“Trying to feed your kid is no herculean task” – said no mother ever. Most children are fussy eaters, and getting them to eat healthy food is not easy. We are all aware of the importance of nutrition and healthy eating, and what with the increase in health related problems, leading a healthy lifestyle is a must. Eating right will help the child in his or her growth and development, keep diseases at bay and help maintain an average, healthy weight. Also, teaching a child to eat healthy, will ensure that the child follows the same even when they are older. So how do we incorporate good food habits for children? Here’s how –
1.Firstly, and this goes without saying – follow the set rules yourself. If as a parent or guide, you plan on inculcating healthy eating habits for children, then you need to do the same yourself. Children ape what adults do, especially if the adult in question is a parent or relative. So if you want your child to eat healthy, then you need to eat healthy too.
2. It’s okay to let the child indulge once in a while. You don’t have to go all out and criminalize everything that is labeled as “junk”. We all love junk, and indulging in it once in a while in moderation is fine. You don’t have to deprive your child of junk food all the time.
3. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day – make sure you let your child know this. Children are active and they need energy right from the start of the day, so their first meal is extremely necessary. You need to ensure that the child makes a habit out of it.
4. A lot of parents are quick to label their kids as fussy eaters – which is a fact – but your child doesn’t need to know that. When you call them picky, and tell others the same before them, they tend to develop a block. When you say things like “he hates vegetables”, you are emphasizing on that fact, automatically creating a block for the child.
5. Colors and shapes fascinate kids. Try to incorporate this into the healthy foods that you cook. Cut down vegetables in fun shapes, and arrange them in fun shapes on a plate before you offer this to your child.
6. Make sure you include a fair amount of fiber in the food you cook for your child. A lot of kids suffer from constipation and other bowel issues – avoid this by making the child consume fruits like bananas, apples, oranges and raspberries, vegetables like carrots, beetroots, broccoli and beans. Oatmeal is a great source of fiber as well.
7. Involve your kids in the whole process of cooking. Let them know what goes into the making of the food they eat. Calling them into the kitchen so they can watch you cook, and allowing them to help you while cooking will make them eat the food on their plate, because they get a sense of working hard, for the food they eat.
8. Make sure you have proper meal times, and maintain these meal times consistently. Kids need to be taught the importance of having their meals on time – this will ensure that they make a habit of this, following the same in the long run as well.
9. Your child should know what he or she is eating, and the importance of it. Tell the child the importance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats and everything else that is being consumed, and its benefits.
10. Make sure your child sits at the table during every meal. Most kids these days are either glued to the television or playing games on the computer while eating. This is one habit that should not be inculcated, because research shoes that this can lead to obesity, as the brain is not keeping track of what you’re eating, and it concentrating on the television or computer instead.
11. Make sure you incorporate some physical activity and exercise in your child’s daily routine – this helps in creating a healthy appetite and helps in the growth and development of your child as well.
12. Incentives and rewards work wonders for children. Set down a few rules with regard to health eating, and promise them rewards in the end, if these rules are followed. Rewards work as great motivation for kids.
13. Have at least one meal together. Most parents have a busy schedule, so eating every meal together is probably difficult, but make sure you have one meal together as a family – preferably dinner time. While this works as good family time, you also get to see how your kid eats – chances of eating junk are minimized as well.
14. Start reading the labels on the food you buy – ask your kids to do the same as well. This will make both you and your child conscious of what he or she is eating. Knowing what’s going in will be like an eye opener – a can of corn? roughly 350 calories, a pack of Oreos? that’s 300 calories straight. Knowing all this will help you keep a tab on your health and control it.
15. If you have time, try and indulge in activities like gardening, and ask your child to be a part of it. The child will enjoy eating the vegetables and fruits you’ve grown.
16. Fill your refrigerator with healthy food. Stack it up with fruits and vegetables, so that your child does not binge eat on junk. and eats healthy and munches on nutritious foods when hungry.
17. Don’t use negative reinforcements to force a child to eat what he or she doesn’t like.
18. Don’t give up. As mentioned before, kids can be choosy about their food, but you need to be patient with them. They’ll thank you later.
As we mentioned before, developing good food habits for children plays a key role in the development and health of the child. It also helps them mould into adults who lead a healthy lifestyle. Here are a few healthy food habits that you should inculcate in your child, starting from now –
- Make sure you incorporate adequate physical activities and exercise into your life on a daily basis. Exercise aids with the overall growth and development of you and your little one, and helps maintain a healthy appetite as well.
- Craving for some junk? Go on and indulge – at home. Instead of ordering a takeout, make the same food at home. Cooking a pizza at home is not just healthy, it ups the fun quotient as well, especially for your child.
- Make sure your child drinks water throughout the day. A good six to eight glasses of water is a must. Children need this for their development, to flush out toxins and to keep themselves hydrated.
- Make sure the foods that your child eat are high in nutrition value, chock filled with proteins, carbs, iron, fats, vitamins and minerals.
- Your child needs a good dosage of Calcium as well. This is especially the case in the developmental years of the child. Calcium is required for the development of teeth and bones, as well as its maintenance.
- Make sure your child (and you) chews the food well before swallowing, this helps with better digestion.
- You know what they say – variety is the spice of life. Check out a few recipes online, and experiment with the food you eat. Many people are under the misconception that healthy food is not tasty – this is far from the truth, it all depends on the way you make it.
- Eat smaller, frequent meals through the day, instead of three big meals. This should be practised especially in the case of children, as they are hungry most of the time.
There is no doubt that the quality of life these days isn’t the same as what it was, say, about twenty years back, what with all the pollution and other environmental factors that call for concern. Obesity is now a lifestyle disease that affects almost one in every five persons. Physical conditions like diabetes, a rise in cholesterol levels and heart ailments are so common these days, it’s scary. Developing healthy eating habits for children is imperative, and you need to start right away, because the sooner you start, the easier it is to make a habit of it.
While it is okay to go ahead and eat junk and snacks a few times, making it a daily thing is a strict no. Kids these days are facing a lot of issues, like diabetes and heart ailments, something that was considered a disease that was restricted to old age, and sometimes middle age. You, as well as your child, needs to begin eating healthy – right away. Inculcating healthy eating habits for children will work wonders for you as well, because you’ll be pushing yourself for the sake of your child.
Good health is paramount, and we’ve heard this before – health is wealth. And the best time to begin, is now.
Also Read: Child Growth Chart and Tracker