Before parents try to take up the challenge of changing their children’s poor eating habits, it is necessary to remember that every kid is different and has unique tastes and preferences. And the eating habits you inculcate in them since the time you start complementary feeding, lasts for years. However, it’s better to start late than never. So, if your toddler or pre-teen doesn’t like fruits or veggies, you can still do things to modify their tastes. Before you get started, knowing about the common unhealthy eating habits of kids is important.
Poor eating habits that are commonly observed
- Frequent consumption of packaged juices
- Avoiding vegetables
- Intermittent snacking on junk foods
- Excessive intake of carbohydrates
- Excessive consumption of sugary treats
Each of these unhealthy toddler eating habits can be transformed over time into good habits, which can show better results in their adulthood.
Given below are few practical tips to break these bad habits:
Frequent consumption of juices
Juices are good sources of vitamin C and other nutrients, but the calorie content is certainly much higher than what is required. Whole fruits on the other hand, can supply the same amount of nutrients, for example, vitamin C, along with nutrients and fibre. This vitamin can also be obtained from half a cup of broccoli or half an orange. Research has not yet established a relationship between weight gain and juice consumption among kids. However, juices are not as rich in fibre as whole fruits, and should definitely be a smaller part of a kid’s diet. Anything more than half a cup can fill up the stomach, leaving less room for solid foods.
What to do to break the habit?
Replace juice with water.
Try to offer water before offering juice, soon after their playtime. While kids are thirsty, they tend to gulp down more juice. Once they have quenched their thirst with water, give them a small amount of juice.
Use regular cups instead of sippers
Offering them juice in a regular cup will reduce the quantity of juice intake since it is not easy to gulp it down quickly.
Adulterate with water
The trick is to add water to the juice. You may intensify the flavour using lemon juice. However, the intake should not exceed 1-2 cups a day.
Vegetables, like fruits, are rich sources of vitamins and minerals as well as fibre. Including vegetables in your child’s daily diet is a good habit and should be started early in life. Then, the habit will continue throughout adulthood as well. Vegetables in his diet can promote good health, maintain appropriate body weight, and also prevent the risk of many common diseases.
These simple tips can ensure that your child eats vegetables:
- Use a dip: Adding a sauce or dressing made of natural ingredients without high fructose corn syrup to the vegetables can make a difference.
- Be patient: Make your child understand the importance of vegetables and their benefits, rather than pressuring him or punishing him for avoiding vegetables. You can be a role model by eating a few servings of vegetables along with your child.
- Add some fat: Butter or cheese or olive oil can be added to vegetables, which will enhance the taste, and make them more palatable. A few grams of fat will not do any harm to your child.
- Make vegetables look special: Take additional time and try to set up an appetizer tray with slices of vegetables, which can be consumed as finger foods before a meal, along with hummus or any low-fat dressing.
Consuming too many snacks in between meals can make your kid feel full and he might not be hungry at mealtimes. Even if he/she eats healthy snacks, they will still affect the feelings of hunger and satiety.
Simple tips like these can prevent constant nibbling:
Avoid junk food
Try to keep unhealthy foods at bay by rearranging your fridge and pantry. Arrange healthy foods right in front and centre so that it is not such a problem if they eat these foods.
Feed them a filling snack
A high-protein snack like peanut butter or cheese with crackers or fruit yoghurt will keep kids satisfied for a longer duration.
Make your child sit and eat meals at the table and schedule snack time too. Convince your child to maintain the schedule and make him understand that he/she can eat a snack during snack time only. This might seem hard in the beginning, but with a little practise, it will soon become easier.
Excessive intake of carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are a quick source of energy and get digested quickly, making your child hungry frequently. Having carbohydrates like noodles or white bread will not provide all the necessary nutrients though. It is better to include whole grain cereals in his diet instead, which are rich in fibre and nutrients.
Complement with proteins: Add protein-rich foods like meat or beans, eggs or low-fat dairy products to his diet. Even a glass of milk or a spoon of peanut butter tends to have high protein content, which is good enough for your child.
Excessive consumption of sugar
Every child loves sweets and it is impossible to say no to them all the time. However, binging on sweets can add a whole lot of calories and can lead to obesity and even diabetes in future. So, follow these simple tips:
- Check out the sugar content of the foods your child eats
- Bring home limited number of foods that are high in sugar
- Set a limit for consumption
- Try giving alternate sweet foods like fruits or dry fruits
By following the measures mentioned above for your kids, bad eating habits can be changed for life. Remember that the tips will not work overnight, but persistence will bring you success.