Healthy Living

On this page you will find information about


Click the headings at the side for more healthy living information.

Cool food.

Make sure active kids have plenty of fluids in hot weather. Water is the best drink. Avoid sugary juice and soft drinks. Summer holidays are a time for relaxation. Parents deserve lots of relaxation too but kids are on the go all day and get hungry as horses. Fruit smoothies are a great way to fill children up in a healthy, refreshing way. Try some of these combinations blended with two cups of milk for a meal in a glass. a sliced banana a mango and a handful of strawberries a sliced peach and a pear kiwi fruit, a peach and passionfruit Main meals. On very hot days it is hard to settle to cook the usual dinner. A quick solution is to cook an omelette or grill the meat and serve it with wholemeal bread and cold noodle salad. avacardo and pineapple tomato and grated carrot sprinkled with orange or lemon juice coleslaw


School lunches 

By lunch time kids will be hungry but they want to eat fast so that they can play and mess around with their friends. Include foods that satisfy the hunger and cool foods for this hot weather. Hunger fixes All types of bread and sandwiches – use favourite fillings that are sure to be eaten such as vegemite, cheese, sultanas, peanut butter, ham, tuna. Keep the sandwiches small for easy handling and fast eating. Keep to school guidelines as some do not allow peanut butter because of the risk of life threatening anaphylactic responses in some children. Pasta or noodles – crisp noodles or noodle salad if your child will eat salad in a lunch box. Cool food - Drinks can be frozen overnight and will keep the rest of the lunch cool. lunch time they will be defrosted and ready to drink. Freeze: water fruit juice yoghurt Fruit is a favourite food with most children. Make sure that your child can remove the skin easily or provide peeled or diced fruit. Chilled fruit salad is usually popular. Tell your child to bring home any food that is not eaten. This way you can see what works and what doesn’t work in your child’s lunch.


Sugary health snacks

Choice, the consumer watchdog in Australia, analysed many of the drinks and snacks we think are healthy for our kids, and found that along with vitamins they contain loads of sugar. Two of the foods they tested are milo cereal and Ribena blackcurrant fruit drink. The latter has only 5% blackcurrent and the rest is sugar and water. If your child is having several of these drinks in a day, they are having way too much sugar. So called health snacks like muesli bars often have the same problem. This is really false advertising but the manufacturers refuse to change their approach. Kids don’t read labels. It is up to parents to be responsible and see that sugar and fat consumed by our children is not excessive.


Pizzas kids can make

At one of the centre I visit, there is an emphasis on children preparing their own snacks. Recently I observed twenty children sitting to prepare ‘pizzas’ on wholemeal buns. Each child had a half bun on a plate and the teacher had prepared dishes of toppings that the children would spread or sprinkle on their bun. The toppings were tomato paste, diced cheese and diced ham. Other toppings that could be used are diced beef or lamb, diced or mashed egg, pineapple pieces, diced celery, tomato, avocado, beetroot, tuna, salmon or sardines. The teacher first demonstrated to the group how to hold the bun with one hand while using the knife in the other hand to spread paste. Children actively involved in such an activity are improving hand control skills listening concentrating learning new vocabulary finding out about nutritious foods experiencing new tastes gaining confidence learning about hand washing and other food preparation health procedures.


Lebanese Bread

Lebanese bread is flat, thin and easy to roll up. One round of bread will make a filling snack in a jiffy, for two kids. Cut a round of Lebanese bread in half and prepare both halves as follows: Spread with avocado, then baked beans in tomato sauce Sprinkle liberally with grated cheese and chives Roll bread up firmly. The rolls are ready to eat. ________________________________________________________________________


Eggs are a great body building food and can be served up in many ways. Kids like something different so why not try astronaut eggs in a rocket? It will be worth the trouble when you see the expressions on their faces.  Fry 1 ½ slices of bread in melted butter until golden. Turn and brown the other side With a biscuit cutter, cut a man shape out of the centre of the whole slice of fried bread Cut the half slice into 2 triangles and use these to form the cone for the rocket Whisk the egg with a fork and pour into the astronaut shape Cook in the pan until the egg is set the way the child likes it.


Baked potatoes

Winter time is the time to enjoy hot food. Try oven baked potatoes with a luscious filling. wash the potatoes well brush with a little oil and wrap in foil. Children will enjoy doing this Cook in oven 200degrees C about 40 minutes. They should be soft when pricked While cooking mix together grated cheese with yoghurt and chopped bacon – kids can do the mixing. Slice top off the potatoes, scoop out some of the potato and spoon in the filling Be careful as you eat as they will be very hot.


Chicken flavoured rice

Most children like rice from an early age. Here is a quick, no-fuss variety. You will need 1onion, 2cups of rice, 1 chicken stock cube, parsley, cheese and other titbits such as corn nibblets and cubed tomatoes, 1 cup of hot water, extra water. Method Sauté an onion in a tablespoon of oil Add 2 cups of rice and stir constantly for a minute or two to coat it well in the oil Dissolve a chicken stock cube in hot water pour it over the rice and add more water – enough to cover the rice to the depth of the first knuckle on you finger Cook in a microwave about 15 to 20 minutes until soft Stir well as you add the corn, tomato, chopped parsley and grated cheese. Stirring in a dessertspoon of butter or margarine will help the rice grains to separate


Chicken Kebabs

Chicken and fruit are tasty when combined and are quick snacks to prepare

Ingredients: Cooked chicken cubes, tinned pineapple pieces, cherry tomatoes, avocado chunks

Method: Thread onto skewers drizzle with oil and heat under a griller just till warm, or eat cold if preferred.


Fruit surprises

If you look around for ideas for kids cooking, the main ones are still sweets and cakes. These are no good for diabetic kids. Most children I know love fruit and some colourful Christmas treats can be made using fruits in season. Here are a couple of ideas the children can make themselves.

Watermelon Christmas tree

Cut a triangle of watermelon and lay it flat on a plate. Decorate it with other fruit e.g. pieces of apricot, cherries, banana slices, slices of peach. Cut a star shape from rockmelon for the top.

