Encourage Healthy Eating in Kids!
We are among the parents of the highly developed and educated nations, yet our children are being fed food ever so rich in sugar, salt, additives and color. We know about the Food Pyramid, how a balanced diet looks like, yet thats not what they've been programmed to want. Sometimes we ourselves don't follow the 'balanced diet' due to our super busy schedules, we take the easy and convenient ways out to satisfy our hunger, and our children follow suit.
It is sometimes not only our fault, its the whole culture we are in. Even though we are aware of the dangers, it is getting very difficult to change the culture around. Even if mom and dad try to keep sugar and salt intake down, the grandparents, neighbors, ever loving uncles and aunts like to indulge children with 'treats'.
Media and marketing industry are also very influencing in what we do or and even what we eat. Talking about cartoons, I have noticed every time my son watches Shaun the Sheep, he wants something sweet to nibble on. Social media is swarming with food photographs that are drool-worthy I admit. We see it and we are craving. Next thing we do is, Satisfy it (instead of trying to put it off or ignore)
Well Im not saying that this is to be forbidden and shun completely. It is definitely not possible by a foodie like me. But I do get worried and start regretting when I feed my son something unhealthy. I feel I am responsible for his never ending sweet cravings.
I can clearly see the hyper activity in him when he eats gorges on sweets. And sugar is worse than useless. Jamie Oliver's outcry in Britain on what children are being fed is surely an eye opener for many. He tells us how difficult it is to wean children off the junk food if they have already hooked on. It is really scary. Look out for The Food Revolution he campaigns!
Kids tend to love to snack in between their meals, which they should. Parents do feel guilty when they deny their children their choice of favourite junky. But its up to the Parent as to what they offer kids to snack on. Children do need the opportunity to learn to make choices, but its up to parents to decide which choices to offer.
Its always good to stock up on a few healthy snacks in our shelves, this could include :
Fresh and dried fruits like raisins, dates or soft apricots, Popcorn, yogurt, plain crackers with cream cheese or peanut butter, yogurt, banana bread, hummus with pita chips, digestive biscuits with light smear of jam and cheese, fruit muffins, boiled egg or even cucumber/ carrot sticks.
For drinks, include water, low-fat milk, fruit juice, or hot chocolate(with quality chocolate, not ready made highly sweetened).
Tips for Fun Mealtimes
Mealtimes should be what we look forward to as an activity for the whole family. It should be enjoyable and the time to bond, supervise, socialize with one another. It has a civilizing effect on children of all ages, they learn their table manners and also encourages them to try new foods.
- Eat together as a family as often as possible, even if only one parent.
- Don't make different dishes for different family members, all eat the same food.
- You decide what, when and where your child eats, child decides how much or whether
- Eat in a TV free zone, at least when you eat together as a family.
- No snacking at least one hour before a meal, frequent snacking won't let them be hungry
- Don't let mealtimes turn into battlegrounds, make it enjoyable
- Include your child/ren to plan your meals (choosing new dishes from books), shopping for the ingredients, and even to prepare
- Don't fret when your child doesn't eat a meal or two. They can be moody or seasonal eaters. Its always best to not force feed. They should develop love or interest in food they eat. Or simply give them time to get hungry so they come to you for food.
- If you are eating out, try to go to a decent restaurant instead of a fast food joint. Happy meals are not really happy!
- Parental example is important. If you have a sensible, balanced attitude to food and eating, your child will pick up on it. But if you gorge on unhealthy snacks, they'll want to as well.
- Follow healthy eating guidelines as per the food pyramid and include both omega 3(found in fish, flax seeds, cauliflower, soy, etc) and omega 6(animal fats, nuts, etc). A well balanced diet puts away the need for vitamin supplements
- Don't ban junk food altogether, coz it creates more curiosity for the "forbidden foods". Allow occasional snacks, drinks and fast food. But don't view them as treats.
- Remember home-made is always best.
Habits acquired in childhood tend to stay on with you life long. So lets encourage healthy eating habits because as parents want our children to grow up happy and healthy. We can be a pressure group for schools and all organisations where our kids are part of, to promote healthy eating and make it junk free zones.
This post is a reminder for me and every parent to take responsibility over what our child eats, in terms of nutrition, is good for our growing bodies and brains 'coz they say 'You are what you eat'.