Childhood is the formative period of anyone’s life. Many of the habits you take up during these years define how the rest of your life is going to be. If you have a child, you must focus on building healthier habits in him/her. These will not just benefit the child now, but in the future too. This includes eating habits. If there is one thing that the COVID pandemic has reinstated is that health is truly wealth. Other than physical activity, diet is the other pillar that defines how healthy you are. When you build healthy eating habits in your kid, it’ll help him/her to make healthier food choices, which in turn will contribute towards a healthier lifestyle. And you don’t need an expert to tell you that a healthy lifestyle ensures a healthy life. So what are the eating habits parents should inculcate in their children? And, what are the ways one can do it? To get answers to these questions, Onlymyhealth spoke to Rashmi Kushwah, HOD-Dietitics, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Dehradun.
Why You Should Inculcate Healthy Eating Habits In Children
Let’s first look at the ‘why’. Childhood is the formative period of one’s life, mentally, intellectually, and most importantly, physically. Hence, they require proper nutrition for their body to develop all the necessary functions and tissues. Hence, your child’s eating habits directly affect his/her growth and brain development, the dietician said. This, in turn:
- Prevents childhood obesity: This is quite serious as India has among the highest number of obese children in the world.
- Protects the child from contracting many diseases: With proper nutrition, the immune system gets strong, which, in turn, wards off several diseases, including COVID-19.
- Helps your child to live a healthy life.
Eating Habits To Inculcate In Your Child
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Now that we have looked at the ‘why’, let us now go through the ‘what’. What are the eating habits parents should inculcate in their children? Dt Kushwah had to say this about it:
- Don’t Skip Breakfast: Often referred to as the ‘most important meal of the day’, make sure your child doesn’t skip breakfast. Following the period of starvation, this meal gives you that much-needed boost of energy, which is crucial not just for your body but the mind as well. It also prevents hunger pangs during the later part of the day, thus preventing your child from eating loads of food. This is another tool for preventing obesity.
- Eat Slowly: Eat slowly, and chew well -- this is another healthy eating habit. Teach your child to focus on the food’s texture, savour its taste and aroma, and enjoy the whole experience.
- Eating Mindfully: Does your child eat while watching TV, or doing something else? You might consider focusing on that. Eating mindlessly is something we adults, too, are guilty of doing. Maybe, the roots were laid during childhood itself. Hence, teach your child to eat mindfully.
- Eating Colourful Vegetables And Fruits: One of the healthy eating habits often recommended is to include lots of colours on the plate. This gives you a good balance of vital minerals and nutrients. Hence, teach your child to eat colourful fruits and vegetables. Since children love colours, this can make your task easier.
- Drink Lots Of Water: 7-8 glasses a day is the recommended amount of water a person should have in a day. It might not be feasible for you to be around your child all the time to ensure that he/she drinks the recommended amount of water. Hence, inculcate this as a habit, which will help him/her in the long run.
These are some of the good eating habits. But, what are the bad ones you should do away with? Here are some such habits you should steer clear of:
- Providing Junk On Demand: You don’t have to give in to your child’s every demand, especially when it comes to junk food.
- Unhealthy Beverages When Your Child Is Thirsty: Sodas and other unhealthy beverages should be the last thing you should give your child when he/she is thirsty. Instead, make sure he/she drinks the recommended 7-8 glasses of water daily.
- Eating Processed Foods Excessively: Although tasty, processed foods such as pizza, pasta, etc, are bad for health. These are foods stripped of their nutrients and fiber. Although it’s OK to have these once in a while, make sure your child doesn’t eat them excessively.
- Eating In Front Of A Screen: Not just kids, even many adults eat while staring at the TV or computer screen. This is bad as while eating mechanically, you don’t know when you are full and most of the time, you end up eating more than you need. Hence, ensure when your child eats, he/she just eats, mindfully, and doesn’t do it mechanically while the mind is lost in some other world.
How To Inculcate Healthy Eating Habits In Your Child?
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Now that we have gone through the ‘why’ and ‘what’, let us look at ‘how’.
- Make Things Fun: If you keep it bland, your child might get bored. Hence, make things fun, by adding colours and flavours to the healthy meal. Kids love colours, hence, it might be helpful to include a lot of colours on the plate. It’s extremely healthy too.
- Offering Choices: Kids can be picky eaters. And with so many choices around, chances are they might go for the unhealthy foods. If you don’t offer them any choice, you might have a hard time making them eat. But if you give him/her options to choose from, the child would think he/she has a choice.
- Serve The Right Important: Portion control is important irrespective of age. You must know how much food you should eat. This is something a person should have a sense of since childhood. Hence, this is another eating habit you must consider inculcating in your child.
- Mixing Old Food Culture With New Ones: Your child loves pizza, but chapati and vegetables are healthy. Instead of banishing your child from having pizza, or giving in to his/her preference, you can strike a balance between the old and new food cultures.
- Being A Good Example: Kids imitate their parents. Hence, be a good example. When your child sees you following a healthy lifestyle, your child will follow the same. The opposite holds, too. Hence, be a good example for your kids to follow.
So, as you saw that healthy eating habits are important for a healthy lifestyle. Many of the habits you pick up during childhood stays throughout life. Hence, for your child to stay healthy, ensure he/she picks up healthy eating habits.
(With inputs from Rashmi Kushwah, HOD-Dietitics, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Dehradun)
Photo Credit: Pixabay