Healthy eating habits should start right from childhood because proper nutrition plays a crucial role in the growth and development of children.
Guiding the little ones toward healthy eating habits from a young age prepares them for a lifetime of well-being, particularly in a world where fast and processed foods are more readily available. It is therefore essential to teach children about the importance of eating a balanced diet with all the necessary nutrients.
Healthy eating benefits for children
Following are healthy eating benefits for children:
- Supports overall growth.
- Supports brain development.
- Supports their immunity.
- Strengthens their bones and muscles.
- Improves the functioning of their digestive system.
- Keeps their skin, teeth, and eyes healthy.
- Helps them to maintain a healthy weight.
Common eating challenges with children
The most common eating challenges with children include restrictive or selective eating, unhealthy food habits, and overeating.
Selective or restrictive eating is a condition in which the child avoids food with specific sensory characteristics such as smell, taste, texture, colour, etc. This could result in nutritional deficiencies, weight loss and other health problems in children.
Some children either show a strong preference for junk or may simply binge eat all the time. They may be reluctant to eat fruits and vegetables.
Importance of guiding children about healthy eating
Establishing lifelong habits through behavioural modification.
Teaching children about healthy eating is an opportunity to instil lifelong habits that promote a healthier lifestyle. It has been observed that children may need more than 20 exposures to develop a taste for specific foods. If your child does not initially like a particular healthy food, do not give up. Keep trying!
Cultivating a positive relationship with food through instilling good eating habits.
Insteadof categorising food as simply "good" or "bad," parents can help children understand the difference. This approach nurtures a healthy relationship with food and positively influences their future food choices. Teaching children to differentiate between food types is a step towards fostering a balanced attitude.
Promoting physical and mental health through nutritious eating.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables supports healthy growth and helps prevent future health concerns like obesity and diabetes. Diets high in essential nutrients have also been linked to reduced rates of depression and anxiety among children. Encouraging children to make wise food choices from a young age can have lasting benefits for their physical and mental well-being.
Improving academic performance.
Research indicates that nutrition plays a pivotal role in children's behaviour and cognitive skills. Simple practices like having a hearty breakfast, consuming fruits and vegetables, increasing fibre intake, reducing sugar intake, and staying hydrated can have a profound influence on a child's academic performance.
Tips to teach children about healthy eating
- Start teaching healthy eating habits to your child early in their life such as choosing their food wisely.
- Offer a variety of healthy food options such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products. This can help them develop a taste for different healthy foods and avoid developing a preference for unhealthy options.
- Children will be more inclined to have a healthy meal if you involve themin meal planning, grocery shopping, food preparation, etc. By involving them in meal preparation steps, they gain a sense of accomplishment.
- Avoid using unhealthy food as a reward. Many parents use unhealthy food as a reward for good behaviour or withhold certain food items as a punishment. However, this can undermine the healthy eating habits you are trying to develop in your child and might lead to eating disorders in adulthood.
- It is best to experiment with different healthy ingredients in the same food. Avoid force-feeding your child to finish everything on the plate, as it may lead to long-term behavioural problems.
- Be a role model. As a parent, make sure that you eat healthy while your children are around. Teach your children to understand nutrition label and identify essential ingredients. This will help them know what is contained in their food and allows them to make the right choices
- Have regular family meals and make mealtime fun and conversational while avoiding any form of lecturing or arguing.
- Encourage sufficient water intake to stay hydrated all through the day. It is equally important to teach them that sugary drinks and sodas and not a healthy substitute for water.
Make an appointment at Gleneagles Hospitals
Instilling healthy eating habits in children can establish a foundation for a lifetime of well-being while preventing chronic health issues.