Nutritional balance for the whole family
by Caring Cooks
It can sometimes feel like an uphill battle trying to please every member of the family at each meal, let alone trying to consider whether you are achieving optimum nutritional balance for the whole team. That’s why we have come up with a few failsafe suggestions to help you to achieve a healthy balanced diet for adults and children alike, without too much extra effort.
The amount of information out there about the best ways to stay slim, stay young, ward off ill health and ensure your children grow up to be healthy and strong is daunting and often overwhelming. It is hard to know which of the latest reports to adhere to. With advocates of paleo diets, vegan diets, fasting diets and many more appearing in the media daily – how do you know which one to choose?
It is our opinion that if you maintain a balanced diet that is low in processed ingredients and high in a variety of natural wholefoods, you can’t go far wrong. To quote Michael Pollan, an inspirational food writer and campaigner:
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”
Here are our top tips for keeping the whole family in good health:
- Aim to keep blood sugar stable. This means avoiding sugary snacks between meals which causes insulin to rise quickly and energy levels to crash soon afterwards. Long term, these insulin spikes can cause health issues and day to day can leave you feeling lethargic and hungry. Nut butter, oatcakes, cheese, vegetable crudites and low sugar flapjacks are all good snacking options to minimise those spikes.
- Breakfast. Make breakfast part of everyone’s daily routine but try to avoid high sugar, processed cereal. Including some protein is a good way to feel fuller for longer and maintain energy levels. Eggs and lean meats are a great choice, as are nut butters and porridge or overnight oats with Greek yoghurt.
- Treats. What is life without a few treats? The trick is to keep treats occasional and homemade wherever possible. Junk food isn’t off limits but try to cut it out of a daily routine and enjoy occasionally!
- Hydration. Drink lots of water. Failing to consume enough liquid affects your body both physically and mentally. You may feel more lethargic, less able to concentrate, you might find exercise more difficult and could even experience symptoms such as headaches and constipation. Eight glasses a day is common guidance but that may not be the optimum amount for you. Keep a glass or bottle of water topped up by your side during the day and see if you can feel the difference when you drink more. Children are not always keen to drink water but sweet drinks are a poor alternative, containing empty calories and sugars that are harmful to teeth.
- Portion control. One of the easiest ways to ensure that you are all consuming the right amount of food is to roughly monitor portion control. You may be surprised how little children need to eat according to government guidance. One way of monitoring portion size is by using your palm as a guide. Experts suggest that your palm is a good indicator of your body size and therefore of the quantity of food you need, why not give this a try at each meal:
- Carbs and fruit = the size of your fist
- Protein = the size of your palm
- Cheese and nuts = the size of your thumb
- Fats = the size of your fingertips
- Veg = the size of your hand
- Cooking from scratch. The best way to ensure that your meals contain only natural food is to cook from scratch wherever possible. This doesn’t have to be elaborate meals, but simply meals put together from wholefoods without hidden sugar, salt, fats and preservatives. This could include a simple pasta sauce, omelette or jacket potato if you are short of time or ingredients. A good rule of thumb is “don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food!”
- Rainbow plates. Making your meals as colourful as possible is a fool proof way of ensuring that you provide a wide range of nutrients to the whole family.
- Sit down as a family. Sitting down together as a family encourages adults and children alike to engage in conversation, gives you a great chance to interact and talk about the food and enjoy it together. Eating together can help to garner healthy relationships with food.
- Carbohydrates. Carbs are often demonised in the media but as long as the right type of carbs are consumed in moderation, they are essential for healthy functioning of the body. Vegetables, fruit, wholegrains and legumes are the best choices for the whole family.
- Dairy. Dairy is another controversialfood group but on the whole, science suggests that unless you are intolerant to dairy, it is beneficial to your diet, particularly for children who rely on calcium intake to develop good bone density.
- Fats. The right type of fats are essential for your body and in fact avoiding fat can be detrimental to health. Good fats include nuts, seeds, oily fish, cold pressed plant oils and avocados. Including small amounts of these fats in each meal is good for brain development, nerve tissue and your hormones – the messenger systems of our body.
- Protein. Protein plays a vital role in our body. It builds muscles and helps recovery after exercise, as well as helping us to feel full after a meal and energised for longer periods of time. Meat, fish and eggs are good sources of protein but vegetarians and vegans can also access excellent sources of protein via foods such as tofu, lentils, beans and soya.
- And of course… a healthy school lunch. We may be biased but we truly believe that a hot nutritious meal at lunchtime can be beneficial for children in so many ways. Eating with friends at school is a brilliant way to promote the sharing of meals in a social environment and can encourage children to try new foods, if they see their peers doing so. Caring Cooks ensure that the meals we serve are well balanced and contain the important food groups that help fuel children through the afternoon.
About Caring Cooks
We are a local not for profit organisation enabling children and families in Jersey to access nutritious food at home, at school and in the community.
Caring Cooks of Jersey was founded in February 2014 by one Mum’s kind gesture to cook a meal once a week, for a family who were struggling either financially or through illness, to ensure that they could sit down to eat a nutritional home cooked meal and spend quality time together.
Becoming more aware of families struggling to feed their children with home cooked, and healthy food due to long working hours, financial struggles and separation, we developed our Weekly Meal Service, bringing together a network of Islanders who also wanted to help to deliver the service, through referrals from the partners we work with in the Island.
Cooking skills used to be passed down from generation to generation, but this trend has been broken and now there is a genuine skills gap around food preparation and healthy eating. So in 2015, we launched our Community Cooking Programme which has been developed to directly give parents the skills and confidence to encourage them into the kitchen to prepare and cook healthy meals from scratch for their family.
We are now a Jersey charity and registered NPO and we specifically support families with children of school age, as we strongly believe that food and nutrition from the weaning stage right through a child’s life is very important and we want to support parents in making that a part of daily life.
All of our services are free of charge to families and are funded by charitable donations.