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Too much food

The latest news suggests that it isnít lack of exercise that is causing kids to be overweight, but too much food.  Some childrenís lunch boxes are absolutely full.  The food is healthy e.g., sandwiches, yoghurt drink and fruit, there is just too much of it.  I remember when my mother reduced the number of sandwiches I was allowed to take to school.  I was really hungry by lunch time and felt that it was not fair when Mum cut my lunch back.  However, in a couple of weeks I was used to the smaller amount.  Now I realize that it was a good move.  Many children will eat as long as food is there, even after their hunger is satisfied. 

Choose some food that takes time to digest such as cheese or meat to put in a salad or sandwich.  Two slices of bread with plenty of filling between the slices, is an adequate lunch if you include fruit and a drink.  Unsweetened fruit juice, and water are the best drinks for school.

A milk drink after school will keep children satisfied until dinner time.

Some children are in such a hurry to play that they donít eat their lunch.  By end of school they are too hungry and may eat their lunch and a further snack at the same time.  Small meals and snacks are preferable to enormous meals.  Children need information about the food that they are eating.  We should listen to what they are telling us too and take action that includes sound reasons for the food we want them to eat.


Food to eat in the car

After school children are hungry.  They need something to eat as soon as possible. Here are some healthy food ideas to eat in the car:

  • Keep fruit drinks or water in spill proof bottles for them to have as soon as they are seated. 

  • Hand out non messy fruit such as apples or bananas

  • Provide low sugar meusli bars

  • Buy small packets of dried fruit such as apricots, sultanas or raisins for the kids 

  • Bake bread fingers spread with vegemite or peanut butter, in a slow oven till crisp.

  • Avoid giving sweets and high fat snacks like chips. 

  • Have a bag hung ready for peel in front of the children, and make sure it is emptied each day.

  • If you work, pack the afternoon snack before leaving home and keep it cool if necessary, while at work.

If your kids are not hungry, car travel will be easier and safer for everyone.


French bread

Children take an interest in food preparation from an early age and will often try new things if they have helped make it.  They love beating eggs in a glass with one of those small metal or plastic discs with a handle. Many recipes need beaten eggs.  French bread is a quick and easy one to make.

  1. cut a slice of  bread in half or quarters 

  2. child beats egg while adult heats a tablespoon of butter or marg in a frying pan 

  3. fry the bread quickly in the butter   

  4. allow child to pour beaten egg over the bread as egg browns

  5. turn bread once 

  6. eat hot or cold 

Always supervise children closely when they are helping you near hot containers.


Avocado snack

Avocados are rich in vitamin A and potassium.  They contain unsaturated fat.  They can be introduced to babies as one of their first solid foods and because of their bland taste, are liked by most children and adults.  They are very affordable at the moment.  Buy when they are still very firm. Here is a quick way to prepare them,

Toast slices of bread mash avocado and spread it thickly on the toast cook cook bacon crumbs quickly in a little oil sprinkle bacon crumbs over the avocado serve cut into fingers


Fried Rice

Rice is a popular food in Australia and most children like it, especially fried rice.  When boiling rice, cook a bit extra so that youíll have some to make quick after-school snacks for your child. For a tasty snack, fry the rice and add other leftovers such as ham, tomato, onion, and corn niblets.  All can be fried in a little oil together, or the rice alone can be fried and the other chopped ingredients stirred in to be eaten crisp and raw.  It will depend on what your child likes best.  Pineapple pieces, sultanas, apple and cheese also taste good in fried rice.  Primary aged children should enjoy preparing this type of snack for themselves.



Smoothies are a great way to fill kids up when they arrive home hungry after school. A smoothie is cool and nutritious too and can be kept low in sugar and fat.

Blend together

  • a cup of light milk

  • a heaped tablespoon of plain low fat yoghurt 

  • some fresh or frozen fruit. A banana or a handful of strawberries or raspberries is perfect.

If the smoothie isnít sweet enough for your taste, add some Splenda. Splenda is made from sugar but doesnít contain calories and is measured the same way as sugar.


