By Raising Children Network
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Your child’s eating habits are mostly influenced by the way your family eats and then by how your child’s friends eat. Your child looks at you as the main eating role model, so be sure to provide healthy meals and snacks at home.

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Starting the day in a healthy way

A healthy breakfast wakes up your child’s body by starting the metabolism. Breakfast provides the energy your child needs for the day. Research has found that children who skip breakfast tend to weigh more. This might be because these children get hungry and eat more later in the day.

Mornings can be a mad rush for many families. Luckily, breakfast can be quick, easy and still healthy – it might be as simple as yoghurt and fruit, cereal and milk, or toast.

School lunch box ideas

In most schools, children can choose to get their lunch from the school tuckshop or bring their own lunch from home. Thanks to recent efforts by parents, the food in some tuckshops is now much more nutritious. Still, it’s probably cheaper and healthier to send your child to school with a lunch box from home, stuffed full of good things.

Here are some ideas for a wholegrain-bread sandwich (or you can use pita bread, wraps, baguettes or rice cakes):

  • cheese, lettuce and chutney
  • swiss cheese and sliced gherkin (pickled cucumber)
  • cottage cheese or ricotta and dates
  • brie cheese and cranberry sauce
  • lean meat or falafel and salad
  • curried egg or mashed boiled egg and lettuce 
  • chicken, mayonnaise and celery.

A piece of fruit added to the lunch box is a good idea. You can:

  • peel and cut a kiwi fruit and put it in a container
  • chop up strawberries and combine with grapes or blueberries, and put them all in a container
  • quarter an apple and squeeze some lemon juice over it – this will stop it browning by lunch time
  • pop in a banana – they come in their own easy-to-peel packaging!

Some other lunch box ideas include:

  • a drinking straw skewered with cubes of cheese and cherry tomatoes (or strawberries if they’re in season and not expensive)
  • carrot and celery sticks with hummus dip (put hummus in a separate container so your child can dip into it)
  • a silly smiley face on a note – your child can’t eat it, but it will get a laugh and show that you’re thinking of her!
Is your child’s lunch coming home uneaten? Maybe there isn’t time for your child to eat before his friends want to play. Try cutting the sandwich into quarters, rather than halves, so your child can at least finish some before play begins.

 Healthy eating tips

When your child goes to school, his taste buds might be exposed to many new foods, which can be a great thing. Sometimes, though, eating away from home can undo some of the work you’ve put into encouraging your child to eat healthy food. Sticking with healthy family meals will help your child avoid falling into the trap of childhood obesity.

Here are some ideas to help:

  • Pack a goodness punch by including lots of your child’s nutritional needs in one dish. Try Everything fried rice, an omelette with the lot, shepherd’s pie, baked beans on wholegrain toast, or pasta bolognaise with a meat and vegie sauce.
  • Avoid forcing your child to eat vegetables – or any other food, for that matter. Encourage your child to try a spoonful, but don’t get upset if she refuses it.
  • Eating fresh foods is a better way of getting vitamins and minerals than taking supplements.
  • Your school-age child gets thirsty running around the playground. The best thirst quencher is plain water.
  • Generally, food additives don’t cause any harmful effects. If your child is sensitive to one or more food additives, speak to your doctor. You can read more about food additives in our article on food labels and nutrition panels.
  • Limit snacks such as salty chips, lollies and sweet biscuits, especially while your child is watching TV. You can learn more about good and bad fats.


Our article on nutrition and fitness basics for school kids gives you more healthy eating guidelines and ideas to help you ensure your child eats good food. For more information on feeding school-age kids a balanced diet, you can check out our illustrated guide to food portions. And for good food made quick and easy, try these meals in minutes.

School-age activity

Your school-age child benefits from at least one hour of physical activity each day. The activity should be moderate to vigorous. ‘Moderate’ means your child should be gently huffing and puffing, and ‘vigorous’ means even more huffing and puffing!

You can encourage your child to be active by doing fun physical activities such as:

  • playing at the playground, or swimming at the local pool or beach
  • going for family bike rides or bushwalks
  • walking to or from school – this also gives you a chance to have a chat while you spend time together.

It can be easy to think of fun, active things to do with your child when the sun is shining. It can be harder in winter. To stay active in winter, you can bring outside activities inside – or just rug up and head outdoors.

If you drive your child to school, try parking a few blocks away so you both have to walk the rest of the way – this sneaks some activity into your day.

Playing sport
Many children are ready for organised sport by eight years of age. Try to choose a sport that will help your child develop skills without getting hurt or losing confidence. You can also get children interested in sport earlier through play.

You can help your child stay safe and prevent injury when doing sport or any kind of physical activity by making sure your child has proper equipment, a safe environment and well-fitting protective clothes.

Some children don’t seem to like organised sports. That’s OK – there are plenty of other ways to support active children. But it’s a good idea to look for underlying causes of a dislike of sport, to see whether you can find a solution and to rule out any health issues or other problems.

When children spend lots of time in front of the TV and computer, they miss out on the physical activity and play that keeps them healthy. Child development experts say that children over five should have no more than two hours of screen time each day.
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  • Newsletter snippet: School-age nutrition and fitness: in a nutshell

    By Raising Children Network

    School-age children need to start the day with a healthy breakfast. It can be as easy as yoghurt and fruit, some healthy cereal or toast.

    You are your child’s eating role model, so it’s important to provide healthy meals and snacks at home.

    School lunch box ideas

    • Try cutting sandwiches into quarters rather than halves so they don’t take too long to eat.
    • Make sandwiches using wholegrain bread, pita bread, a baguette or rice cakes.
    • Use different fillings, like Swiss, cheddar, brie or cottage cheese, curried or mashed egg, or chicken and mayonnaise.
    • Try carrot or celery sticks with a dip.
    • Include a piece of fruit, perhaps sliced or peeled to make things easier.
    • Remember that water is the best thirst quencher.

    Keeping kids active

    Your school-age child benefits from at least one hour of physical activity each day. Physical activity can be fun things like playing at the park. Your child might be ready for organised sport by eight years of age.

    School-age kids should have no more than two hours of screen time a day.

    This article is an extract only. For more information, visit

    Sourced from the Raising Children Network’s comprehensive and quality-assured Australian parenting website,

  • Last Updated 22-12-2011
  • Last Reviewed 01-12-2011