Santa Face

Cut a round of watermelon. Make face features, Cherry eyes, Plum nose, Date mouth. A beard of grated cheese.

 On the Fresh Food site there are easy and fun food things for the kids to make. Sam and Tim made naughts and crosses. Your kids could make naughts and crosses with fruit. Give them a plate full of fruit and vegies cut into different shapes and sizes and suggest they make a lot of different things to surprise you. They will come up with lots of their own ideas. If you have not pre-cut the shapes, be sure to supervise and tell kids that you will need to do the cutting.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Skipping Breakfast

A survey of Australian children shows that over 40% of our children go to school at least one day a week without any breakfast. The reasons given are that there is no time, the children are too tired and slept in late, or they couldn’t be bothered. Eating breakfast has long been recognised as essential for people who want their brains to function well all day. Kids who are to concentrate at school and be effective learners need food for the brain at the beginning of every day. Missing breakfast also increases the chance of poor food choices such as quick sweet, or fat-filled food, over the rest of the day. Long term effects are likely to be obesity and constant dieting to control obesity. We know what happens when we don’t put petrol in the car, if we don’t fuel our brains our brains will be at a standstill. Don’t let this happen in your family. Make breakfast a priority.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Food for busy mothers

Mothers are renowned for putting their family first and their own needs last. Mothers with new babies have special needs when it comes to food and may need help from family members to maintain healthy eating habits. Those breastfeeding may produce a plump, healthy baby even if they neglect their own food intake, snatching a snack here and there, but their health will suffer in the long run. Here are some facts: A Nursing mother produces 23 to 27 ounces of milk per day. The body will produce milk first before meeting needs of the mother A Nursing mother needs 2,500 calories daily She needs 1gram of protein each day for every pound she weighs. Meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and yoghurt are good sources of protein. Medication will pass into the milk supply so always check with your doctor before taking any Alcohol passes into the milk very quickly. Never drink alcohol before feeding baby. Pesticides especially aerosols go into the milk quickly so avoid them. Vitamins prescribed during pregnancy should still be taken Foods rich in vitamin B9 or folic acid.( e.g.cabbage, spinach, asparagus, corn, chick- peas) are necessary. Some foods are now enriched with folic acid. Look at the labels. It is essential to drink lots of water when breastfeeding Sugary food is not good Some foods may upset the baby. Try to remember what you ate if baby had a bad day and remove that food from your diet. Make sure the mother in your family is eating the right foods. It is just as important as eating good food while pregnant.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Food requirements

Nutritionists recommend that adults eat 5 servings of vegetable and 2 servings of fruit every day. It sounds a lot but when I added up what I ate I was doing the right thing. What about children? Toddlers need 2 servings of fruit and 2 of vegetables per day. School aged children need 3 to 5 servings of vegetables and 2 to 4 of fruit. Children are often fussy eaters but showing by example is one of the best ways to encourage healthy eating. You can’t expect children to eat the food on their plates if you have different food on yours. Here are some hints to broaden a child’s menu. Offer one new food at t time Offer new foods when your child is not over-tired. Start a new food when the child is really hungry Keep junk foods out of sight Use games and stories to make eating fun. Fruit and vegies can be cut into attractive shapes Try shredding vegetable – grated carrot is tasty when orange or lemon juice is added to it. Let the children help to prepare the food With summer just around the corner there is a bigger variety of fruit and vegetables available. Take the children shopping and let them choose some of the food. Be guided by their interest instead of the price.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Damper

Over Christmas and New Year supplies often run short. With floods in many areas of NSW families will run out of bread and damper is a quick, easy substitute that kids can make. Extras like cheese and chopped ham and herbs make it tasty.

For this recipe you will need:

 3 cups of self-raising flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional), 3 tablespoons butter ¼ cup grated cheese ¼ cup diced ham, 1 desertspoon finely chopped fresh herbs, ½ cup milk 1/2 cup water

Method: Sift flour and salt into a bowl, rub in butter until mixture is like fine crumbs. Make a well in the centre, add the milk and water. Mix cheese, ham and herbs into the dough. When it forms a ball gently knead it on a lightly floured surface and then shape into a round about . Put on a greased oven tray. Pat into a round 16 to diameter. Cut a couple of slits across dough like a cross, approximately 1cm deep. Brush top of dough with milk. Bake in a hot oven for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Tackling obesity

Sports stars are role models for kids in so many ways. Geoff Heugil an Australian swimmer is doing his best to help kids, especially sick kids. However, he is also a great example of determination and how to change lifestyle. Geoff has overcome an obesity problem caused by poor diet. I hope he will be an inspiration to parents and kids alike. How do you know if your child is obese? A child is obese if the body mass is above the recommended size. A doctor is the best person to advise you about this. The reasons for obesity include genetics, diet, and the amount and kind of physical activity. The lifestyle children today follow, is quite different from that their grandparents or even their parents followed. Now, the main entertainment for kids is likely to be electronic games, TV and texting their mates. Walking and cycling have been replaced by car transport. What can you do? Accept that your child is obese – it isn’t puppy fat. Gradually change diet and lifestyle. Implement change for the whole family, focus on health with your child, not on weight. Support and encourage each other. Kids need active play like swimming, cycling, walking, ball games, running every day. Set aside time every day for these active sports as a family, don’t use food as a reward, watch TV without eating snacks.

 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ The food groups

Most young adults will know about the five food groups from which health authorities recommend we take our daily food intake. However, it is good to revise our knowledge from time to time. It is also necessary to teach young people how much of each group they should eat. Many kids and teens think that they can eat as much fruit as they like. However, fruit is high in sugar and no more than three pieces are recommended for each day. Number of servings also depends on the size of the piece of fruit and the weight of the child. A person who is already on the path to obesity will need to eat the lower level. The amount of each food group must be selected carefully or there will be no improvement in weight. Here are the food groups with recommended servings.

1) Breads, cereals, rice pasta, noodles- 5 to 9 servings. If you want each of these foods, choose small helpings.

