How to curb your child’s junk food holiday snacking according to a paediatric nutritionist.

During the school holidays the routine often starts to slip and it’s all too tempting to let convenience food creep in as a regular choice for meals and snacks.

The trouble with this is, while they might seem like the easy option in the short term, highly processed and sugary foods don’t fill anyone up for long. Blood sugar imbalances are the main cause of the mood swings and meltdowns that we’re all hoping to avoid – particularly during the holidays.

The best way to skip this scenario and survive the break with your sanity intact is by making sure you have a range of healthy snacks on hand at all times.

Stocking your fridge and pantry with plenty of nutritious food options means you’ll be ready before you even start to hear the inevitable “Mum, I’m hungry!” on repeat. And if you’re out and about, be sure to take healthy homemade treats with you so you never have to resort to using fast food to halt the hangry.

Below Paediatric Nutritionist, mother-of two-and author of Wholesome Child Mandy Sacher shares her simple tips to keep kids amused, happy and healthy over the holidays:

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Get the kids involved.

A great way to occupy your children over the school break is to get them busy in the kitchen with you. Most kids love spending this time with their parents, plus helping to prepare food means that they’re more likely to eat or at least try what they’ve created.

The rule in my house is that once the food is prepared we all have to taste it, but no one is forced to eat it if they don’t want to. Often one of my children will love something while the other rejects it – but because there are no expectations they still love to cook with me.

The healthy brownies you've been waiting for. Image: Supplied.

I think it’s a really important teaching and development tool combining one-on-one time and sensory play with something you would be doing anyway – plus there’s no better way to expand your child’s culinary repertoire than by getting them involved in meal preparation.

You might like to create this chocolate brownie recipe with a healthy twist, have a go at these easy peasy Japaneasy DIY sushi rolls or let your little one get involved with weighing ingredients, mixing and tasting one of the many simple and healthy recipes featured in my book Wholesome Child: A Complete Nutrition Guide and Cookbook.

Stock up on healthy snacks.

While a little bit of sweetness in your child’s diet is fine occasionally or as “a sometimes food”, if they start to associate the holidays with sugary snacks and are enjoying junk food-fuelled activities daily then it becomes problematic. Try removing triggers for eating such as boredom, offering filling protein-rich meals that curb the appetite rather than sugar-filled foods which stimulate and cause desire for more sweet foods.

A great way to steer your children towards healthy choices – or to make them think it’s their choice – is by creating personalised snack boxes that they can help themselves to during the holidays. Make a box for each child with their name on it and fill it with containers of popcorn cooked in coconut oil, bliss balls, veggie sticks, chopped fruit and homemade muesli bars. The children will love being in charge of their own snacks plus it means you don’t have to spend the whole time in the kitchen cutting up fruit and making sandwiches.

Quick holiday fixes:

The reason that the healthy eating routine can go out of the window is that the school holidays are exactly that – a break from the routine. If you find yourself in a new (but hopefully fun) situation, there’s no need to panic! Here are some handy suggestions to keep you and your family on the right nutritional track.

At the cinema...

Bring homemade popcorn and beetroot and spinach bliss balls or go with the movie popcorn but skip the soda and slushy. Or try a real food alternative such as sushi or a sourdough sandwich.

They call them bliss balls for a reason. Image: Supplied.

Picnics...

Get your kids to help out washing and packing veggies such as cherry tomatoes, baby carrots and cucumbers or sugar snap peas (no cutting required). Lamb Koftas and Mini Salmon Quiches are also perfect for picnics. If your family loves sandwiches, choose a wholegrain bread, a healthy protein such as chicken or fish, and pack it with heaps of veggies. Add some fresh fruit and you’re good to go.

Lamb koftas perfect for picnics. Image: Supplied.

Hitting the shops...

Make sure you pack a water bottle whenever you go shopping as a thirsty child is going to tempted by sugary fruit juice or cordial. Plus as thirst also mimics hunger, it won’t be long before they start asking for food so make sure you pack healthy snacks and try to fill their tummies with protein-rich, nutritious food before you leave the house.

Sleepovers...

Prepare a healthy homemade pyjama feast of Pizza, Sweet Potato Wedges and Raspberry & Pear Muffins – it’s the perfect excuse to stay indoors and bake and cook with your children, plus it will give you an activity to do in the rainy weather.

Delicious sweet potato pizza. Image: Supplied.

Going wild in the aisles...

At the grocery store, let your kids choose the fruit and vegetables – this encourages them to try new things and will help to build ongoing healthy eating habits. When selecting store-bought food, look for those with a short ingredient list that is easy to read. If there are more than a handful of items listed, many of which are numbers, it’s probably not a good choice. Also watch out for hidden sugars, high sodium levels (anything above 120mg/100g), GMOs and preservatives.

After sport...

Fill up your tuckered-out little champions with a slice of Wholesome Child Banana Bread which is rich in healthy fats, iron and protein or recharge their batteries with these high protein Peanut Butter Cookies which are a delicious substitute for sugar-laden versions.

Wholesome child banana bread. Image: Supplied.

Restaurants...

The children’s menu is often a junk food trap offering little nutritional value so unless you’re eating at a venue with a healthy kids’ selection. It’s best to order off the main menu and either split a meal between your children or share with your child. Choose a healthy protein option such as grilled, sautéed or baked meats, poultry and fish. Ask for burgers to be served on a wholegrain or sourdough bun and ensure that if ordering chips on the side, it’s a small portion – not an adult sized portion. Another great option is to ask for rice and salad instead of chips.

Road-trips...

If you have no option but to fill up on snacks at the gas station, opt for healthier treats such as dark chocolate buttons, nuts dipped in chocolate, raisins or sultanas dipped in chocolate, Banjo the Carob Bears, Nutra Organics Superfood Bars, gingerbread biscuits, mini trail mixes with chocolate buds or popcorn.

To learn more about Mandy Sacher please visit the Wholesome Child website. Her book “Wholesome Child: A Complete Nutrition Guide and Cookbook” is available to purchase online and through iTunes, and you can connect with Mandy on Instagram and Facebook.

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