How can I help my baby develop good eating habits?
Till a baby reaches 6 months of age, all of his or her nutritional needs are met by breast milk. However, once you start introducing solids (mashed initially), it becomes important to inculcate healthy eating habits. These habits will guide your child’s food choices even when he or she grows up to become an adult. So, ever wondered how to motivate your child to develop good eating habits?
Here are a few tips:
- Say no to force-feeding: Do not force food your child. He will eat voluntarily if he feels hungry. A child gets to know about new foods while exploring the options surrounding him and learns to decide for himself.
- Choose nutrition over calories: Select those foods for your child that are high in nutritive value and not in calories. Instead of introducing cookies as snacks, introduce him to a variety of fruits and vegetables. Instead of giving soda when he is thirsty, offer him plain water, coconut water, lassi, or fresh vegetable juices.
- Avoid unhealthy fats: Foods containing trans fats should be completely avoided as they lead to obesity. Foods containing saturated fats should be avoided or had in moderation, and these include mutton, high-fat dairy items, lard etc. Offer whole eggs, fatty fishes, nuts and seeds instead, which are rich in healthy fats. Try to cook dishes with olive oil.
- Be a good role model: A child learns good eating habits from his parents, so set a good example by eating healthy food yourself. Make sure that your child chews food slowly to ensure better digestion. Discourage constant snacking and avoid it yourself too. This can destroy your little one’s appetite for main meals and cause tooth decay as well.
- Eat with your kid: Try to have meals with your children so that they can learn about eating healthy food from you. This way, you can find out about their concerns, likes and dislikes as well.
- Monitor your child’s meals at his day care: If your child goes to a day care centre, be vigilant of what he is eating there. Try and pack healthy meals and snacks for him. Whole-grain sandwiches, idli, parathas stuffed with veggies, fresh fruits (chopped into fun shapes), and boiled eggs are good ideas.
- Go grocery-shopping with your kid: Plan and take your child for grocery shopping. This way he will be able to express his own food choices and explore the world of healthy foods too. You can teach him to read nutrition labels and explain which foods contain more sugar, salt or fat.
- Involve your child: Plant some vegetables and fruits in your kitchen garden and involve your child in the process, so that he understands the importance of the food that he eats.
- Take his help while cooking: Sometimes, you can include your child in preparing dishes that do not require heating. Non-fire cooking can help your child learn more about food and easy ways to make it.
- Restrict his screen time: Try to limit the screen time of your child as that encourages unnecessary eating which is unhealthy. Also, keep him away from social media as this might have a negative impact on his eating patterns. A positive body image is necessary for your child to enjoy the food he eats.
What your child is eating today definitely determines his food choices in the future. Therefore, teaching him healthy eating habits at this stage will take him a long way.