Tips to help your child eat well and be active

Children learn best by example.  The tips below work just as well for adults – so why not give them a go as a family. 

Snack check

Many snacks are full of sugar, salt, fat and calories.

  • Keep count – you may be surprised how many sweets, crisps, biscuits and cakes your child eats in a day.
  • Cut down on top shelf foods (chocolate, biscuits, cakes, crisps and other savoury snacks, ice cream, sugary drinks and foods like sausage rolls, chips, pizzas and most takeaways).  Allow them occasionally, not every day.
  • Don’t use these foods as rewards – find different ways to reward your child, for example stickers or a trip to the park.
  • Don’t forget that sometimes it is kinder to say no.

Sugar swap

Swap sugary snacks and drinks for ones that are lower in sugar.  It can make a big difference to calorie intake – and it is better for their teeth too.

  • snacktime – fresh fruit and vegetables such as apple slices, carrot stick, baby tomatoes, bananas or bread sticks.
  • drinks – water, semi-skimmed milk or diluted fresh fruit juice.
  • breakfast – lower sugar cereals, fruit or toast.

Me-size meals

Make sure children get just the right amount for their age – not too little and not too much.

  • Give them a portion that matches their size not the same amount of food as you.
  • Give smaller portions to begin with then let them ask for more if they are still hungry.
  • Don’t pressure them to eat all the food on their plate if they’re full up.
  • When eating out, ask for kid-size portions.

Cut back on fat

We all know too much fat is bad for us, but it’s not always easy to know how to cut it out.

  • Cut down on top shelf foods (chocolate, biscuits, cakes, crisps and other savoury snacks, ice cream, sugary drinks and foods like sausage rolls, chips, pizzas and most takeaways).  Allow them occasionally, not every day.
  • Grill or bake food in the oven rather than frying.  This will help cut fat content by as much as two-thirds.
  • Trim off any fat you can see from meat before cooking it.  Take the skin off turkey or chicken.
  • Drain fat from meat after cooking.

Get up and about

Today’s way of life means most of us spend too long sitting down.  These tips go for adults too.

  • Encourage your child to be active during their free time.
  • Try not to sit or lounge about for more than 30 minutes at a time.
  • Limit the amount of time your child can sit in front of a screen – TV/computer/tablet/phone.  Set daily and weekly limits.
  • Get them running around after school, when the evenings are dark early allow some time for play before homework.
  • Don’t let the weather interfere – swap outdoor activities for indoor ones or wear suitable clothing.

60 active minutes a day

It’s not all about sport, running around and having active fun counts too.  Children are naturally active so any activity counts towards their 60 minutes.  Encourage:

  • active play every day, try games such as hopscotch, hide and seek, dancing to music, cycling, tag or skipping.
  • active treats for example a trip to the park, playground or swimming pool.
  • active travel, get them off the bus and out of the car.  If it’s walkable, walk it or cycle.
  • organised activities such as hurling, football, karate, dance and many others
    • allow your child to explore different activities so they find out what they like, and
    • include a variety of activities so getting more active doesn’t become a chore.

Use the resources below to help you and your family make the important changes to help you eat well and move more.

Eat Smart Move More booklet  https://www.healthpromotion.ie/hp-files/docs/HPM00835.pdf

Reward Chart  https://www.healthpromotion.ie/hp-files/docs/HPM00835RC.pdf

Healthy lunchbox leaflet  https://www.healthpromotion.ie/hp-files/docs/HPM00885.pdf

Healthy eating - what’s in it 4 me? – guide for teenagers and young people https://www.healthpromotion.ie/hp-files/docs/HPM00543.pdf

Your childs weight – a guide for preventing childhood obesity https://www.healthpromotion.ie/hp-files/docs/HPM000851.pdf

Guide for parents on communicating with your child about a healthy weight https://www.healthpromotion.ie/hp-files/docs/HPM00944.pdf

Visit www.healthpromotion.ie/publications to order hard copies of resources where available.