As parents or guardians, it has always been one of our ultimate goals to ensure our children grow up with healthier eating habits and food preferences. With the long lists of Vitamins, Minerals and amino acids required by a growing child, some of us are often left puzzled as to how we can give them the most nutritious food that will benefit their healthy growing bodies and minds.
Benefitting from healthy food, however, is not always as easy as it sounds. Here are a few tips you can follow to begin cultivating good and healthier eating habits for your little one.
Introducing healthy food and good eating habits is definitely not a one-off effort. Make it a journey together with them. Allow them to have their preferences while you opt for yours, but make it a goal together to opt for healthier choices.
Start off by introducing little enjoyable, healthy treats such as raisins, pitted dates and dried fruit slices as opposed to letting them indulge too much on overly sweetened treats like chocolate bars or salty processed chips.
These activities will give you hints about your children's food preferences, an opportunity to teach your children about nutrition and provide your kids with a sense of accomplishment. In addition, children may be more willing to eat or try foods that they help prepare.
Bring them to the farmer's market, they will have fun learning and knowing where their food is coming from, and is a great opportunity for them to "connect" with real food.
A child can detect hunger and fullness better when they eat slowly. Before offering a second helping or serving, ask your child to wait at least 15 minutes to see if they are still truly hungry. This will give the brain time to register fullness. Also ensure that second helping is much smaller than the first. And if possible, load that second helping with more veggies.
Continuous snacking may lead to overeating, but snacks that are planned at specific times during the day can be part of a nutritious diet, without spoiling a child's appetite at meal times. You should make snacks as nutritious as possible, without depriving your children of occasional chips or cookies, especially at parties or other social events. Have healthy snacks within reach and at eye level.
Always encourage water drinking from young; children who drink enough water are known to have better digestion, apart from keeping them hydrated. It helps prevent constipation, and is vital for proper blood circulation. It also helps transport nutrients and oxygen to cells, cushions joints, protects organs and tissues, helps regulate body temperature and maintains electrolyte (sodium) balance.
Besides, over consumption of sweetened drinks and sodas has been linked to increased rates of obesity in children.
Now, there are kids we know that completely reject greens, it's a phase they all go through. Try slowly introducing it until they are comfortable with it, but until the time they love and accept all those leafy, green and rather tough tasting veggies you can always try blending them and adding it into their meal, we like to call it "food espionage".
Kids may need exposure to a food 10 to 20 times before they decide to eat it. It can take another 10 to 20 tries before they determine if they like it.
There are no right or wrong ways to introduce healthy food to your little one, the key is always about making them more attractive and yummy instead of harping on how healthy they are, and with that, a little bit of food espionage may be required at times.
We will dive into more details on the kind of food you can prepare to make eating healthy fun and yummy in our next entry, so meanwhile, have fun, be consistent and remember, to always eat fresh and stay healthy.