Breakfast nutrition

Breakfast in Australia used to be thought of as an important meal, a cooked meal. Many men in years gone by expected eggs and bacon or sausages with left over vegetable as the first meal of the day. Many families cooked porridge, toast, and milk and sat down to a substantial meal. Somehow the culture changed and breakfast became unimportant, a quick snack or a meal to be missed altogether.

In 2000, one in five children missed breakfast altogether while one child in four, ate lollies, a fizzy drink, or something else that would hardly give the child the necessary energy for the day. Nutrition authorities were alarmed and attempted to get across the message that brain development and education suffer when a nutritious breakfast is not eaten.

Results of a survey in 2006 show a big improvement. Now only one child in 10 is missing breakfast and milk, cereal, eggs, toast and peanut butter are now the normal breakfast meal. Schools have reinforced good breakfast habits by sending home newsletters asking parents to see that children eat well from the proper food groups. Some schools provide a nutritious breakfast for children who are unable to eat at home. The survey was of 9000 children and found that children who eat a good breakfast are more likely to be in a satisfactory weight range also.


Celery Planes

Children often like crunchy food and even fussy eaters will usually try a novelty food if other children are eating it and there is no other food choice. For Celery aeroplanes I use peanut butter to fill the length but some children are allergic to it. If so, cream cheese would stick the wings on just as effectively.


  • Take a stick of celery and scrape to remove most of the strings

  • cut into lengths

  • spread longest pieces thickly with peanut butter or cream cheese

  • attach wings by laying another piece across the first piece at right angles

  • sit sultanas all along the plane as passengers

  • eat with enthusiasm


More school lunches

When children are at home, food is available almost any time of day. That changes when they go to school. They need a healthy snack mid morning, and a substantial meal for lunch to keep them active in body and mind during the day. When they arrive home children need to eat again. The evening meal will be the main meal of the day, but it is vital to provide nutritious foods from the different food groups during the day. In school food include some from each of the following groups:

  • bread, pitta, rolls, potatoes, rice for carbohydrates
  • filling suggestions - eggs, cheese, tuna, tofu, yogurt, baked beans, for protein
  • fruit and vegetable such as apple, banana, kiwi fruit, grapes, orange, carrot and celery sticks
  • water Ė it is the perfect drink for school.

To be sure that food keeps cool, freeze the water bottle and or yoghurt and store it in the lunch box with the other food.


Raising fit kids

Are your children fit? If they are fit they:

  •  eat healthy food Ėincluding  a variety of fruit and vegetables every day

  • are not overweight

  • are physically active every day

  • drink about three glasses of milk a day to develop strong bones

  • drink water not sweet juices when thirsty

  • spend a limited time in front of screens such as computer, TV and game screens

  • get eight to ten hours sleep at night.

In Australia summer is at an end although here in New England it feels as if it is just beginning as it has been the coolest summer for over fifty years. In Victoria and South Australia it has been an exceptionally hot summer. Before the variety of summer fruits and vegetables disappear from our gardens and shops make sure that the kids have tasted something new. It is so easy to keep to bananas, oranges, apples and strawberries. Look for a fruit that you donít usually buy and make it a feature of a desert. Even better would be to take the family out in the bush to pick blackberries before the birds get the last ones. Blackberries and ice cream are delicious and nutritious.


Get fit in autumn

Autumn is here and fit kids will be more likely to stay well. This is a good time to take stock of how fit your child is. Babies get exercise from kicking, rolling, stretching, crawling and pulling themselves up. There is no need to think of an exercise regime for them. They create their own. However, even in child care centres these days toddlers and pre-schoolers are often told Ďdonít run,í because of safety or noise issues. Parents say the same thing as they struggle to keep up with active toddlers in the street or in shopping centres.  We are guilty of trying to slow our kids down. We need to keep our kids safe but we must encourage their natural physical activities if they are to maintain a love of exercise throughout life and fitness is vital to our wellbeing. 

Family fitness games are a good idea. Here are some ideas to encourage children to keep fit:

Ball games  - rolling, bouncing, throwing, catching, batting. Balls are suitable for the whole family and are great fun They can be used inside and out, wet weather or dry.