2) Vegetables and legumes – 4 or 5

3) Fruit – 2 or 3

4) Milk, yoghurt and cheese – 2 to 4

5) Meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts – 1 to 2

Other factors should also be considered such as how and when the food is eaten. If the food is eaten very quickly, it will not give as much satisfaction as food eaten slowly. Food eaten before rest, sleeping or sedentary activities will make fat, instead of energy. Diets seem to fail. That is because the metabolism of the body changes. Once a person has become obese, it will probably mean that care will be needed throughout life to avoid a return to obesity. Prevention is certainly better than cure.


Planning menus

Cooking the dinner for a family can be a pleasure but if you have a young family and limited time, cooking can be a boring necessity. It is easiest to dish up the same meal with little variation night after night. Some families eat more and more fast food, high fat dinners even though they know this is a poor health option. An alternative is to plan weekly menus; easy, healthy dinners. I recently found a large book of healthy barbecue recipes at the local post office. Best of all it was at a low price so I bought it to give as a gift to a family member and I looked through the book before parting with it. The recipes were simple to prepare and although I didn’t have all the ingredients, many of the herbs and spices recurred throughout. Most of the meals were quick to prepare and cooked quickly too. While on holidays I was introduced to a slow cooker and a recipe book to use with it. The recipe book was well organised to include seafood, lamb, beef, poultry, pork, vegetable dishes etc. and again the number of new ingredients not in the pantry was small. I know families where one partner spends fifteen minutes every day to prepare the slow cooker so that when they come home from work tired and hungry, the dinner is ready to eat. To plan menus, I suggest you plan seven dinners using foods in season to begin with. Note the meat, vegetables and spices you’ll need so you can get everything when you do the weekly shop. If the meal you cook is enough for two nights you have the option of freezing the second dinner for the next week. You don’t have a slow cooker or the necessary recipe books? How about asking for that when a birthday comes around, or visiting your library to look for an inspirational book? Happy cooking.


Sick Kids

Although we all do whatever we can to keep our kids healthy, sickness comes to every family. However some families have to cope with very serious sickness. Perhaps you know a family where a child has been diagnosed with cancer. There are 600 children in Australia who are diagnosed with cancer each year. Fortunately many children will survive as 80% of some leukemias can be treated successfully. It is now believed that many childhood leukemias are preventable. A study of one million pregnant mothers and babies is underway. The study, led by a team at Murdoch university in Melbourne, Australia is taking place in fifteen countries. It was this team that discovered that sleeping babies on their stomachs was a high risk factor in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The incidence of that cause of death has now been lowered by 80% in many countries. The adults in the families of children undergoing cancer are under great stress too. In the future perhaps this disease can be prevented by simple measures. How wonderful that will be. It is Daffodil Day on August 22nd. Can you do something special for kids with cancer on that day? ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Make breakfast an important meal. Children need breakfast if they are to concentrate at school. Start good breakfast routines with toddlers. Cereal, toast and milk are ideal. Snacks are important throughout the day but should be small. Fresh fruit, dried fruit, crackers, cheese or yoghurt will boost energy levels. Each meal should have a variety of food with something from the five food groups – fruit vegetables, protein, grains, dairy. See the following guide for amounts. See this table of sample serves which comes from The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. Grains Vegetables Fruit Dairy Protein Children 4-7 yrs 3 - 4 4 2 3 1/2-1 Children 8-11 yrs 4 - 6 4 - 5 1 - 2 3 1 - 11/2 Adolescents 12-18 yrs 4 - 7 5 - 9 3 - 4 3 - 5 1 - 2 4. Keep fat intake small. Fat is important for energy but people tend to overdo it especially by eating fast food. 5. Plenty of water is necessary to keep the body functioning. Offer children water from infant age so good habits are learnt. 6. Fruit drinks should be restricted as they are high in sugar. 7. As soon as baby has a tooth start, start to brush them. An adult should continue to brush teeth for pre-schoolers. 8. Establish a rest/sleep routine for baby and adjust it for toddlers and pre-schoolers. School age children, even teenagers, must have lots of sleep. 9. Regular exercise is necessary for muscle development. Team games are fun for school age kids. Family exercise like walking, gardening, bike riding, swimming will keep the whole family fit. 10. Discipline in a positive way with lots of encouragement and reinforcement of good behaviour rather than focusing on the negative.


Active Kids

How much time do your school-age kids spend being truly active? Between the ages of five and eighteen, they need at least an hour of moderate and vigorous physical activity each day. Many children turn on the TV when they get home or play electronic games. Before you realise it, it is time for dinner and the daylight is gone. Much of school life is spent sitting down, walking in leisurely fashion between classrooms, or sitting chatting to friends. Unless we take a conscious decision to see that there is real physical activity after school, it may not occur. The TV and electronic games really shouldn't go on until night time, unless you can supervise to see that only one favourite program is watched. This should be followed by outdoor games or sport e.g. gymnastics, ballet, swimming, cycling or skateboarding. These types of activities build strong bones and muscles, improve lung capacity, help coordination, improve balance and reduce stress. Itr isn't easy to balance all the activities that a child wants to do with what is best for health. computer games and texting won't improve physical health.



