What your child eats today, can have a long term impact on his or her health throughout life. As the various cells within your child’s body rapidly divide and multiply to set the stage for future growth, the nutrients that are provided during this time determines to a large extent the final fate of the growth. So, how tall or how short or how thin or fat or how smart your child turns out to be not only as a child but also as an adult is more or less determined by what he or she eats in early childhood. Unhealthy eating during childhood can also lead to development of chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease as an adult. Hence, eating healthy is a life skill that should be introduced to children from an early age.
Studies have also shown that it is very likely that the skill of eating healthy is a habit your child will hold on to for life especially if it has been picked up during these formative years. Hence, introducing your little one to a wide variety of foods, textures and tastes is the way to go. It can also help your child to be less picky or fussy about the food he or she eats.
Another advantage of a less picky or fussy eater is that as a mother, you don’t have to worry about packing a whole lot of foods to carry around. It’s a lot less stressful on you as a parent as you don’t have to worry about what your child may or may not eat when you travel or go out.
This article discusses on why it is important to start children on eating healthy early on and some effective tips to make your child a healthy and informed eater.
What is the importance of healthy eating habits in children?
- There are numerous benefits of healthy eating in early childhood, as it boosts your little one’s brain, muscles, bones, vital organs, skin and hair. A balanced diet is also needed to meet the nutritional demands of a rapidly changing body.
- Kids, these days, also face some common health problems of low weight, malnourishment, and obesity. Children also face dental issues such as cavities. In order to avoid these issues, it is important to encourage them to adopt a healthy lifestyle with good eating habits along with some physical activity. Parents must focus on developing healthy habits in kids as it promotes intellectual, physical, social, and emotional growth.
- Children often learn and develop eating patterns by observing adults. When an adult and child interact during mealtimes, they are said to develop a mealtime relationship which is called the feeding relationship. It is hence important to have positive experiences during mealtimes, to develop a positive feeding relationship, which promotes healthy eating behaviours in children.
Thus, healthy eating by children helps out in stabilizing their energy levels, improve and even out their moods, help maintain a healthy weight, form healthy relationship with the parent and protect them from lifestyle diseases as an adult.
How to promote healthy eating habits?
- Offer different types and a wide variety of healthy foods such as whole grains, dairy products, and fresh fruits and vegetables to your child.
- Don’t just stick with one cereal or pulse type. For example, don’t just stick to chapathis made out of wheat flour, include chapathis or rotis made out of jowar, bajra, rajgira and ragi. Make dals out of toor, channa, moong and other dals.
- Keep your pantry or a common place where your child has easy access to stocked with healthy and ready to eat foods. A fruit salad cut and ready to eat in small containers or roasted peanuts in small portion sizes are some foods ideas that can help your child grab a healthy snack on his way to play.
- Avoid giving them aerated drinks and fruit juices that contain a lot of sugar. Instead, offer plain water or water that has been infused with lemon or orange wedges or herbs.
- Junk foods such as pizza, burgers, cakes, and candies should be given occasionally and not on a regular basis.
- While eating, it is important to pay attention to what one is eating. Children watch adults while they eat and pick up behaviours that they exhibit. So lead by example. Switch off that TV and show them how to stay focused on the meal and eat mindfully.
- You need to be a role model. So it is important that you don’t eat what you do not allow your child to eat. So it is important to take stock of your eating habits before you correct theirs.
- Children enjoy mealtimes better when they are allowed to choose their own food. So, be patient and allow them multiple healthy options to choose from. Encourage children to serve and eat by themselves. A great tip to encourage healthy eating is by allowing them to cook along with you. Even small jobs of sorting spinach, pulling out produce from the refrigerator or peeling potato pealscan go a long way.
- Sometimes, when new foods are introduced into the diet, your child might take a while to adjust to the taste. However, it is important to keep introducing the food to your child frequently till he or she starts eating a substantial amount of it.
- Children may not have the same kind of appetite every day. Some days, they may eat more, while on other days, they might eat less. It is important not to force them and allow them to stop when they feel full.
- Tempt their palate with different spices and seasonings. For examples, a simple cucumber raita can one day be seasoned with jeera powder, another day with pudina and a third day give it a Greek twist with some dill added to it.
- It is important to make sure that children are in a sitting position while eating so that they don’t choke on the food they eat.
- Serve foods in a way that your child can handle. For small children, it is better to cut fruits and vegetables into smaller pieces so that it is easy for the child to eat. This can avoid choking too.
- Remember your child eats with his eyes too which is why junk foods are very attractively coloured and presented. Use the same trick for healthy foods and be creative with the way you style the food.
- Last but not least it is important for a child to drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day. His or her consumption should be more in case your child participates in sports or other intense physical activities.
Early childhood is when healthy attitudes, behaviours and feeding habits are developed. And these usually last for a lifetime. So, as a parent, you must ensure that your child follows at least 5 good eating habits, such as choosing different types of foods to eat, drinking enough water, eating independently, avoiding the TV while eating, and eating mindfully.
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