a great alternative for spaghetti bolognaise and burgers, and three-bean salads are great for providing your protein quota at a braai.

Top tip: Lentils and beans can be used in curries and stews. 

Encourage your child to drink more water

Water flushes toxins from your body hydrates your brain to prevent headaches, helps to maintain a healthy metabolism, aids your kidneys in ridding your body of acid, and even aids weight loss.

Good health at a glance

  1. Exercise daily, even if it’s just walking more.
  2. Maintain a healthy weight and try to stay within five kilograms of your ideal weight. Ensure the same for your children.
  3. Don’t smoke (not even in moderation).
  4. Don’t overdo the sun, and always wear sunscreen outdoors (even in winter).
  5. Make time to eat nutritious, wholesome meals as a family.