Running and walking games

  • Run with a kite

  • run or walk fast with the dog

  • run or walk fast in a variety of relay races e.g. retrieve balls, potatoes, pinecones, stones, shells or bean bags set out in rows. 

  • arrange relay races using eggs and spoons, ping-pong balls, small toys, play balloon games

  • whatís the time Mr Wolf 

  • Simon Says

  • tip and other chasing games to exercise large muscles

Skipping and jumping

  •  how far can you jump? Jump over sticks, puddles, toys or ropes, over the lines on the pavement

  • play hopscotch

  • dance to music,

  • hold skipping races, skip to music, skip with a rope, skip with a partner,

  • elastic games

  • take the family collecting firewood

  • rake up leaves.

There are so many fun things a family can do without going to an expensive gym.


Winter warm-ups

With winter coming, physical exercise will be enjoyed by all. Hopping, jumping, running, skipping, pushing and pulling are all exercises whole families can engage in. Raking or sweeping up leaves can lead to good exercise in the garden. Children love to jump into or over piles of leaves. Give each child an empty flower pot. When they are filled with leaves, put the pots in a row with a meter or two between the pots. Children jump along the row, weaving their way in and out between the pots. Theses pots can also be jumped over or skipped around. They can be emptied into the wheelbarrow and pushed to the compost heap.


Dental Care

Did you know that toothbrushes quickly get infected with bacteria? They have staphylococci and streptococci for a start, so we are putting germs in our mouths while we clean our teeth. However, we must clean our teeth or big problems with holes will occur, and childhood is the time to form the good habit. It is not only teeth but gums that should be cleaned to massage them. I read about teething rings that while giving baby relief during teething, will also help to form that tooth cleaning habit. The Curababy teething ring is a Swiss invention that massages the gums. Gum massage is an important part of oral hygiene throughout life.  The same company has a brush for children with small tapered head and special rubber coated bristles that children accept easily. It is specially for little ones whose teeth are still appearing and is available from many chemists. Here are some tips for dental health:

Use a floride toothpaste, clean your childís teeth yourself, avoid chewing gum that has sugar in it, avoid sweets and sugary drinks, always clean teeth before bed and only give kids water to go to bed with, get kids used to visits to the dentist early in life.


Fit Kids

In my local area some schools are taking advantage of a free six week fitness program run by the New England Division of General Practice. The news article reports that the sessions will be at schools where, ĎParents will take part in information sessions with health professionals who give advice on simple, economical meal preparation and how to incorporate exercise and a healthy diet into a busy lifestyle.í While parents are occupied, the kids will take part in supervised games. After the sessions, the kids will join their parents for cooking and tasting. It is excellent that whole families are involved in this. Already a big difference has been noted in the confidence of children who were often reluctant to join in physical activities.

The Fitkidz program, offered initially from Queensland has been taken up by many schools throughout Australia. It is designed so that all children, not just those who have good coordination or a liking for sport, can join in and grow more fit. I hope that the program will be taken up and run free in other health regions too.  Fitness affects all areas of life and will help children in school work and social skills.


Turn off the Screens

Have you heard of Turn Off Week? Iíve just discovered it and with spring coming it is a great way to start the season. Statistics for children as well as adults watching screens both computer and TV can be as great as 8 to 9 hours a day! This means millions of people world wide are engaged in a sedentary, not an active lifestyle. This is a leading contribution to obesity.

Turning off our screens gives us the chance to

  • think, act and speak creatively.

  • improve our health

  • practise communication skills

  • improve our socializing skills

  • allow us to see our environments with clearer eyes.

Some communities throughout the world have chosen a specific week of the year to turn off power so that all electricity is turned off as much as possible. I know that cities in all countries are encouraged to turn off lights one night a year. But it is a great idea for communities or schools to encourage people to join in a Turn Off Week. I first read about turn off week at The Book Chook blogspot. The Book Chook is a fascinating website. Take a look it has some great links.



