To fuel an active healthy lifestyle, children and teenagers need
carbohydrates for energy and growth
As schools return after the Summer holidays and the weather is getting colder, it’s time to look again at what’s in their lunchboxes.
Despite the recent craze to cut carbs, the fact is, that not all foods containing carbohydrates are bad for kids, whether they’re complex (as in whole grains) or simple (such as those found in sliced bread). To fuel an active healthy lifestyle, children and teenagers need to eat carbohydrates for energy and for growth. Carbohydrates provide the body with a source of fuel and energy that is needed to carry out daily activities and exercise. Carbohydrates are vital to ensure the brain, heart, nervous, digestive and immune systems work correctly.
For children bringing lunches to school, a sandwich is a great way to provide a balanced mid-day meal, with carbohydrate from the bread and protein from meat or cheese as a filling, along with some veg (if you can get them to eat lettuce!), providing a tasty, nutritious and balanced meal. The recent IUNA report* stated that bread as a source of energy was found to be low in preschool diets at only 4-5% of a child’s diet. For children, a healthy balanced diet should include about 33% of food portions every day coming from carbohydrates, that’s one portion at every meal. The key is to make sure that most carbs come from good sources, such as bread, and that added sugar in their diet is limited.
According to the food pyramid (www.safefood.eu) children over the age of 5 years should eat 5-7 portions of carbohydrates daily. The body needs a constant supply of energy to function properly and a lack of carbohydrate in the diet can result in tiredness, fatigue, poor mental function and a lack of endurance or stamina. Bread is a convenient, healthy source of carbohydrate that is available freshly baked at a reasonable cost that your kids can eat every day. As well as bread, breakfast cereals, potatoes, fruit and vegetables are all excellent sources of carbohydrate.
The IUNA report also pointed out that white bread was the lowest contributor of total sugar in children’s diets at 1%, and white and wholemeal bread provided a contribution of just 1% of total fat intake. Oonagh said that “If like me you are keen to make sure your children are eating well, then balance is key and moderation in all things. Bread is low in sugar, low in fat and high in carbohydrate, making it a convenient, widely available, cost effective healthy option as part of a balanced diet when feeding your hungry children.”
*Report is the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance (IUNA) Report on the Pattern of White and Wholemeal Bread Consumption in Irish Adults and Pre-School Children, (September 2016))