A healthy diet promotes a healthy mind and body. We at Nordic International School believe that eating habits of children greatly affect thinking and creative abilities of their minds. It is the right food at right time coupled with intuitive learning techniques, which makes a child bright and focused. Not only this, but a healthy and balanced diet builds up the immunity of a child against various infections and diseases.
Making children eat healthy and eat on time has become quite an ordeal for parents these days. One of the biggest reasons for the swerve in eating habits of kids is the extreme hype being given to artificially flavored drinks, junk food and frozen food. Issues like obesity, under-nourished body, vitamins and calcium deficiencies are getting very common with the ever-burgeoning fast food eateries and easily available junk & frozen food flanked along the aisles of super stores. Adults and kids in particular, find this unhealthy, highly processed and chemical-laden food quite tantalizing and home cooked food less and less tempting.
In a situation like this, inculcating good eating habits in children is becoming tougher day by day. There has to be a solution to this problem. Before moving to the list of ways to tackle the issue, let’s first identify what good eating habits actually mean:
What are Good Eating Habits?
- Eating a balanced diet comprising of adequate intake of carbohydrates, protein, calcium, iron and vitamins.
- Eating on time
- Eating the right size of portions
- Eating healthy
- Eating in approved food grade crockery
Simple Do’s & Don’ts to Promote Healthy Eating Habits:
- Don’t label the food as healthy or unhealthy. Kids become wary of hearing these terms.
- Don’t be overly-controlling or overly-permissive
- Don’t threat, cajole or wheedle a child to eat something
- Don’t bring to the table you don’t want them to develop a taste/craving for. (like junk, sweet, processed frozen food etc.)
- Don’t intimidate your child with bigger portions in their plate, on the contrary they like variety in smaller portions
- Don’t reward them with dessert when they finish their food. Kids need to get the message early on that a good meal is reward in itself.
- Don’t forbid treats. Spot restaurants/ cafes that promote wholesome food. Take kids out once a while.
- Eat together: Make eating as much an experience of being with loved ones as it is about the food itself. (According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, eating at least three meals together a week has a protective factor against eating disorders.)
- Start developing your child’s taste for everything you eat, (assuming that you eat healthy yourself) from their early childhood.
- Develop a meal plan for children based on daily intake of vitamins, protein, carbs, vitamins, Omega-3 and calcium through food.
- Snacks between meals: Incorporate healthy snacks between meals, like fruit salad, homemade whole-wheat banana or carrot muffins, smoothies etc.
- Physical activity for appetite: Hunger stimulated by physical activity will make a child eat to stave off hunger pangs.
- Involve them in preparing food for lunch/dinner. The sense of accomplishment would make them appreciate food in their plates and will inspire them to finish their food.
- Food presentation: Colorful crockery, cutlery and glasses, their favorite cartoon character placemats, finger food cut into interesting shapes, are cleaver ways of attracting your child to the dining table.
- Variety: Have at least 2-3 items on the menu your child could pick from.
- Two bite rule: ask them to try two bite. If they drop it after trying, don’t harass them. Let them chose something else from the table.
- Make what they eat (without wincing) on rotation basis but not consecutively.
- Improvising with healthy food: Try making “healthy fast food” at home with healthy ingredients. Make extra effort to make it taste great.
- Be Creative: Getting them to eat what you want them to eat will always be a struggle. Think of ways of getting them to eat a healthier version of what they want to eat.
Dietary habits established in childhood often carry into adulthood, so teaching children how to eat healthy at a young age will make them reap benefits in the old age.