Childhood is the period of habit formation and learning, so it is important to ensure our children develop the right eating habits during the early years. Here’s a quick guide on do’s and don’ts to help inculcate healthy eating habits in children.
Hand washing: Encourage your children to wash hands before meals to prevent infections (read more about this at http://blog.monkeybox.in/2017/10/14/scrub-em-clean-clean-hands-are-safe-hands/).
Family Meals: Eating together as a family is how children learn to make healthy food choices. It also gives you a chance to set an example as children mimic and learn from their parents.
Meal pattern & timings: When all family members follow a healthy meal pattern (3 meals and 2 snacks) with appropriate meal timings, the child adopts the same.
Balanced meals: Apart from rice, chapathi, noodles or pasta (carbohydrates), make sure to include some form of protein (pulses, lentils, dairy, soy, lean meats or egg) and a rainbow of veggies and fruits as a part of every main meal.
Hydration: Most children guzzle down large amounts of water just before/after meals or after their play-time. Teach children to sip water throughout the day. During meals, if children have a tendency to fill up on water, restrict the amount of water they are allowed to sip during the meal.
Dunk the junk: Once they are back from school, children rampage the house for food. This is when they are most likely to pick up junk food. But remember kids choose from what they have access to. So if they have healthy snack options (hung curds, vegetable fingers with hummus, fruit bowl) within their reach, you can wean them off junk food.
Pre-sport snack: It’s important to boost children with some ‘good’ carbs and protein before their play and sports. This ensures a constant supply of energy throughout their sport and enhances their performances and endurance (get more insight at http://blog.monkeybox.in/2017/08/29/make-sure-your-budding-athlete-eats-like-a-champion/).
STOP RIGHT THERE
Clean the plate rule: Most of us were brought up with this rule. But let children stop eating when they feel full. They must listen to their own bodies and acknowledge the feelings of fullness to prevent over-eating. Teach them correct portion-size and portion control as most restaurants and packed foods have led to portion distortion.
Screen-time during meals: Watching TV, using the mobile or playing video games while eating has shown to contribute to obesity. Since children are not seeing what they eat, not only do they enjoy what they eat but also lose track of how much they eat.
Food as love: Never use food to show affection or reward children. This can lead to an unhealthy attitude towards food and children may resort to food during stressful periods. Also, do not restrict any food items (like chocolates and sweets) but teach children how to eat in moderation.
Apart from these tips and tricks, ensure your child is dewormed. Otherwise eating well would equate to filling bottomless pit since the worms feed on the food and children may end up with deficiencies.