I recently visited a family aunt. In September she turned 99 and is still living alone and getting much enjoyment from the birds that come to be fed daily and from her kind neighbours, and from her family who keep in touch daily by telephone. Her sight is not good and she is really rather deaf. Many older people suffer some degree of deafness but in the past deafness from birth was a real disadvantage. Following the visit to the remarkable aunt, I heard a talk about deafness in children. Dimity Dornan, the speaker on ABC radio, was talking about the research and work at an organization called First Voice Organization in Queensland. At the moment this program is based in Queensland and has an outreach branch so families in regional areas can take part. Parents are recognised as the natural teachers, so the parents are taught how to help their child. The program doesn’t receive any Federal funding yet and only one third of the funding comes from the state. The organization was launched by the Governor General of Australia on 7th October. In her speech her Excellency said that “9 to 12 Australian children in every 10,000 are born with moderate or serious hearing loss in both ears. 23 more per 10,000 will acquire a hearing impairment that requires aids by the age of 17and 54% of our indigenous children suffer some form of hearing loss.” On the radio program, I heard Hamish a ten year old boy answering questions from the interviewer. Hamish’s speech was clear and he answered without hesitation exactly as a fully hearing boy would have. His father explained that from the time Hamish was diagnosed and fitted with a hearing aid at eight months of age, his Mother in particular had saturated his environment with language. To get further information about the help available to deaf children, I visited the website of the Hear and Say centre which is linked to the First Voice Organization. It aims to help deaf children achieve a normal rate of speech and language development by six years of age. This allows them to have mainstream education resulting in employment and career opportunities that would otherwise always be denied. Social opportunities are also expanded. On the website, I read stories written by parents of children who have hearing impairment. Impairment can be the result of prematurity or illness but also of genetics. One mother writing on the site, has four of her five children with impairment caused this way. No one knew that these children were deaf for quite some time and early diagnosis would have saved those parents from so much stress. The Federal government is implementing a mandatory test now for all babies. This is a first step ( already in place in some countries), that will mean much earlier intervention for affected children and early intervention is vital. We have all heard of Cochlear implants now, and 200,000 people world wide have received these implants. Hamish mentioned above, has an implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the other. Not all deaf people think that learning to speak as hearing people do, is the best way to go forward. Some feel strongly that sign language is far superior. There is still a real need for sign language and a greater awareness of its importance in communication should be fostered.


Having enough sleep

Parents rarely get uninterrupted sleep when they have a baby and often suffer from sleep deprivation. Babies and children can also suffer when they don’t get enough sleep and it is estimated that 35% of children have a sleep problem. Asthma and eczema as well as sleep apnoea can affect the quality of children’s sleep. If your child has a pattern of poor sleep, have a health check done, especially if the child snores. Poor sleep can affect a child’s thinking and problem solving, memory, growth and behaviour. Behavioural problems are the most likely. Here are some hints to help your child sleep. Put baby down to sleep when drowsy. Waiting for baby to be asleep will encourage him/her to fight sleep. Establish a regular bedtime routine. Make the routine quiet and relaxed. Choose a quiet environment for bedtime routine. Make bedtime a happy time. Have a night light for a child who is nervous of the dark. However, some studies have shown a light can have adverse affect on health. For kids who won’t stay in bed, use a reward system and talk to them about bedtime anxieties. Avoid giving spicy and salty food before bed as it causes thirst. Chocolate and other sweet foods often cause a child to stay awake. Have a regular waking time too each morning.


The best time of year.

Make the summer holidays following Christmas the best time of the year.

Food: Keep an eye on the amount and type of food the family has. Holidays shouldn’t mean an end to healthy eating. Hot weather is an ideal time to eat salads and fruit. Drinks: Water is vital in hot weather. See that children have plenty available. Most fruit juices have lots of sugar so water is the best option and it won’t make anyone fat or increase caries in the teeth.

Energy: The early morning and late afternoon or evening are the best times to engage in vigorous physical activities. Avoid overtaxing the body in the hottest part of the day. Sun: Hats and sunscreen are not just for school days. When at the beach or outdoors, all the family should wear protective clothing. Infants and toddlers have extremely sensitive skin. Teens need to be reminded about the dangers of sunburn.

Safety: Supervise, especially near the water. Only drive when you are rested. Explore any new environments carefully for hazards before sending the kids off to play. Always have the first aid kit handy.

Stress: There is no need to rush to fit in dozens of activities. Take more time and you will stress less and enjoy each thing more. Holiday time is a great time to teach the kids new skills but you may need to lower your standards of perfection when the kids are doing things. It is the doing, not the product that is important.


Jamie Oliver in Australia

Jamie Oliver has come to Australia to begin a healthy eating program at schools in the far north Queensland town of Ipswich. The town already has a number of healthy lifestyle programs and felt that Jamie’s Ministry of Food program would add further motivation to the whole community. The program which was to start in December, will run for 4 years with the state government providing a large amount of funding. In my home town, plant nurseries have provided above ground gardens with vegetable plants, herbs and strawberries, to pre-schools and long day care centres. The children are showing a real interest in the progress of the plants. For example at one centre before Christmas, children delighted in taking me to show me the one red strawberry on their bush, while pointing out other strawberries beginning to grow. Developing this early interest in healthy food and in the skills needed to produce it, is the first step towards healthy diets.


Grow your own food and beat price rises

We really expect the prices of fruit and vegetables to rise considerably as a result of the floods in three states. Grain crops have also been ruined that will impact on the price of flour and all the products that use it. It is not only the present floods that will impact on food prices. I have read that prices are set to increase dramatically over the next few years because of climate change, the lack of enough suitable arable land, and decline in possible irrigation available. The best solution is to grow your own fresh food where ever possible. Not only does this save money but it is likely to have better flavour. You don’t have to have chooks. Begin with some easy vegetables. There are places to help you too. Nurseries and other suppliers have begun workshops for young people and give advice to customers. The magazine Choice points out that there are free tips on many internet websites. You don’t need much space to have a garden. It is possible to grow good vegetables and herbs in containers on balconies so have a go. You’ll be proud of your successes.


Taking responsibility for family health

Mothers generally have the responsibility of planning the menus for their family and also do most of the food shopping. Since the floods and cyclone, prices have been going up because many crops have been lost. Bananas for example will be in short supply. However, fruit and fresh vegetables are still important. Look for the most cost effective alternatives if your favourites are too expensive. If you buy different fruits and unfamiliar vegies, you may need to introduce them gradually to the family or present them in an interesting way and be a good role model in the way you eat and enjoy the different foods. If you need to stretch your budget, be sure to retain the most nutritious foods.


Exercising in autumn

Unless you live near a heated pool, swimming will soon be over for some months. What kind of fun exercise can you and the kids do together? Try dancing. There are many kinds of dance and there need not be any rules and it needn’t cost any money. You can dance by yourself, with a partner, or with a whole group. You can dance slowly or fast, in a line or a circle, on the spot or around the room or out in the garden. You can dance after dark or early in the morning before the sun is up. You can choose music to dance to from many different types or you can just hum or sing or clap a rhythm as you move. Movement is the basis of dance and anyone who can move can do it. Dancing is a great way to relax, to socialize, to get fit and to have fun. It is a great way for the family to exercise together.


