Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Give kids 5-a-day… in a chocolate drink?

By Andrew Wilson

You want your child to get all the nutrition they need, but they simply refuse to eat any fruit or veg. Encouraging children to eat a wide variety of foods can be a battleground and one faced by many parents at mealtimes.

So could the launch of new chocolate-flavoured drink Kidz 5 A Day help tackle the issue? The drink promises to give children all the vitamins and minerals they need for healthy growth – and kids love it!

While there is limited nutritional information about this product available on the Kidz 5 A Day website, the ingredients are essentially fruit and veg, which provide vitamins, minerals and phyto-nutrients. However, there is added cocoa (presumably to give it it’s chocolate flavour) and sea salt. 

A chocolate drink with extras might seem like a great option, but don't be tempted to rely on it as a replacement for fruit and vegetables as such sweet-flavoured tactics may lead to bigger problems later. 

Regularly giving children drinks that taste of chocolate, for example, will encourage them to eat and drink more chocolate, which is not conducive to good eating habits. And trying to break these habits later in life can be very difficult.

However, forcing a child to eat fruit and vegetables may cause them to eat less of these healthy snacks, strengthening their preference for the unhealthy options you are trying to limit.

But don’t be disheartened – when a child is hungry, they will eat. If a new food is rejected the first time, offer it again later. The more often a child is offered something new to eat rather than told to eat it, the more likely they are to accept it. This could take several attempts – eight to 10 times – so patience is definitely required, but it will teach your child to choose healthy options. And remember, children will be more likely to try and enjoy new foods if they see their parents eating them.
Chocolate flavours aside, it is important for children to drink plenty throughout the day to prevent dehydration and tiredness. Water and milk are the most suitable options; pure unsweetened fruit juice, well diluted (one part juice to eight parts water), can be offered at mealtimes, but are not recommended between meals. Meanwhile, ordinary and ‘diet’ varieties of squashes, juices and fizzy drinks are best avoided, but if they are consumed, keep them to main meals only as they can erode the surface of the teeth.

Andrew Wilson is a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association.