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The Nutrition Centre

Five ways to keep your children healthy - Go For Grains

Teaching children to recognise, choose and enjoy the wide range of grain-based foods and encouraging more activity can help them stay fit and healthy and reduce their risk of serious diseases later in life, according to Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Trish Griffiths.

"Too many Australian children have a lifestyle and diet which increases their risk of developing obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and rates of these diseases are soaring" said Trish Griffiths, Manager of Go Grains. "Many of the major risk factors can begin in childhood and with one in five children either overweight or obese, and a similar number physically inactive, it is time for parents to act.

"Parents are vital role models to encourage healthy eating and regular physical activity," said Trish Griffiths. So, what should parents do? Trish Griffiths has five suggestions.

1. Teach your children to identify and enjoy healthy foods, including those made from grains and pulses

 - like bread, breakfast cereals, rice, porridge, pasta, noodles, couscous, corn, popcorn, crispbreads, cereal-based snack bars, English muffins and baked beans.

Food habits developed in childhood will continue into later life, so making sure children eat plenty of nutritious, grain-based foods means they will have lots of energy-giving carbohydrates, fibre to keep them regular, protein for strong, growing bodies, vitamins and minerals for good health and small amounts of healthy unsaturated fat.

2. Plan family meals and snacks with plenty of 'health promoting' foods made from cereal grains and pulses, along with lots of fruits and vegetables.

Wholegrain foods - like wholemeal or mixed grain bread, brown rice, corn on the cob, wholegrain breakfast cereals and oats - can protect against diseases like heart disease, diabetes and some cancers later in life. Just one or two serves of wholegrain foods each day offer some protection. Pulses like soy and chickpeas can also reduce the risk of heart disease.

3. Know how much fibre your child needs and how many serves of grain foods they should eat each day.

An easy way to calculate fibre needs is to add 10 to your child's age, so a four-year old needs 4 + 10 = 14grams of fibre each day.

Every day 4 to 7 year-olds should eat between three and seven serves of grain-based foods while 8 to 11 year-olds needs between four and nine serves. One serve is:

  • two slices of bread,

  • one cup of cooked rice, pasta or noodles,

  • one cup of cooked porridge,

  • 1 1/3 cups of flaked breakfast cereal, 6-8 crispbreads.

    For example, a six-year-old child could eat cereal for breakfast, a cereal-based nutritious snack bar for morning tea, a sandwich and an apple for lunch, a toasted English muffin (preferably wholemeal or mixed grain) after school, and pasta or noodles for dinner to meet their fibre and grain requirements.

4. Keep your children a healthy weight by including plenty of carbohydrates from grain foods in their diets

- they'll have all the energy they need to grow and be more active.

Carbohydrates from grain foods provide the energy kids need for school, sport and having fun. Children who eat breakfast perform best at school - toast and cereal is an excellent way to start the day, plus it's quick and easy for them to prepare by themselves. Healthy snacks between meals, like bread, crispbreads, cereal-based snack bars and quick noodles or rice help children meet their energy and nutrient needs. But remember, while grain foods like bread and pasta are not fattening, what you put on them may be.

5. Enjoy meals and be active together.

Children follow their parents' behaviour, so enjoy healthy meals and snacks together and do some family activities.

When everyone is busy, it's easy to just grab some take-away, but 'fast food' is often high in fat and salt. 'Fast food' made at home - try pasta or stir-fry noodles - is quick and usually much healthier. Preparing food and eating together is good for everyone and choosing plenty of grain-based foods and pulses, plus fruit and vegetables, helps everyone watch their weight.

Making the right food choices is important for staying healthy, but so is doing enough physical activity. Rather than drive to the game, can you all walk there instead? If everyone has a bicycle, hit the cycle path in your neighbourhood. Hide the remote control - just getting up to change the channel is good for you. Set aside a section of the garden for each member of the family to grow vegetables or fruit. The exercise of planting, weeding and watering is healthy, and at dinner-time everyone can go out and pick their contribution to the meal.