 Too much salt

A recent survey of the amount of salt our children are having in their diets showed that most of the children in the survey had twice as much as recommended. A larger group will now be surveyed. Salt is included in many processed foods such as breakfast cereals, bread and cheese. Manufacturers are encouraged to reduce the salt in their products but this will be a slow process. Many people still add salt before cooking food, and then add more from the salt shaker, before eating. Cooking without salt will reduce the amount in our diets. There are health problems from too much salt and we don’t want to set our children up for these. Also look at the amount of salt in the cereals you buy, in soups, canned food and in spreads such as peanut butter. Buy brands with low salt content. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jump rope for Heart

Jump Rope attracts over 400,000 school students, in over 2,300 schools around the country – the organization has given Australian schools enough rope to stretch from Sydney to Perth. See Click the Active Living heading ,and then on Jump Rope. Skipping with a rope is one of those timeless activities that every generation loves. Kids today have developed so many skipping moves that it has become an art for some people. However just basic skipping is tons of fun and such excellent exercise for whole families. Encourage your four and five year olds to master a skipping rope and get your ten year olds to teach you some fancy moves. Skipping is just as appropriate for boys as it is for girls. If boys are in doubt, remind them that skipping is an important part of football training.


Impaired vision

Did you realize that a baby with impaired vision needs lots of help in order to develop physical skills such as rolling over, reaching out , learning to crawl and to walk? When baby can’t see the environment, there is no motivation to learn to move. Baby will need lots of stimulation through aid in touching things as well as provision of interesting sounds. Impaired vision can be cause through genetics or it can be caused through very premature birth. Although a register has been kept of children with hearing impairment, one for sight impairment is still under way. There may be as many as 5,000 children in this category and not all these children will be receiving the help they need. A register will help in many ways but particularly in making it possible for parents to find resources and to contact other parents of children with impaired vision. A network is always a valuable resource. It is possible now for parents who have registered their child, to take part in forums and to make regular contact through using Skype. Families may be at the far reaches of the continent but still be able through Skype to talk to each other and share tips free of any charge. For families in regional centres this is a great step forward. The link to the Impaired vision network is Recently there has been a week-long Braille Music Camp for children from all over the country, held in Mittagong NSW. The tutors, all former students with impaired vision, helped children who are just being introduced to Braille not only to read but to read Braille music. Music is such a wonderful thing to motivate movement and for people of all ages to share. It is exciting to hear that it is part of the education of children with low sight. If you know anyone with a baby or young child with impaired vision, please help them to find this resource.


National Nutrition Week

Nutrition week is from October 16th to 22nd. We hear statistics that 25% of Australian children are at risk of childhood obesity but what are we doing about it? The Heart Foundation has just removed their tick of approval from McDonald’s food because only 2% of people chose the healthy options available. They will target restaurants instead and show the number of kilojoules in items on the menus. As parents or as childcare workers and educationists we must take responsibility for helping children to make healthy decisions about their health. The amount of energy we use must be balanced by the number of kilojoules we consume in our food. If we are not very active, we must eat less, especially of high kilojoule food such as fat and carbohydrates. One of our problems is that we tend to eat the same amount whether we are having an active week or a sitting-about-lazy week. It comes down to planning a healthy, active lifestyle. Look at the Nutrition website for some ideas. Children like to be active, but now they have many electronic devices that encourage them to sit around instead of being fully active. Children learn from example. If their parents spend their leisure time at the computer or in front of the TV, the children copy that lifestyle. Here are some tips: Plan for physically active time with the family each day. Take an active interest in your child’s sport Create walking habits around your neighbourhood Skip, dance, do yoga, throw a ball or frizby, work and play in the garden Teach the children to use tools to build projects such as cubby house, dolls house, bird feeder, dog kennel, guinea pig hutch, rain gauge, painting projects. Be responsible for developing and maintaining a healthy diet and active lifestyle for yourself and your family.


Avoiding infections

The best way to help a baby build up the immune system is to breast feed and to keep everything very clean. However, once baby begins to roll over and get mobile he/she will come into contact with many germs in the environment. There is some evidence that in our determination to eradicate germs, we prevent children from building immunity and this may be one cause of an increase in asthma. We should not be over-protective or over-fussy about our children touching and exploring their environment and getting messy, but strike a balance. Whatever we do children will get sick sometimes and the cause won’t be clear. I was alerted to a very sad case recently in which a 10 month old baby in Sydney, died of a mystery illness. The baby’s body immune system seemed to be attacking her nervous system and despite specialist treatment in hospital, the baby died. The autopsy revealed that she had died from rat lungworm which is carried by slugs and snails. Her mother thinks that her baby must have either eaten a slug or a slug trail. Most people will never have heard that slug and snail trails can be harmful and not all of these creatures are infected. Snails are fascinating creatures but we should take precautions and make sure that babies cannot come into contact with them, and that older children watch rather than pick up snails or slugs. After any outdoor play make sure children wash thoroughly.


Learning to Swim

Water is an important part of Australian life and we know that everyone should learn to swim. My granddaughters aged 7 years and 2 years, both love the water and are confident playing in it under supervision. The older one started learn to swim classes this week. Summer is the time when most families take their children to places where water is the fun thing, but sadly every year there are tragic drownings in Australia. These accidents are preventable. For families who are not in places where learn to swim classes are available, there is excellent help on the internet at

The lessons at this site are at three levels.

Level one for babies 4months to three years.

Level 2 for children over 3 years to learn breath control.

Level 3 for children over 3years to learn swimming strokes.

The first level, for babies 4 months to 3 years is for teaching baby to respond to the command ‘name ( e.g.Sarah) ready, go’.  Baby will learn to be relaxed in the water, take a breath, close his/her eyes.  Playing with toys in the water is also included in this first level. The lesson plan should be printed out before teaching the child. In the plan six steps are clearly shown complete with suggestions for songs to be used during the lesson. Failure to print out the lesson plan may result in forgetting one of the steps or doing the steps in the wrong order.