The hot weather has struck suddenly in Australia with much higher temperatures in November than usual. People are now expecting a long hot summer and itís time to beware of dehydration. Dehydration happens when the body does not have enough fluid and can happen very quickly in babies and young children.

Dehydration  can be caused by

  • a viral infections

  • vomiting

  • diarrhoea

  • excessive sweating.

Signs of dehydration

  • baby has dry nappies for a considerable time

  • baby is listless and fretful

  • cries without tears

  • has dry mouth or tongue

  • eyes have sunken appearance.

Seek medical advice at once if these symptoms are present.

With older children watch that they are playing suitable games for the type of weather, are not playing out in the sun for long periods, are drinking fluids regularly, and if vomiting, give small sips of fluid often. Rehydration fluids are available at chemists and can also be made up at home.


Healthy  lunches for kids

Itís back to school time again and the first time at school for hundreds of children. Healthy lunches will give the kids the nutrients they need to renew their energy until they reach home. Kids these days have a wide variety of foods they like as well as the traditional cheese or vegemite sandwiches. Remember that wholemeal bread is better than white. The web is the source of lots of healthy food snacks. Here is one I found put out by the Heart foundation.


2 tablespoons cooked red kidney beans

2 tablespoons corn kernels

Ĺ spring onion sliced

ľ carrot grated

50gms reduced fat tasty cheese

2 teaspoons mild taco sauce

2 wholemeal bread rolls.
  1.  Mix the kidney beans, corn, spring onion, carrot, cheese and taco sauce in a bowl.
  2. Split rolls along one side and pull out some of the bread from the middle of each roll.
  3. Spoon bean mixture evenly into each roll.
  4. Wrap roll tightly with foil and bake at 180įC for 10 minutes.

Baking isnít really necessary. Just roll it up and pack in the lunch box. Include a fruit drink with no added sugar.



When a baby takes his/her first steps, it generates pride and excitement in the whole family. Letís not lose that joy as children grow, as walking is one of the best and healthiest activities for people of all ages.

Instead of jumping into the car to go places, instead of teaching the kids that they can be driven everywhere, encourage walking every day. Look at where you can walk to in your community. You and the kids will be fitter if you walk them to school. Younger children need an adult to accompany them until you are confident that they know the safety rules. Older kids will enjoy walking with their friends instead of going with family, and if they are safety conscious this is a good idea. However, it doesnít mean that you should give up on walking. See how many car trips you can replace by walking. Some  planning may be necessary such as getting up early enough to walk to work, walking several blocks to the shops instead of using the closest parking lot, park in a central spot and walk to all the shops instead of moving the car from one location to another.

Encourage family walks.

  • Walk around the block after the evening meal

  • explore the area by walking around different streets

  • keep the kids interested by making walking a game e.g. mapping, learning street names, recording number of animals seen, number of bikes

  • take a bag and collect rubbish as you walk

  • look for specific flowers or trees and collect leaves or seeds

  • take seasonal photos

  • time the distance you walk and improve on that time over several days

  • make up stories as you walk or sing songs. Praise the children for their walking. Make walking a happy habit for everyone in the family.


Become a Swapper

I rather like the new TV campaign that encourages people to swap some of their food and some of their actions for healthier choices. Here are some of the suggestions made: 

  • eat one biscuit instead of two

  • eat one piece of chocolate instead of several

  • choose fruit instead of cake

  • walk to the shops instead of driving  

  • throw some balls through the hoop at the sports field instead of watching basketball on TV

  • walk up stairs instead of using the escalator.

List all the healthy choices you make in a day as well as the unhealthy ones and see how you can increase those healthy choices just by making simple changes. If we change things slowly rather than in big ways, we will accept the changes more readily. Have you thought about the amount of salt we eat? Take away food is high in salt and many products we buy have it added in the processing. Much home cooking also uses a lot of salt. If you add it to food before cooking, reduce the amount a little at a time. Youíll be making a wise choice for the whole family.


Eating to excess is not good.

