Ensuring the right nutrition for children is a basic educational principle, particularly in Italy where nearly a quarter of children and teenagers are overweight and and12% of these are obese (ISTAT 2015 data).
It is also known that if this issue is found at school age it will continue into adulthood in 75% of cases. It is not always easy to put healthy eating rules into practice for children, particularly now when children's lifestyles have become more sedentary. However, by following some fundamental rules, a bit of creativity and common sense, not only the kids but also the whole family will benefit.
The main rule is to exchange information in a way that allows kids to participate and be involved as much as possible, so that parents and children are both able to promote their own current and future well-being.
With the collaboration of Professor Michele Carruba, Director of the Center for Studies and Research on Obesity of the University of Milan, we have put some clear rules together for children and, more importantly, for parents to follow.
Five meals should spread throughout the day: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner. No more or no less.
Education is most effective when children learn by example and are directly involved. When appropriately stimulated, they will become actively involved in changing their meals. Professor Carruba, suggests the following recommendations for parents:
If you have the chance to do so, take you children to a vegetable garden at least once, to show them how and where food comes from and how it reaches our table. Walk for at least an hour a day, drink lots of water... And let your children know!
A high protein food (such as milk or yogurt, but also light cheese, ricotta cheese or lean ham occasionally)
A carbohydrate food (such as bread, cereals, crisp bread, biscuits, a slice of plain cake, honey or jam)
A piece of fruit (or home-made juice)
The mid-morning snack should be a small portion of either :
A carbohydrate food
A fruit or a fruit drink
A carbohydrate dish
A protein dish
A cooked vegetable dish (which can be part of the carbohydrate or protein dish)
A raw vegetables salad
A piece of fruit
Fruit and milk smoothie
Bread with jam, honey, or tomatoes
Milk or a yogurt with cereals
A small cereal snack
A small slice of home-made cake
Milk with dried biscuits
Bread with chocolate bar pieces
A small portion of fruit ice cream
A cereal dish such as corn, rice, barley, spelt, pasta, couscous, preferably wholemeal and not already eaten at lunch.
Proteins not eaten during the day, such as fish or a small portion of cheese to accompany the cereal dish.
Cooked or raw vegetables.
A piece of fruit or dry fruit which is preferable to sweet desserts that should be avoided in the evening.