As well as watching the video for babies in level 1, I clicked on the SwimSAFER button at the site. I read one story there. It is a very confronting and tragic story of one family losing their 12month old during bath time. We all think we are careful but just being distracted for one minute can lead to tragedy.


School Canteens

While many parents provide food from home for their children’s lunches and snacks, a great many take advantage of school canteens. How can you be sure that the canteen at your child’s school provides healthy foods? Take advantage of the Get Up and Grow: Healthy eating and physical activity initiative that the government is running. They have developed guidelines for school canteens including a list of Green foods that should be the first choice of foods provided. There are also lists of foods that should never be included in school canteens. These lists are available for you to consult and print off and take to your canteen to see how well it meets the guidelines.

At this website, look under Nutrition and Healthy eating. At the PDF –National Schools Canteen Reference Guide, food, bread, drinks, breakfast cereal, rice and grains, yoghurt, fruit vegetables and meat are all listed with quick guidelines about which types are best There are even recipes given in this guide.

Currently a group in Western Australia is asking for recipes to put in a cookbook to help educators provide healthy meals for children in their care. See for how to take part in this.


Colds and flu

As I write today, the rain has come down constantly and outside the temperature has dropped and it is the kind of sudden change in the season that usually brings on colds and sometimes flu. Keep alert to changes in your child’s health. Colds usually start with a runny nose and a slight cough but can change for the worse rapidly.

  • If there is a temperature, monitor the child regularly.
  • Always take your children to see a doctor if you are worried or if they have any trouble breathing.
  • Try to keep anyone with a cold away from the rest of the family.
  • Make sure children use tissues when sneezing, keep their noses wiped and put used tissues in the bin at once.
  • Use medicines only as directed
  • Keep medicines up where children can’t reach them.


Healthy sustainable practices

I visit all my child care services in the mornings, some before morning tea and some just before lunch. It is great to see the variety of fresh fruit and vegetable snacks the children will eat after story time. In some centres lunch is prepared by the centre, in others children bring their own food from home. One centre has songs, exercises, or conversations about the environment before my story. Recently this group was discussing the contents of lunch boxes and looking at recyclable packaging. The children are all keen recyclers and are learning to recognise which packages can go into the recycling bin. The goal is that no lunch box will have non-recycling contents.

It is pleasing to see recycling bins in some parks now. However, on my morning walk I regularly find cans and fast food packages along the roadside that have been thrown from cars. I pick up most of this rubbish but I cover only five kilometres. I guess I’ve adopted this area of road. What is your street or road like? Does it need a gang of people to adopt it and keep it litter free?  How can we encourage the whole community to minimise waste and to use green products and not to litter.


Physically active play is essential

Poor physical fitness has been mentioned again by the media. It is blamed on the school curriculum as there is so much to cover during school hours that the two hours of physical active play that children need, are not being covered during school hours.

Running, jumping, swimming, swinging, dancing, climbing, throwing, kicking, hopping and walking are second nature to young children and are vital to their growth and well being. However, once they get to school, there isn’t nearly so much time for these physical activities. Children between the ages of 5 and 12 still need a minimum of one hour of vigorous physical activity each day. The activities I have listed help kids to grow strong bones and muscles, help heart rate, lung function, posture, balance, and keep to a healthy weight. Vigorous activities also improve brain function and self esteem and socializing skills.

Does your school have organized physical development activities and sport afternoon? If not, you need to make sure that each day your kids get that kind of activity after school. Be a good role model yourself and if your home doesn’t have a suitable area for gross motor play, take advantage of the many parks and public areas to walk, jog, and exercise together and with friends.


Take a spring walk

Spring is always a month later on the tablelands where I live, than it is closer to the coast. However, the blossom trees are already coming out and daffodils are at their best. If you are a mother with a baby or toddler, ring up a couple of friends and arrange to meet, not for coffee, but for a picnic with the kids in the park. Arrange for one friend to provide a rug if a baby will be present.  Throw some fruit into a bag and some mugs and water or drinks of your choice, and set off briskly to walk to the park. You might have to drive some of the way if your park isn’t handy, but leave the car some distance away so you can enjoy the walk in the warmer weather. There are bound to be trees coming into blossom or leaf, along the way, and birds chirping. Set your mind to listening to the sounds of nature, the breeze, animals and birds.  When you meet your friends, stroll around the gardens to see what’s opening up. Let the children run around. Spread the sheet or rug for the baby to lie on and sit down to relax and enjoy socializing in the outdoors. Walking in the natural environment will make your mind clearer and you’ll feel happier all day.


Food allergies

Surprisingly, about 1 in every ten children will have a food allergy. Most of these are not severe and will disappear in time. Common symptoms of allergy are hives, eczema, swelling of the lips, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pains, sneezing or a blocked up nose soon after eating. The most common cause of food allergies in children are through eating peanuts, walnuts, cashews and shellfish. In recent years there has been a marked increase in the number of children affected by food allergies and the reasons are not clear. Factors being considered are

  • The way foods are manufactured
  • The later introduction of eggs, peanuts and other suspect foods into an infants diet
  • Less exposure to infections because of increased hygiene

Severe allergies known as anaphylaxis, can cause death. Severe symptoms include difficulty breathing, swelling of the tongue, difficulty talking, dizziness or collapse. Everyone who works with a child known to be at risk of an anaphylactic episode, must know what to do in such an emergency.

If a child has a food allergy, it does have social consequences. It may mean that a child cannot accept invitations to parties or to school events and camps where food will be available. For young children this can be very disappointing and will need careful handling.