Some people engage in most unhealthy competitions. Recently TV reported on one in which competitors had to eat as many hamburgers as possible. How foolish. To make it worse, it appeared on the same news as a report on starving children in Somalia. Eating to excess is never good, and Iíve noted that some restaurants serve enormous meals. If people pay for a good meal, one is tempted to eat it all, even though when meal is really too big.  Too many people are overweight these days, including children.  If you are one of those, try serving smaller helpings and pushing yourself away from the table earlier. Never force your children to eat large helpings of food and see that they don't over-eat on any food.



Lately there has been discussion again about the wisdom of having children vaccinated against a number of serious diseases, and whether such vaccinations should be compulsory. Doctors are concerned about the falling level of vaccinations in many areas and blame the anti-vaccination lobby. For communities to be protected against diseases, the level of vaccination needs to be at least 93% and it is around 83% in many areas across Australia. Why are some people campaigning against vaccination?

They think that

  • vaccines cause autism, diabetes and SIDS ( sudden infant death syndrome)
  • vaccines donít work
  • the effects of the vaccine are worse than the diseases
  • that babies are protected from disease by the placenta and through breast milk


However, without vaccines, many, many children would have died. Science has proved the effectiveness so well that few people have seen the terrible effects of diseases that were once common. For example only one child in a million who has been vaccinated with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, will get encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), but one in every 2,000 unvaccinated children who catch measles will get encephalitis. Of these, one in 10 will die and four in 10 will be permanently brain damaged.

The discovery of the polio vaccination has resulted in the elimination of polio in Australia and it has almost been eliminated world wide. Smallpox has been entirely eliminated. Our grandparents saw many children die from diphtheria and whooping cough and in your generation this was rare just because of the immunisation programs. Whooping cough is now increasing again because of the failure of people to have their children immunised.

Be sure to discuss immunisation with your doctor before making a decision as some babies and children may be at risk of severe reactions. Remember that to be fully protected, the full course of injections must be given.

When your child begins school or pre-school, you will be required to show a certificate stating your childís immunisation status and without full immunisation your child may be excluded.


Keeping well in winter

It is winter in Australia and the southern hemisphere and this time of year is often associated with colds and flu, so what can you do to avoid infections? Here is some of the advice Iíve heard:

  • wash hands lots of times especially after touching anything thatís been touched by someone who has a cold
  • keep the sick members of a family away from the well ones as much as possible.
  • wipe sinks and tables down with vinegar and water
  • drink lots of water
  • eat fruit and vegetables rich in viatamin c
  • eat garlic and add it to as many foods as possible
  • eat chicken noodle soup when your appetite is affected by a cold. It is soothing
  • eat yoghurt every day
  • keep exercising but donít get over heated and then cooled down too quickly
  • keep away from crowds especially with your children
  • teach your children to cough into their elbows instead of hands and do this yourself too
  • teach the kids not to share things that go in their mouths like straws, cups, toothbrushes
  • put bins for tissues in places where theyíll be handy. Empty them frequently
  • have plenty of rest


Keeping healthy and warm this winter

In winter many people stay inside more, reduce their exercise but eat more fatty and sweet foods. .We should

  • drink more milk and eat yoghurt and cheese because they are good sources of vitamin A and B 12 as well as calcium
  • keep eating fruit especially citrus which is high in vitamin C
  • add plenty of vegies to your soups, even the cup of soup kinds that are great at lunch time
  • cook hot porridge for a change from muesli or instant cereals out of boxes
  • even in rainy and bitter weather get your children dancing to music, playing ball games, jumping over ropes, squeezing under bars and using hoops in as many ways as you can think of.


Clues and trails for  exercise

Not every family can go away on holidays and even if you do, sometimes fun activities are too expensive. Here is an idea that you can all enjoy that will get you thinking, walking and talking about details that are not always noticed.

Walk along some trails taking photos of features to prepare a kind of treasure hunt. You could photograph letter boxes or chimneys,  parts of plants in a park, trees in gardens, shop windows, traffic lights or zebra crossings, cars or dogs and cats. Then give a photo print to each child and set off as a family to locate the clues. When the last clue has been found there will be a treat like a picnic, a snack, a trip to the swimming pool or some pocket money to spend as they like.


