healthy eating habits

Good nutrition and a balanced diet help children to grow up healthy. Some strategies to help a child develop and improve good eating habits include; having regular meals as a family. This is important because children like the predictability of family meals and it is a chance for emotional bonding. Research has shown that children who take part in regular family meals are also more likely to eat fruits, vegetables, and grains, less likely to snack on unhealthy foods and are less likely to smoke, use marijuana, or drink alcohol. In addition, family meals offer the chance for adults to act as role models for healthy eating. Meal times should be calm and relaxed and not the time for arguing or ‘interrogations’.        Children will eat mostly what's available at home. That's why it's important to control the kinds of foods available at home. It is important to have a lot of fruits and vegetables available. Fast foods and high sugar snacks such as toffees biscuits and pastries should be limited at home. The same applies for sugary drinks such as soft drinks and fruit flavoured drinks which should be limited at home. Children should be encouraged to drink more water instead of drinks. Fat intake should be limited by using healthy cooking methods such as grilling, boiling, roasting and steaming rather than deep frying.           As parents the best way to encourage healthy eating among children is to eat well ourselves. Children will follow the lead of the adults they see every day. By eating fruits and vegetables and not overindulging in the less nutritious stuff, a parent will be sending the right message. Another way to be a good role model is to encourage children not to overeat and to recognize the point of satisfaction and stop eating then.  

It also helps if the children are involved in meal planning. Children will enjoy deciding what to eat for dinner. Talking to them about making good choices and planning a balanced meal would serve as a foundation for when they grow and have to make nutrition choices on their own. Some might even want to help shop for ingredients and prepare the meal. It also helps to initially serve children small portions. We may not be aware but children can be intimidated by large amounts and may then decide not to eat at all. It never helps to pressure a child to eat. Foods should not be used as bribes or punishments. Some parents use vegetables as punishments and soft drinks and sweets as rewards and this sets a bad precedence for the child. For children who refuse new foods it can help by introducing new foods, one at a time, when a child is most hungry. Make games of trying new foods. Establish the "one bite" rule for new foods. Let children know it is okay to not like something, but that it is important to try it before making up their minds. Praise a child who takes that bite.

Helping your child develop the right eating habits from infancy would help the child grow up and make correct eating decisions. This can go a long way to prevent obesity and overweight and enable the child to have a better and healthier life. If you are worried about the eating habits of your child, visit your dietician and doctor for advice.


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