Preparing for bed

Daylight saving, which is welcomed by many but hated by others, has started in most parts of Australia. The longer daylight hours enable families to spend more time together which is a bonus but parents often complain that it is hard to get the children to bed early. Try establishing a new routine for the summer time. It is helpful to have a wind down time with relaxing activities outdoors before preparing for bed. Avoid chasing, wrestling, trampoline, and noisy, exciting games. Inside avoid exciting board games, computer and electronic games and TV. A leisurely family walk, watering the garden, drawing, dough short craft activities followed shower or bath and the routine teeth cleaning, preparing clothes for the morning, will all help your child to relax. Finish off with storytelling or books. Children need 10 to 12 hours sleep to be ready to function well each day.


Summertime tips

I like to look at the weather map each night on TV and although the official date of the beginning of summer is December 1st, I see that many places experienced 40degree temperatures before the end of November. While adults know to keep out of the sun, drink plenty of fluids and adjust their physical activities to cope with hot weather, babies need you to keep an eye on their body temperature. Keep baby in the coolest part of the house and clothe lightly. Kids under five may not know they are getting too hot and even older kids don’t know the dangers of overheating or de-hydration.

 Here are some reminders:

  • Never leave a child in the car as cars quickly act like an oven
  • Dress kids in light clothing – clothing that will protect them from the sun
  • See they have sunscreen on and hats. Set up play activities in shade
  • Keep them out of the sun and the heat between 11 and 4pm
  • Provide activities that are not too strenuous. Avoid running games. Water play in shady places is ideal but swimming must be at a time when the sun isn’t so strong.
  • Inside keep blinds down in rooms where sun comes in directly. Open windows to let in breezes
  • Provide cool water to drink often.
  • Use fans to cool the air but remember safety and place them where kids won’t be in danger of touching.
  • Offer cool fruit and salad foods rather than heavy, or fatty food.


Cool Snacks

Watermelon is one of the best fruits to satisfy kids on a hot day. Puree four cups of watermelon  with  a cup of water, and a tablespoon of sugar. Add juice of one lemon then partly freeze. Stir up and serve when slushy.

Watermelon can also be combined with strawberries. Puree a cup of watermelon and a cup of strawberries. Blend together, adding a tablespoon of lemon juice. Pour into popsicle moulds, add a stick and freeze for four hours. Kids will enjoy sucking these.


Restricted diets and the family

This year my granddaughter has started pre-school where one child has anaphylactic problems. Consequently, there are a number of foods that no child can take to school and some of my grandchild’s favourite foods are not available for her lunch.  Today she has taken two kinds of capsicum, some small tomatoes, and a vegemite sandwich. The importance of the centre making sure that no restricted foods enter the school got me wondering how families cope when one member has strict diet guidelines.

It is estimated that one in every thirteen children has a food allergy that causes from slight to severe reactions. Some families decide to ban completely all foods that may cause problems. Many families teach the affected child how to avoid that food when it is in the house. The benefit of the second approach is that the child will know how to react in the community where so many of the banned foods will be readily available. But very young children can’t take that responsibility.

Many people are involved in childcare. Some will have no previous knowledge of severe allergies or of anaphylactic  conditions. To keep a child safe, it is necessary to explain to everyone what may happen and what to do. Even a tiny taste of the prohibited food is not okay.

Tips that will help carers, babysitters and family members

·       Keep foods organized in the kitchen so unsafe food is separate from the banned food

·       Wash hands before and after preparing food

·       Have a regular schedule for food preparation in the kitchen with thorough cleaning processes

·       Label problem foods so they are immediately recognized

·       Restrict eating to certain areas e.g. kitchen and dining room

·       Read and understand labels when shopping

·       Have an emergency medical plan that everyone is confident of carrying out.

·       Leave emergency numbers where everyone can see them easily and leave instructions of when to call you


Good health choices during pregnancy

I recently saw a TV program about midwives whose goal is to help pregnant mothers to give up smoking, drinking and overeating. The young mothers didn’t see any problem with the bad habits they followed of smoking 20 cigarettes a day, or drinking bottles of wine or eating nothing but junk food. They did these things either because they liked the habit or because of stress. They didn’t believe that their bad habits could cause harm to their unborn babies.

These women had however, sought help and that was the first step in trying to stop the habits. They were dismayed when the midwives were able to show that their babies were distressed by their smoking etc. but even though they felt guilty it was very difficult to break those habits. These women were typical of the many women the health system was trying to help.

I was not able to see the series through to its conclusion, but I have found some follow up information. Some of the mothers did manage to give up their addictions during pregnancy, but it was a terrific struggle because of the stresses in their lives. Without help it would have been impossible. One of the midwives gives tips after the series to help others. Here are some of the things she suggests.

  • it is never too late to stop as stopping at any stage will benefit the baby.
  • Get help
  • Ask your health workers, doctor, chemist for help
  • Seek help online
  • Ask your partner, sister, or friend to help you and encourage you with incentives
  • Take one day at a time.

If you know someone who is trying to give up, don’t smoke, drink or eat junk food near them. Do some fun things together in healthy environments and instead of judging them, make positive comments about their efforts and try your best to help support them.


Sugary drinks for kids

It’s a fact that almost half our kids drink at least one sugary drink per day. Water Buddy drinks contain only half a teaspoon of sugar in each bottle and kids will be asking for them as they are packaged in attractively shaped and decorated bottles. They are promoted  by the manufacturers, as healthy alternatives to flavoured milk and juices which have more sugar. Nutrition Australia has asked that promotion of Water Buddies be stopped because kids get hooked on the sugar taste. Plain milk has other food values but flavoured milk can have up to six teaspoons of sugar included. Parents must take a stand on all sweetened drinks and see that water and unsweetened drinks are the main thirst quenchers that kids have this summer.


 Family nature clubs

The average child these days spends less time outside every day than a prisoner does who is serving time in one of our prisons. That information made me leap off the bed where I lay reading, and rush out to read up about Family Nature Clubs which are an initiative of an organization in Western Australia. The organization claims that kids who play outdoors

‘are happier, healthier and smarter. They are more self-disciplined and focused. They are more self-confident ,creative and cooperative. They are better problem solvers, more optimistic and more physically fit. Family ties are strengthened, a sense of community is nourished and a sense of place is cultivated.’(

That is an impressive list of benefits. So how do you go about organizing a Family Nature Club?

