Habits are easy to form and hard to break. This is especially true of eating habits. Teaching healthy eating habits to children has long term benefits. Many small steps can make every meal nutritious and enjoyable.
First let’s take a look at foods to avoid or include in your family meals:
• Limit salt, sugar and fat intake
• Include plenty of fruits and vegetables
• Include whole grain products
• Include lean meat
• Avoid sweetened beverages
Here are a few tips to help your kids form healthy eating habits.
Eat meals together
A family that eats together stays healthy and happy together. Make sure you eat at least one meal together as a family. Make use of this time to inculcate good eating habits. Set a routine of eating healthy foods in a healthy and happy environment. Make mealtimes positive and joyous.
Be an example, don’t dictate
If you want your children to eat something, then don’t tell them to eat it up. You set an example by eating the right food in the right amount and your children will follow you naturally. If they grow up watching you eat right, it will become an unconscious habit for life.
Ensure slow eating
Never rush through a meal. Make sure the atmosphere is relaxed and everyone enjoys every mouthful. Eating slowly not only allows you to savour every mouthful, it also helps you register if you are full. The process of transmitting information about your stomach’s fullness is a little slow, so if you eat fast, by the time you register it, you have already over-eaten. If this habit of slow eating is formed in childhood, then it will help your children recognise and register fullness at the right time, which will prevent them eating that extra helping.
Plan healthy snacks
Snack times are fun times and are never thought of as mealtimes, but the calories eaten then add up to a lot of extra weight. Plan healthy snacks. Get creative and experiment with tastes and flavours to create healthy food items low in salt and sugar and high in vitamins, minerals and proteins.
Set family goals and planned treats. Plan a dessert or snack treat for the weekend. Make that a special event and take those items out of the regular weekly fare. This will ensure that your kids view them as great treats and not as forbidden treasures to be had on the sly.
Don’t force a diet
Children come in all sizes as do adults. Never compare your child’s weight or height with other children’s. Do not try to force a diet on a growing child. This will only make the child rebel and the growing years filled with angst. Consult a paediatrician, and if your child is healthy at whatever weight he/ she is in, stop worrying. Just concentrate on providing healthy meals to build up strength and bone mass. Let your child grow naturally.
Don’t connect food to work
If you have the habit of treating your child for a job well done or depriving a treat for a failure, you have to stop it immediately. Children should never be under the impression that they have to earn a meal. This will create anxiety, which would lead to overeating to compensate for a future loss.
Food is every being’s birth right, and we owe it to our body to provide it with healthy and nutritious food. Help your children view eating right as the panacea for all ills. Teach them that their body and mind will function at their best only if they are well nourished.
Most importantly, help your children respect their body and never abuse it with any substance.
If you require nutrition advice consult our experts today.