On the backdrop of National Childhood Obesity Week which just concluded on 9th July 2017, here is why healthy eating among children is gaining more attention and importance. India is seeing an alarming rate at which her children are becoming obese, and in the next decade it is predicted we will have the most number of obese children just after China. Now, this is clearly nothing to be proud of because it simply means we will be seeing the future generation being prone to diseases in their teens!
The relief is, this can be tackled. It is much easier to inculcate healthy eating practices among children than trying hard to brainwash an adult. While many will agree that mealtimes with young ones are a nightmare, we need to address the root cause of this scenario, WE as parents! Yes, you heard that right!
With the advancement in technology, more children are falling prey. Lessened physical activity, uncontrolled calorie intake, irregular meal times, undue pressure due to academics, increased screen time, influence of Western diet and, lack of our attention as parents, have contributed to this present situation.
Clearly, we cannot be talking “diet” to our children. Instead, we must focus on how to set a good example, as we all know that children see and learn. We are our children’s superheroes. Listed below are a few guidelines that will help foster good eating habits.
- Never force feed your child. Listen to him and stop when he says he’s full. In fact, we must learn from this habit too! Take help from our body’s internal cues and stop eating when full. At no time should you tamper with your inherent ability to sense a feeling of It will start working against us.
- Strictly avoid screen time or any other distractions while eating. Make sure you and your child are seated at the dining table during mealtimes. Any distraction will lead to excess food consumption as we are too busy to take note of our body signals.
- Eating together as a family must be on our daily to-do list. Try to eat together at least once a day. Mealtimes could be seen as a time for family bonding and sharing stories. It is also a great time to impart table manners; we can be role models by not wasting food.
- It would be a great idea if you could involve your children in grocery shopping. Let them choose their fruits and vegetables for the week. You could even go a step further and plan the menu ahead for the week. This way, children will feel a sense of involvement and will wait eagerly to see their small efforts translated onto the plate. A word of caution: go armed with a shopping list and make sure to stick to it and not get carried away.
- Set up mealtime routines and follow them. Children thrive on routine. It would do us a good deal too. Avoid eating meals too late and avoid long gaps between meals. Make sure to eat three main meals and two to three snacks in between.
- Eat junk in moderation. Don’t stock your kitchen with junk. It’s inevitable to stay away from junk especially with kids around, but teach them the importance of eating healthy and the ill effects of eating junk. Try and make healthier versions of junk at home wherever possible. Reduce the quantity and frequency of unhealthy food consumed.
- NEVER use food as a reward. This will get children thinking the wrong way. Instead take them to a park, museum or outing, spend quality time with them, invest in other games or toys, arrange for a play date with friends.
- Involve children in the kitchen. They will be more than willing to assist Take help while grating, peeling and other small chores while preparing food. This will inevitably provoke their interest to try the dish.
- Experiment and create variety. Do not make the same dishes. Monotony doesn’t go well with children. Browse for simple and healthy recipes and feel free to experiment – it’s your kitchen after all, you’re the master chef!
- Prohibit yourself from showing your food dislikes at the table. This way, you are letting the child develop his likes and dislikes and not influencing his tastes. Encourage the child to eat small portions of the food he dislikes and comparatively larger portions of the food he likes.
- Avoid cooking separate meals for your child. Any child older than a year is strongly recommended to eat family meals. The spice and salt levels must be toned down though.
With these in mind, take charge of your kitchen and child’s health. Walk the journey of health together!