Growing children need to eat – fact. Your little one’s diet plays a huge role in him grow taller, healthier, and happier. Therefore, a healthy mix of all the right nutrients served at the right times during the day is what your child needs. And we’re sure you’re doing just that for him, if not more! But are your child’s ‘harmless’ mid-day and evening snacks getting in the way of his healthy diet?
How Do Kids Develop Preferences for the Wrong Kind of Food?
Unlike a couple of years ago, kids today are much more aware of the choices in the market catering to their taste buds. They see ads on TV, while playing games on their parents’ phones; they see fancy toys being offered at their favourite fast-food restaurants. However, healthy food and produce aren’t marketed this aggressively towards kids. They may know basic things like how eating healthy will keep them healthy – but if their beloved cartoon characters are endorsing not-so-healthy munchies, it’s easy to guess what they’re going to prefer!
Similarly, parents can pack the healthiest stuff in their kids’ lunch boxes. But we’re talking about growing kids here – they’re always going to be on the lookout for something easy-to-eat and tasty to satiate their hunger! Unhealthy snacking will just undo the benefits their three healthy meals offer them, so this habit will need to be curbed early on.
Ways to Curb Unhealthy Snacking in Kids
If your little one indulges in more than his fair share of unhealthy snacks, here are some tricks you can try to help him back on the right track!
1. Provide him with healthy and filling snacks.
Don’t just stop with a nutrient-loaded lunch; provide him with delicious snacks that he can munch on in case he’s going to have to wait a while for his next meal. Apple slices with a peanut butter dip, carrot sticks with yoghurt, and dry fruits and nuts make for great options. If you’re looking for a non-messy option which he can just carry on the go (at school or while going out to play), pack in snacks like Timios Oaty Bites; not only are they nutrient-rich, made of whole grains, and low in sugar and salt, they also taste delicious! The attractive packaging is sure to appeal to your little one; and the best part is, it will keep him quite full and prevent him from binging on any more unhealthy snacks his friends might offer him!
2. Do the positive marketing yourself!
It’s not really possible for you to shield your child from ads and offers completely. But what you can do instead is explain the benefits of healthy eating to him – in a non-textbook manner. Tell him which of his favourite superheroes gained their powers because they’d finish every last vegetable on their plate; or how they are always so strong because they never eat any candy. Use your imagination for this exercise, because your child will gain all the factual knowledge he needs from his textbooks. Marketing healthy food as desirable though, will be a whole other challenge – one that will be completely worth it when you finally see results!
3. Be a good role model for your child.
If your kid sees you munching on anything you please especially after labelling it ‘evil’ for him, it’s not going to look too good for you, right? Kids learn by watching and observing, so make sure you set a good example for your little one by snacking on healthy options only! Also, make sure that he doesn’t always catch you munching on something unhealthy. After all, snack-time isn’t 24/7!
4. Follow a set routine for meal times.
While eating three meals a day should be the standard routine in any household, we all know we’re going to sneak in some extra food in between meals. So why should it be any different for your kids? What you can do to ensure that this habit is healthy is to set a time for snacks too. This way, whether mid-morning or evening, your child will have to wait for a particular time before you provide him with munchies. Of course, refusing to feed your little one outright might prove difficult; so if at all he really is hungry before his actual snack-time, tide him over with a few fruits or Timios Melts. This should satiate him without a sugar-high till it’s time for his snacks!
5. Don’t use junk food as a bribe!
Your child shouldn’t see calorie-rich unhealthy foods as a reward for doing things! Sure, you’d want him to clean his room or finish his homework, but if he knows there are chocolates waiting for him once he finishes his task, he’ll end up thinking that such foods are okay to eat as long as he acts like a good boy. Surely that’s not the message you want your child to take away!
6. Make sure your child stays well-hydrated.
Sometimes, it’s not really hunger that motivates your child to get a snack – it could even be just boredom. If he comes to you asking for a packet of chips or raids the fridge for ice-cream, offer him a glass of water instead. Drinking water can help curb his appetite AND keeps him hydrated – win-win!
7. Filter out sugar from his snacks.
The more refined sugar your child has, the more he’ll crave for processed foods. Kids naturally have a preference for sweet stuff, so feeding him sugary snacks is an easy way to get him hooked on to them! Therefore, make a conscious effort to remove excess sugar from his diet, especially when shopping for foods. You can always choose healthy low-sugar alternatives such as fruits or from Timios’ range of age-appropriate snacks.
8. Take your child shopping with you.
When you involve your child in the shopping process, teach him how to read food labels, help him distinguish between what’s healthy and what’s not, it helps ingrain good eating habits in him from a really young age. This won’t happen overnight, of course, so don’t be disappointed if he rushes off to the junk food section even after you’ve just taught him how they’re harmful to his health. Give it time and have patience, and yet again, indulge in positive marketing! Over time, you’ll see how your child automatically makes healthier choices when he goes shopping with you.
9. Make sure his other habits are just as healthy to complement his eating habits.
Growing kids need their required hours of sleep just as much as they need a healthy diet. Poor sleep directly results in poor food choices, because it messes up the timings of appetite-controlling and suppressing hormones, ghrelin and leptin, making him hungry at odd times. So a couple of hours behind on the clock and your child may find himself craving for sugar-loaded snack to perk him up. Similarly, he needs to stay active, and more importantly, busy, because sitting idle can trigger food cravings in him. Ensure that he spends enough time outdoors (and away from those ad-bearing phones and gadgets!) so that he works up an appetite for healthy food!
If your child was born with an affinity for green leafy veggies over sugary snacks, then consider yourself lucky! But more often than not, your little one is going to be drawn to eatables that aren’t going to do him any good. Make sure that you get him on the right track early on by inculcating these tips in this daily routine, and you won’t have to wait long for the day he willingly makes a healthy choice for his 4 pm snack-time!
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