Healthy eating is vital for everybody but more so for a child’s health and well being. We all understand the importance of good nutrition and exercise, but how do we feed a picky eater or encourage a child who hates sports to play outside?Learning how to keep your child healthy with the right foods and exercise is important. Adequate nutrition is vital for ensuring your children an overall emotional and physical health. Good eating habits help prevent chronic illness in the future, including obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. By understanding child’s eating habits, parents can be better prepared to evaluate the nutritional adequacy of their child’s diet and ensure that they are meeting the minimum nutritional requirements for maintenance of better health.
Here are the five worst food habits our kids have and as a parent, what you can do about them:
- Skipping Meals Primarily Breakfast
Skipping meals, especially breakfast is one of the most common nutrition mistake committed by children. Breakfast is an important meal for the whole family and more so for a child. The point of breakfast is to feed your child’s body the protein and energy it needs to start the day and to carry him through to lunch. Eating breakfast can also upstart your child’s metabolism, which helps with weight control, mood and school performance. Give your child a strawberry milk shake or a chocolate milk shake if he/she is fussing over drinking plain milk. Fruit juices are rich in potent antioxidants and an ideal breakfast accompaniment. Cheese slices on whole grain bread or whole-wheat khakra serves as a tasty and healthy breakfast food. Green mung sprouts mixed with chopped green salad and dressed with grated cheese and curd, rice kheer/porridge made with milk, almonds, sesame seeds and jaggery, milk and muesli, eggs with roti or wheat breads are a few nutritious options for your child. Choose the options your child is most likely to enjoy, because variety improves everyone’s appetite
2. Excessive SnackingSnacking in children is inevitable and parents need not worry about it or condemn and forbid the children from eating snacks. Snacking in between meals is healthy as long as the snack choice is appropriate and as parents, we should aim at making wise snacking options readily available for our children. The notion that foods at meals should be healthy and snack foods need not be so is wrong. The problem arises when they tend to eat too much high fat and calorie dense snack foods.The key is encouraging them to consume snacks that are nutrient dense rather than junk foods low in nutrients. Healthy snacks for children would include fruits, nuts (almonds & peanuts) sprouts bhel, vegetable or chicken frankies (made with whole wheat breads), milk products like curd, cottage cheese (paneer), tofu (made from milk), roasted or steamed corn, fruit juices, dosa, idlis, dhoklas, etc.
- High indulgence on Junk foods
Junk foods are the processed and refined foods which are nutritionally void, low in fiber and the easiest way to take in unwanted calories. Consuming these foods once in a way is acceptable if the children are otherwise eating a well balanced and healthy diet. But when it becomes an addiction, it may lead to deficiencies, ironically resulting from being overfed. If children continue to neglect eating a balanced diet whilst adhering to fast foods, they risk getting malnourished and weaken their immunity levels. This leads to frequent colds, allergies, asthma, irregular menstrual cycle in girls, low energy levels, and difficulty in concentration, poor performance in school, excessive hunger, constipation, mood swings, depression, irritation and the list is endless. As parents, you should encourage them to eat properly at meal times so that they don’t feel hungry in between meals and gravitate towards fast foods. 4. Neglecting exercisesBeing physically active is a key component of good health for all children. It helps in strengthening their muscles, controlling their weight and decreasing their risk of obesity-related illnesses. The key is finding activities your child enjoys. The options are many — from jumping, kicking, catching, skating, to bike riding, tennis, soccer, dance or even badminton. When kids find an activity that’s fun, they’ll do it a lot. 5. Limited intake of vegetables We all know the health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetable and the array of vital nutrients and antioxidants provided by them. The only problem is that our kids refuse to put them in their mouths.A few sure fire ways of sneaking the vegetables in their diet are-
- Boiling, blenderizing and adding them to soups, ketchups, pizza and pasta sauces.
- Juicing vegetables like carrot and beetroot(raw) along with fruits of their choice(orange, sweet lime)
- Dry the cooked vegetables on a heated pan with little oil and add as a stuffing for your sandwiches, chapattis and paranthas.
- Preparing paneer/ chicken cutlets with spinach, carrot or peas as add ons.
- Serving them tomatoes, cucumber, carrot sticks with cream, cheese or curd.
Foremost, remember that your child will model the eating behaviors that they see at home. If you are finicky about the presence of vegetables on your plate, it’s quite evident that your child would do so too. Maintain a healthy and balanced approach to eating and your child is more likely to do the same. 6. Replacing meals with supplements- A well balanced diet with nutrient rich meals and snacks can provide all the vitamins and minerals needed by a child. And that’s the best way to provide them. If your child is eating properly, then there is no need to give him any additional supplements. Introduction of any nutritional supplements or vitamins should be done only as per physician’s advice and purely based on your child’s nutritional requirements and that too to complement his diet and never as a meal replacement.
One common denominator for getting children to eat healthier and avoid these bad food habits is your active role in providing healthy foods. Get in the habit of making these foods more readily available to your child and you will soon see a change in their eating habits.
Work with your child to encourage a healthy lifestyle that incorporates sound eating habits and regular exercise. You might both benefit in the process.