The national news has recently thrown the spotlight on a number of children's health issues.

A new sugar tax on the soft drinks industry in the UK was recently proposed by chancellor George Osborne in his Budget, with the move being hailed by campaigners as a significant step forward in the battle against child obesity.

Furness GP, Dr Arabella Onslow, said: "This sugar tax is definitely sending a stronger message from the government. It is a step in the right direction."

Furthermore, in an Evening Mail debate published on March 16, the majority of those who took part said "no" to a question which asked "Do you think your kids eat enough fruit and veg?".

A dietician and a mother of three, Dr Jane Bowen is offering her top tips for getting your children to eat healthily in the April issue of Healthy Food Guide.

She is offering suggestions to help avoid confrontation at meal times and give your children guidance on how to be  health-conscious and to eat as nutritionally as possible.

Dr Bowen said: "My children respond well to being told why they should eat some things. I don't focus on weight, just health and the benefits.

"Children are much more intelligent and capable of taking in information than we give them credit for."

Dr Bowen's tips

Be a great role model

Among her key advice is for parents to act as an important role model, and eat what your children are eating and avoid crisps, chocolate and other forms of snacks.

Have different food strategies

She also advises to have strategies at your disposal. After a long day at work or school she herself says that she often cooks pasta or stir-fry as they are quick and can include vegetables.

Make eating about good health

Speaking about how eating can be about good health, Dr Bowen added: "I think about foods nutritionally - brown foods are often good (nuts, wholegrain breads and pasta), whereas white foods are less so.

"For breakfast have wholemeal toast, fruit or muesli. In lunchboxes, pack vegetable sticks, wholemeal sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs. Every now and then introduce something new - they might just try it."

Plan Ahead

Dr Bowen says: "Work out meals each week and buy accordingly. At the weekends, when I have more time, I can involve the kids in meal preparation... while slow and messy, (it) makes them more interested in what they eat.

"It is also worth batch cooking, for when time is short."

Eat dinner early 

Dr Bowen says that the more tired children get, the less they can control their emotions. She says she and her family eat at around 5 to 5:30pm

Think about food behaviours

Sweet foods are often highly prized ("you're not getting dessert until you finish" etc.) - which can make children think that they should have sweet treats.

Dr Bowen advises to avoid these motivators where possible, and avoid the need for snacks by keeping to meal time routines.

Don't hold out for an empty plate

Dr Bowen says: "Insisting your children clear their plate teaches them to eat until the food is gone, rather than until they are full. You know how much your child can eat, so stick to similar portion sizes."

Let your children make some decisions

Every so often, let your children make the decisions - for example, on the odd visit to the sweet shop, guide them on what to choose.


Dr Bowen is a member of CSIROseven, a group of Australian scientists working on research breakthroughs, and is a research scientist and dietician for CSIRO Food & Nutrition.

The full article will be published in the April issue of Healthy Food Guide.