Caregivers and parents can guide their children to develop well maintain healthy food habits that will support their good health. Usually, children see their parents as role models.
Many Families and children’s today have busy schedules. This makes it hard for them to sit down to homemade meals everyday. Most of the kids’ diets involve a lot of convenience and takeout food.
But these foods can be unhealthy. Prefer home cooked foods as they help to maintain healthy food habits.
Importance to maintain healthy food habits.
It is important to develop healthy eating habits at an early age. It also has many benefits for children, such as
- Sharpens their mind and thinking ability
- Stabilizes their energy
- Helps them in maintaining a healthy weight
- Balances their mood
- Helps in prevention of mental health conditions, which includes depression and anxiety.
What is food craving and why does it happen ?
A food craving is an intense desire for a specific food. Children show stronger food craving than adults,but it is controllable and is easier to navigate and helps to maintain healthy food habits. The most common way that people get influenced by unhealthy habits is through Advertisements and visuals.
The food and Beverage industry has used this knowledge for over the years now to their advantage and encourage the development of unhealthy food preferences in children of all ages through various marketing techniques. Do we see advertisements for healthy food?
Healthy foods are advertised less than 3% of time as to that of a fast food or junk food. This has consequences on the formation of potentially lifelong, unhealthy food preferences associated with the development of obesity and all that comes with it.
In the first 2 years of life- where the kids are growing and learning constantly, the food preferences are also forming. Reducing sodium and sugar intake early on their food habits can help set taste preferences and help children build healthy food choices later in life. Parents need to look carefully at nutritional labels when selecting infant snacks and beverages. Choose your products smartly and the ones that are lower in sodium and sugar levels.
Also another way includes, controlling the exposure of the kids to advertisements on TV and streaming services, video games and mobile games. This helps in being less influenced by the food that is marketed in highly fancy ways.
PATH TO IMPROVED HEALTH
There are many ways you can teach and support your children in developing healthy eating habits:
Start with Breakfast:
Eating a balanced breakfast with rich protein is a great way for your child to start their day. Proteins will help them stay full for longer and also helps teenagers in managing the right weight. Mornings can be hectic. Have healthy and on the go breakfast. Try to avoid oily and Junk foods in the mornings. Some easy and light breakfasts include
- Egg sandwich and whole wheat bread
- Greek yogurt
- Peanut butter
- Boiled eggs or toast
- An apple etc
Make mealtime your main priority:
Making enough time to sit down as a family to eat a home cooked meal sets a great example for kids about the importance of healthy food and it can also bring the family together and helps to maintain healthy food habits. Though this sounds like a task for an everyday routine, try and make time to do this as often as possible.
Family meals offer opportunities to catch up on your kids daily lives. Gathering together as a family is an ideal opportunity to listen to kids without the distraction of TV, phones or computers. It also helps in enhancing the kids appetite.
Eating together lets your kids see your eating habits and food choices which will in order help them make their choices while keeping the portion eating in check and limiting junk food. Do not comment on your weight or their weight in terms of calories intake, as it might develop negative association with certain types of foods.
Make shifts to healthy foods:
Fast food is typically high in sugar, unhealthy fat and calories, low in nutrition. Kids crave junk food because of how fancy it looks and tastes. So instead of eliminating it entirely, try to replace it mostly with healthy nutrients. For example, instead of french fries try baked fries, ice creams can be replaced by flavored yogurts or fresh fruit smoothies, fried chicken with baked or grilled chicken, Doughnuts and pastries or chocolates with muffins, wafers, dry fruits or homes baked cookies with less sugar intake.
Do not Ignore fat:
Healthy fats are an important part of our diet. They help us stay full for a longer time and helps to maintain healthy food habits. They also have other benefits such as improving our memory and enlightening our mood. Nevertheless, the key is to make sure the kids are eating the right type and right amount of fat.
Healthy fats are unsaturated fat
- Monounsaturated fats include olive oil, avocados, nuts (almonds and pecans) and seeds (pumpkin and sesame).
- Polyunsaturated fats include flax seeds, walnuts, omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as salmon and sardines.
Get you kids involved:
Take your kids along to help you shop for groceries and choose foods to eat. Teach them how to read a food label while they’re growing up itself so they know the nutrients in the foods they’re choosing. This way they will start to make healthier choices and take ownership to fix their meals and this helps to maintain healthy food habits.
Whenever possible include them while you’re cooking as well. This way they not only learn to cook, but also know what are the groceries and nutrients that go into their daily meal.
Another fun way to involve your child is to plant a garden. Growing some of your favorite fruits, vegetables and herbs can teach children valuable lessons. Also planting, maintaining and harvesting your own food is satisfying. It can be a fun and fulfilling experience for kids and adults as well.
Balancing calories: Help your kids stay active
Another important part of balancing calories is to engage kids in an appropriate amount of physical activity and avoid too much lazy time.
Regular physical activity has many health benefits as well, which includes
- Bone strengthening
- Decreases blood pressure
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Increases self-esteem
- Helps in weight management
Encourage your kids to learn physical activity of their choice like swimming, dancing, athletics, badminton or anything for that matter.
Also remember that children imitate adults. Start adding physical activity to your own daily routine and encourage your child to join you. This will in turn help you build a stronger bond as well.
Encourage healthy eating habits:
- Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grain products
- Include low-fat or nonfat milk or dairy products
- Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils and beans for proteins
- Encourage your family to drink lots of water
- Limit sugar-sweetened beverages
- Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat
Smaller steps everyday will lead to a healthy recipe of success.