This week, why not try these easy meal and snack ideas developed by Woman's Day Food Editor, Barbara Northwood.

Beef Pita Burgers

Serves 6

  • 2 tablespoons burghul

  • 300g lean minced beef

  • onion, finely chopped

  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 teaspoon tomato sauce

  • 6 wholemeal pita bread pockets

  • 6 butter lettuce leaves

  • cup grated cheddar cheese

  • x 250g punnet cherry tomatoes, halved

Place burghul in a small bowl; cover with cold water. Stand for 10 minutes; drain; rinse under cold water; drain well. Squeeze out excess moisture.

Place burghul in a medium bowl; add minced beef, onion and sauces. Using hands, mix well. Shape mixture into 12 patties; place onto an oven tray. Cover; refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Cook patties, in batches, in a heated, oiled non-stick pan until browned on both sides and cooked through.

Split open pita pocket breads; sandwich with patties, lettuce leaves, cheese and tomatoes.

Fried Rice

Serves 4

  • 1 cup brown rice

  • 3 cups boiling water

  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped

  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped

  • 1 teaspoon water

  • 1 clove garlic, crushed

  • 6 button mushrooms, finely sliced

  • 1 x 300g can chickpeas, drained

  • 1 x 130g can corn kernels, drained

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 2 spring onions, thinly sliced

  • Spring onion curls to garnish

Combine rice and water in a large microwave-safe bowl. Cook, uncovered, on HIGH for about 17 to 20 minutes, or until rice is tender; stir once during cooking. Rinse rice well; drain.

Combine carrot, celery, water and garlic in a large microwave-safe bowl. Cover; cook on HIGH for 2 minutes, or until tender. Add rice, mushrooms, chickpeas, corn and soy sauce; mix well. Cover; cook on HIGH for 4 minutes, or until rice is hot. Stir in spring onions.

Serve rice garnished with spring onion curls.

Berry Swirl Muffins

Makes 12

  • 2 cups wholemeal self-raising flour

  • cup self-raising flour

  • teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

  • cup sugar

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

  • 1 cup reduced-fat milk

  • cup vegetable oil

  • cup frozen blueberries

  • 1 tablespoon strawberry jam, warmed

Grease a 12-hole muffin pan (1/3 cup capacity).

Sift flours and soda into a bowl. Return husks from sifter to bowl. Stir in sugar.

Add eggs, milk, oil and cup of blueberries; stir until just combined.

In a bowl, combine remaining blueberries with jam; spoon evenly over uncooked muffin mixture. Using a skewer, swirl mixtures together.

Cook in moderately hot oven , 190C for about 25 minutes, or until cooked when tested. Stand muffins in pan for 5 minutes; turn out onto wire rack to cool.

Easy tips for a grain-filled day!

Try these easy meal and snack suggestions:

  • For a different breakfast, try baked beans on a toasted English muffin.

  • Breakfast cereal is an ideal snack any time of the day.

  • You can also use breakfast cereals in cooking, for cakes, biscuits or toppings.

  • Cereal-based snack bars are healthy fast foods.

  • Stuff your favourite filling in a sandwich or pocket bread (why not try banana, sultanas, honey and peanut butter wrapped up on wholemeal Lebanese bread).

  • Homemade popcorn is a great whole-grain snack-food.

  • Jaffles are quick, easy and nutritious (try corn and asparagus).

  • Pita chips with hummus dip - yum.

  • Try microwaved corn as a tasty snack.

  • Pasta with a vegetable sauce gives you an energy boost.

  • Add a whole-grain bread roll to your meat and vegetable meal.

  • A chicken and noodle stir-fry is fast to cook.

  • Top wholegrain crispbreads with favourite toppings like cheese, Vegemite or peanut butter.

- Source: Go Grains





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