  1. email or phone another family and explain the idea. Invite as many families as you like, as going with others doubles the fun and halves the effort. Invite grandparents too
  2. plan how often you’ll meet- e.g. weekly or monthly and how long the walk or outing will take
  3. begin by going somewhere local e.g. a park and check it out first. If it is a walk, look at its length and facilities and the ages/stages of the kids who will be going. Toddlers may be taken in strollers or babies in back packs. Look at clothing requirements and the likely weather
  4. make a list of possible outings places e.g.
  • parks
  • backyards
  • nurseries
  • beach
  • bush trails
  • community gardens
  • creeks
  • activities to do while meeting – swimming, running, digging, climbing, hide ‘n seek, ball games, cycling, kite flying, fishing, rock gathering, searching for shells or fossils, insect observations, bird watching, feeding ducks, gathering sticks and leaves, taking photos…

Before you know it you’ll have a group of eager people of mixed age groups who can hardly wait for the next outing and everyone will be happier and healthier for the experiences. It will be an excellent way to make friends with other families and they can share in making decisions about where to go.


Exercise and pregnant women

Gentle exercise during pregnancy has many benefits. It strengthens the muscles, keeps them flexible and prepares the body for endurance during labour and delivery. It helps women feel better, be less stressed and to sleep better. Women who exercise also have more control over their weight gain as well as their baby’s weight. After the birth exercise helps the muscles to firm up and the body to return to shape.

A new study in Montreal, Canada, has shown that the brains of newly born babies whose mothers exercised three or four times a week for 20 minutes, were more mature than the babies whose mothers had no exercise. They responded to sounds with more mature brain activity .The exercise recommended was walking, cycling, running and swimming. It is important that the exercise is gentle so that the women don’t get out of breath, Exercise where slips and falls are likely, should be avoided. Swimming is regarded as the ideal exercise as it uses so many muscles, gets the heart pumping and makes the body feel weightless. Always consult your doctor or midwife before starting an exercise program.



Swimming is a great exercise for the whole family from babies to the elderly, and is an excellent way to keep cool in hot weather. Water safety is essential where children are involved as sadly drowning is the major cause of death for children under five in Australia and many other countries. Most of these accidents are preventable.

·         Backyard pools, even if only paddling pools, must have a fence to completely isolate it from the rest of the yard.

·         There must be a self-closing gate that conforms to Australian standards on the fenceI

·          Kids must be supervised at all times in the pool and never leave older kids to mind younger ones.

·         Know what to do in an emergency.

Swimming exercises every part of the body and as is even suitable for people who have injuries or arthritis as the water supports the body. If you are lucky enough to live near a heated pool, swimming and exercising in water is possible all year round. Older family members e.g. grandparents, will enjoy joining the youngsters in the water. If you are prone to weight gain, make sure that you’re not so hungry after a pool session, that you over eat. Have healthy snacks ready such as fruit after swimming for the whole family.


Support kids in physical exercise

In a family not everyone will have the same interests so it is often hard to find the time to support each child‘s interests, especially the physical ones that may mean going to football practice with one, cycling with another and swimming for another. It is good to develop some regular family exercise that all can take part in. It is a fact that parents attitudes have a big effect on children’s interests and encouragement and praise will help kids to improve skills. Games at home will help them to develop skills and keep you fit too. Ball games are excellent as different games can suit different levels of skill are easy e.g. you can have ball rolling, bouncing catching, throwing at targets, dribbling around objects, striking with a racquet or bat all in one session so all members of a family can be encouraged to improve their level of skill. Older mothers and grandparents have often lost skills when they gave up sport when busy with full time parenting. Having regular outdoor games and physical skills like running, jumping, balancing, ball games etc. will soon get you fit again. If both parents work and feel too tired or get home too late to fit in outdoor activities, enroll the help of grandparents or the after school carer. They will really enjoy helping the kids and you’ll be doing them a service by improving their fitness, keeping their muscles flexible and their bone density high.


Food glorious food

The attitude to food has changed a lot during my lifetime. My mother did very well to put three veggies and meat on our plates each day. Special meals were only necessary at Christmas and perhaps birthdays. Everyone seemed to have a vegetable garden and shared the produce when possible. As few people even had fridges only enough was cooked for each meal, but there was never any waste. Meals these days are much larger, especially at restaurants. The cook in the family is often expected to prepare gourmet meals every night. When families expect a different menu each night, leftovers often stay in the fridge forgotten and end up in the garbage bin. There is a real danger  that food will be reheated more times than it should and in this way food poisoning can occur.

Takeaway food is also something new to the generations in the last three decades. Many children expect takeaway food or to eat out at a fast food place at least once a week. Fatty, rich and sweet foods that were once a rare treat have become regular food fare and wholesome meals are not seen as important in many families hence the obese generation.

School canteens have certainly improved their role by banning lollies and soft drinks, but good, nutritious food messages are only just beginning as part of school education. Some schools have garden projects and regularly have cooking sessions using the produce grown. However, in many preschools and in cook books for kids most of the recipes are sweets, biscuits and cakes. More education about nutrition and healthy food choices is necessary.


Copyright 2008/2011


*Food for Day Care

*Good food habits

*Too much food

*Food for the car

*Breakfast nutrition

*Hot boats

*Celery planes
*Treats for diabetic kids
*Fruit faces
*Fruit, vegetables and fun
*Raising fit kids
*Get fit in autumn
*family exercise
Reducing germs in the classroom
More on Germs
Avoid heat stress
Too much water
Stop infections
Face Exercises
Winter warm-ups
A Health report
Eating vegetables
Children and screen time
Dental care
Fit Kids
Turn off the screens
Healthy lunches for kids
Tips for healthy living
Keeping Clean
Become a swapper
Too much salt
Jump rope for Heart
Learning to Swim
Take a spring walk
Food allergies
Preparing for bed
Summertime tips
Cool snacks

Restricted diets and the family

Good health choices during pregnancy
Sugary drinks for kids
Family Nature clubs
Exercise and pregnancy
Support kids in  physical exercise
Food glorious food
Healthy living ideas for 2014