Striking a balance

The school holidays have just ended and the perfect Easter weather enticed families outdoors. It was good to relax and take time doing stuff with the kids. There was no need to hurry out the door like on school mornings. Now itís back to term time, but take stock of how much relaxing time all family members have. While extra curricula activities like soccer, netball, gymnastics, music, dance and drama etc  keep kids occupied and healthy, too many can be a mistake. Kids need time to just do their own things and be creative instead of having every afternoon filled up away from home. Some families set a limit on the number of organized activities their kids can do. Let them choose which ones to keep if possible, and remember you need free time from driving them around too. Striking a balance is the way to go. Also encourage those imaginative and creative activities using junk materials.


Making an activity plan

Recent statistics show that Australian kids have fallen right back in their fitness levels and the amount of time spent outdoors has dropped dramatically, especially for school ages kids. While many parents take their kids to organized sport or physical activities each week, free play outdoors is often replaced by electronic games. Adults too often only watch their kids at sport and donít have the opportunity to join in.

If your children are preschool age, while they are playing, you are probably doing the housework which isnít your idea of fun. I used to walk every morning, but in the last 18 months that hasnít been possible and I know my fitness has dropped.

I have decided to make a plan that involves my four-year-old granddaughter as although she doesnít have a digital device and spends most of each day playing, a lot of her time is spent playing at fine motor activities indoors. I know she needs more outdoor time working to improve her gross motor skills. Kids respond well to routines so I must plan to have half an hour of gross motor exercise with her early every day.

I intend to start with ball activities. She could be much more skilled at catching, throwing, kicking and bouncing. I must work on a a couple of these each day. My ball skills need to improve too. We will need some new balls as well as the couple she has. Here, there is a long sloped driveway and I think bouncing the ball from the top to the bottom and trying to catch it will be an energetic game. We will take turns in being the one at the top.

As well as ball skills I think skipping will be the next skill. I must buy a rope. There are so many things one can do with a rope. How about you? Do the kids in your family need encouragement to improve their gross motor skills?


Healthy snacks for winter

When the kids arrive home cold and starving after school in winter give them a nutritional snack such as

  • a hot jacket potato topped with reduced fat cheese
  • a piece of wholegrain raisin toast spread with margarine
  • hot fruit scones or pikelets with margarine
  • a cup of vegetable soup
  • toasted reduced fat cheese and creamed corn sandwich
  • a cob of freshly boiled corn
  • Mashed banana and dates on toast


Hospital food

In the last month Iíve spent quite a lot of time visiting a big hospital. Iíve been impressed at the menus the patients have to choose from and the food always arrives hot and is tasty. I know this isnít the case with all hospitals where food is often ordered from away and the meals are not good or palatable.

Iíve also looked at the hospital cafť. There the selection is quite large with healthy wholegrain sandwiches, quiches, spinach ricotta, some meat pies, a variety of salads, yoghurt, fresh fruit and then carrot bread, apple crumble and a couple of other sweet slices. The emphasis is certainly on healthy and sustaining food and it is reasonably priced. Iím sure that child patients would also have tempting choices. For the adults visiting often very sick relatives, it is good to have food to sustain the spirits as well as the body.




Copyright 2010-2014







Food for Day Care
Good food habits
School lunches
Cool food.
Pizzas kids can make
Lebanese bread
Baked potatoes
Chicken flavoured Rice
Treats for diabetic kids
Hot boats
Avoiding heat stress
Stop infections
Skipping breakfast
Food requirements
Planning menus
Keeping clean
Sick kids
Ten steps for healthy families
Having enough sleep
The best time of year
Jamie Oliver in Australia
Taking responsibility for family health
Exercising in autumn
Too much salt
Eating to excess
Keeping well in winter
Keeping healthy and warm in winter
Clues and trails for exercise
Striking a balance
Making an activity plan

Healthy snacks for winter

More healthy living ideas for families
Hospital food