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Nutrition for your primary-school child

Primary-school children are not only busy with classes and sport; they’re also still growing. And that’s why you need to provide the best nutrition possible during these formative years.

One small thing: For school lunches, pack foods that cover all the important food groups to ensure your child is getting the nutrients they need. This includes proteins, carbs, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and calcium-rich foods.

Eating a balanced diet is important for all of us, but even more so for the primary-school child who is still growing and developing. Children between the ages of six and 13 should be eating frequent, healthy meals throughout the day.

Why children need to eat healthily

The dietary needs of young children are important for two reasons: they need enough energy to last them during their school day and they require proper nutrition for growth and development. To begin with, it’s important to instil in them a healthy attitude towards food.

Developing healthy eating habits in children

Encouraging good eating habits from an early age sets children up to develop a healthy attitude to and relationship with food for life. But, as parents, you need to take the lead:

  • Set a good example by eating a balanced diet yourself.
  • Make time for meals when the family sits down together.
  • Encourage an active lifestyle.
  • Involve your children when preparing food, packing lunches and grocery shopping.
  • Trust your child’s appetite – small children are often not hungry and tend not to overeat.
Pack a healthy school lunch

Because children need to concentrate in class and have enough energy for after-school activities, frequent meals during the day are important. Here’s what you can pack for them:

  • Bite-size portions of fruit and veggies.
  • Wholegrain sandwiches with a protein-rich filling, such as chicken or tuna mayonnaise.
  • Flavoured milks and drinking yoghurts, which are loaded with calcium.
  • Popcorn – a tasty snack with fibre.
  • Avoid snacks high in sugar and sodium, such as crisps, biscuits and chocolate.
Encourage a healthy diet for the picky eater

It’s important that your child eats a bit of everything – healthy fats, protein, vegetables, fruit and calcium-rich foods. But picky palates and small appetites often get in the way. Here are some tips to help with picky eaters:

  • Stick to a set routine for mealtimes and snacks.
  • Sneak veggies into food by finely grating carrots and baby marrow into casseroles or a savoury muffin mix.
  • Don’t use desserts as an encouragement or reward for eating healthy food.
  • Fun foods such as mini-burgers and fish fingers are rich in protein and make great bite-sized snacks.

If you’re concerned that your fussy eater isn’t getting a balanced, healthy diet, speak to a registered dietitian for advice.

If you have a question for our dietitians, click here, or to find a dietitian in your area, visit adsa.org.za. To get in touch with us, email healthhotline@pnp.co.za.

References:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/nutrition-for-kids/art-20049335