Inculcating good eating habits at an early age is a vital step towards future good health. And wider the choice, better the nutritional kickbacks.
The fun of introducing your child to first tastes is in probability all over by now. Now is the time to see that your child is eating healthy food. Your growing child may already have food preferences or ‘favorites’. You can use these to build his/her meals around. Food needs, first of all, to be appetizing for a child to eat well and presentation counts too, when it comes to children. It is important that parents start introducing their children to wider choice of foods. Some of them remain good eaters while others begin to consider eating a big fuss they can’t be bothered about! Most of us worry that our children are not eating enough. However quality more than quantity, is important in their daily food intake.
As children start attending school and their work load and activity increases, it’s as important as ever to establish healthy eating habits in and out of our homes. Many children, as they cross the age of six, begin to assert their foodie-will more than ever. They may reiterate that they only want to eat the thing they like, rather than eat different preparation of food. They may also seem to not care about skipping meals or eating very little when food is not prepared as per their current cravings. They may also be influenced by peers and advertising and be drawn by packaged foods or fast foods which do not have much nutritional value.
In such scenarios, arguing about food choices and trying to force down another spoon of peas is a waste of emotional effort. Instead, what keeps us going, on the nutrition bandwagon, is our reserve or parental patience. Trying not to make a huge issue out of eating and yet re-offering healthy choices, albeit in different ways, is a good plan.
Here are few healthy food eating habits that could be inculcated in the kids at an early age:
Set an example: Nutritional awareness starts early on with myths we pass on to children such as – spinach will make you strong or milk will make you taller. The fact is that these messages do sink into a child’s sub conscious. Now, as a six or nine year old child listens in to adult talk, it is even more important to capitalize on this fact and think about what messages we are sending. Lead by example. Parents who model healthy eating – by eating the correct portions and correct food – will positively influence their children to do the same.
Involve children: Get your children to help you with meal planning, keeping the food pyramid in mind. Ask them to plan meals using something from each group. Make it more fun by suggesting they can choose personal favorites from each group. If you have more than one child, this can lead to some fun negotiating time as they try and push their own favorite into the meal that’s being planned!
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Provide variations in food: Fewer difficulties are likely to be encountered if new foods are given at the beginning of the meal, when the child is hungry. It also helps if the new food is introduced alongside familiar and comfortable foods. You should also try preparing the food using different flavors and cooking methods. Kids respond well to different food textures and smell. Food should be given in small quantities in the beginning and the amount should gradually be increased as the child develops a liking for the food. Encouragement and praise are helpful, but favorite foods should not be used as bribes or reward. Good presentation is also important to create the craving for food.
Minimize and substitute the food with healthier options: Children are more likely to eat their own creations. Cut sandwiches into various shapes using cookie cutters. Create colourful faces with olive-slice eyes, tomato ears, tomato ears, mushroom noses, and any other playful features you can think of. Make interesting dips with cottage cheese, pureed fruits or vegetables, yogurt, plain or sweetened with juice concentrate. Turn meals upside down. If your child insists on eating pizza in the morning or fruit and cereal in the evening, go with it – better than her not eating at all.
Timing is crucial: Timing is a huge factor when it comes to children of the middle age group. So, whether your child is a small eater or a big eater, timing of meals is important at this age. Let your child’s body clock be tuned to fixed mealtimes. This way, he will be prone to have an appetite at the right time. Let them adhere to roughly the same timings for food and play, each day. So, no toys and story books on the table please, and also, no reaching for biscuits or chocolate in the middle of a board game or when you’re headed for the park, either! Instead, let the body eat at meal times and move at play time.
Following some of these lifestyle habits, trying to stick to healthy meal planning and keep unhealthy foods out of home are a few things that can help steer your child towards better nutrition. Do you best to make healthy eating a way of life and hope that your kids form good habits from being exposed to the right choices!
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