Teaching healthy eating habits to children should be one of the top priorities for parents. The ready availability of sugar-rich junk food today has contributed to the rising obesity problem around the world. But as you might already have experienced, children can be picky eaters. More often than not, children will be drawn to unhealthy sugar-rich options than healthy ones. If a healthy eating habit is not formed early on, it could prove to be quite tricky later to convince your kid to eat healthier. So to make sure that your child is getting a meal that is contributing towards his good health, you’ll have to put in some conscious effort from your side. Let’s learn more about how to go on about this:
The Adverse Effects Of Not Eating A Balanced Meal
When the intake of food by children falls short or exceeds the recommended levels, it can lead to malnutrition or obesity. Both malnutrition and obesity are rising problems in the world today. According to a WHO study, more than 340 million children aged 5-19 were overweight or obese worldwide (1).
Both malnutrition and obesity can lead to a variety of associated diseases in children, which can follow their way into adulthood. Ailments like digestive problems, low hemoglobin levels, low immunity, frequent illness, etc., are commonly seen. In worse cases, fatal diseases like blood pressure irregularities, heart problems, and diabetes are also seen. Many ailments that get developed in the body due to years of bad eating habits, starting from childhood, cannot be fixed that easily and often end up requiring medical intervention. So, fixing eating habits at an earlier age is of high importance for all.
How To Form A Healthy Eating At Home
While most of us intend to implement a healthy eating habit for our household, it’s easier said than done. Patterns are not formed in just a spur of a moment and require consistent efforts. In disciplining your child’s eating habits, you will have to fix your own habits first. Children are sharp observers of their parents, and they quickly notice the discrepancies when it comes to eating habits.
We are listing some great tips to get started in the journey of maintaining a healthy diet for your children as well as the whole family:
Portion Control And Cutting Down Intake
By controlling the amount of food your child is eating and keeping a check on the fat and sugar intake, their diet can be improved over time. Opt for food items with less trans fats and oil. Choose fibrous foods like fruit and vegetables over instant and fried food. If your child has a habit of overeating, reducing the intake amount suddenly is not advisable. Instead what you can do is adopt a gradual process of reducing the intake by small amounts. The same goes for replacing unhealthy foods with healthier substitutes. A gradual change would be better instead of a sudden one.
Have A Lookout For Healthy Alternatives
Many of the food items we eat often have healthier alternatives. Some common examples are:
- Low-fat dairy products
- Lean meat portions
- Whole-grain bread
- Fruit and vegetable snacks
- Low sugar confectionery
Involve Your Children In Deciding The Meals
As you involve your child in learning the value of healthy eating, the next logical step is to make them a part of choosing the food. Next time you go shopping, take your child along with you. You can slowly introduce them to the various food labels and teach them the importance associated with these labels. Children are good observers and having a well-informed kid can further help you make good purchase decisions. Chances are, they will introduce you to facts or know-how about certain foods which you were not aware of. The more you make a collective decision about food, the more likely your child will be interested in eating the food and not complain about it.
Avoid Using Food As Rewards
It is commonly seen that many parents reward their children with junk food for maintaining a healthy diet for a certain period. Children are clever and will utilize every hack in the book in getting to their beloved foodstuff. Also, such a system of incentives will work only under the guidance of parents. The moment your children are away from your observation, they will resort to unhealthy eating patterns again. The better approach would be to make them understand the value of healthy eating by educating and involving them. Though probably they won’t totally say no to their candies and other sugar-rich food, at least they would appreciate and take interest in the healthy stuff at home.
Encourage More Water Intake
Good water intake is a critical factor in maintaining a healthy body. But often, especially in colder places and children more so, forget to drink enough water. Form a habit of regularly drinking water at certain time intervals in your children so that when you are not around, they do it automatically. You can utilize bottles with quantity markers that let you keep track of how much water your child has consumed. Exhort your little one to meet the minimum water requirements and if possible remind them every once in a while.
Engage Your Child In Fitness Activities
In addition to healthy eating, fitness activities are a great way to stay healthy and in shape. Physical activities also help in maintaining a good appetite.
The 80:20 Rule
Severe restrictions on eating might result in your child sneaking behind you to grab a snack. Instead of such strict rules, you would be better off following the 80:20 law. Here, you can roughly divide the food intake into 80% adherence and 20% indulgence. This moderation with the occasional deviation will make it easier on both the child and you.
Cook And Eat Food Together
When you involve your child in the cooking process and eat the food as a whole family, they understand the effort gone into preparing the food better. It’s often seen that children avoid wasting food when they appreciate the food and the cooking.
As is evident from the above discussion, forming a healthy eating habit in your family is something you will have to plan well to execute. A healthy diet will give your child the energy and good health to focus on activities of their choice, whether academic, sports, or artistic. And the habits formed at an early age will stay with them for the years to come.
Have you been struggling with the eating habits in your household? Have you devised your own strategies for implementing a healthy diet plan for your children? Feel free to share your views with our readers in the comments below.
- Obesity And Overweight