Advice Column, Health

How To Encourage Healthy Eating Habits In Children

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Practical tips for parents to help their children start eating better…

Encouraging Healthy Eating Habits

Getting children to eat healthy can be a real challenge. Creating healthy eating habits will keep your kids feeling great and contribute to a healthy lifestyle that they can continue to maintain their whole life.

We tried to encourage good eating habits with our children from a young age. We only have healthy snacks in the house and also lots of tasty fruits within reach of little fingers. We try and sit together most evenings and have dinner. At the weekend we go shopping togetherand the kids help prepare some of the meals.

Here are some ways to develop your child’s healthy approach towards eating-

Go food shopping together

Involve your children in food shopping and let them help you select the fresh fruit and vegetable and other healthy options. Show them the variety of the colours of the produce and talk about what you could make using them. Children may be more willing to eat or try foods that they were involved with choosing. Also, enjoy this time together with your children.

Let your kids help you cook

Whatever age your children are, they can help out in the kitchen. The younger children may not be able to chop vegetables, but they can help in tearing up lettuce for a salad or set the table. The older kids can stir sauces or measure out ingredients.

Making home cooked meals is healthier for the whole family and sets a great example for kids about the importance of food. Ready prepared meals tend to have more fat, sugar, and salt. Also, save eating out at restaurants for special occasions.

Encourage smart snacking

Continuous snacking may lead to overeating, but snacks that are planned at specific times during the day can be part of a nutritious diet, without spoiling a child’s appetite at meal times. You should make snacks as nutritious as possible, without depriving your children of occasional chips or biscuits especially at parties or other social events. Try not to allow snacks at least one hour before dinner, and if they do have something, make it as healthy and light as possible: baby carrots with cream cheese or apple slices.

Enjoy dinners together

Eat meals together as a family as often as possible. Try to make mealtimes pleasant with chatting and sharing. If mealtimes are unpleasant, children may try to eat faster to leave the table as soon as possible. They then may learn to associate eating with stress.

Eating and Television

Eating meals and watching TV at same time makes it difficult to pay attention to the hunger and may lead to overeating.Discourage eating meals or snacks while watching TV. Try to eat only in designated areas of your home, such as the dining room or kitchen.

Avoid the allure of bribes

Try not to use food to punish or reward your children. It can certainly be tempting to say no TV, dessert, or whatever else they want unless they eat their dinner. But this can create an uneasy relationship with food in your child. Instead of making them feel pressured into eating when they don’t feel like it, give them options to choose from.

Make healthy food choices yourself

Children learn by watching their parents so make healthy food choices yourself. Set a good example by eating variety of nutritious foods and snacks. Also, do not overeat and keep a positive approach towards food. Teaching your child healthy eating practices early in life will help develop an approach to eating food with right attitude.

Other tips

  • Encourage your children to choose water when they are thirsty. If they do have fruit juice, dilute it with water and stay away from soft drinks.
  • Cut down on the amount of fat in your family’s diet. Include low fat dairy products, lean meat, fat free cereals or breads.
  • Allow sweets and desserts in moderation. Don’t curb them completely. Just teach your child to eat small portions of it.
  • Eating slowly helps to detect hunger and fullness better. Encourage your child to eat slowly.

 

With determination, planning, thinking out ideas, and focus, embracing healthy eating habits for children can become simple and less stressful. There’s no better gift a parent can give their kids than a lifetime of healthy choices.

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