This Children’s day, watch out your children’s food habits for a better future

Team Udayavani, Nov 14, 2019, 5:35 PM IST

Parents play a crucial role in developing the eating habits of their children. They have a major influence over the
environment in the family regarding what kind of food their children eat. Initial food experiences help in
determining children’s eating habits later on in life.

Dietary habits of childhood tend to persist throughout life.
Children are usually more adaptable and open to learning new things. That is why it is important to teach them
about the importance of healthy eating early. The eating environment of home, where family meals take place,
has a huge impact on the eating habits of children. You would want to make an impact as positive as possible.

Regular meal and snack

For creating a healthy routine, it is essential to implement regular meal and snack times. Your children might not
be hungry when it’s time for a snack or a meal if they eat simply whenever they want to. There are also chances of
them overeating during the day.

Eat together

When children have meals with their families, they are likely to consume healthier foods such as fruits, whole
grains, and vegetables. They also have a lower risk of getting overweight. In contrast, children usually make poor
food choices when they are eating in front of a TV. Eating habits like these need to be avoided as it can result in
overeating, increasing the risk of childhood obesity.

Do not force your child to eat

If you pressure your children into consuming certain foods, it may lead them to eat less. Your responsibility as a
parent is to provide your children with healthy food choices. You should allow your children to decide how much
they want to eat depending on how hungry they are.

Food shouldn’t be a punishment or reward

The nourishment of your children is the primary purpose of eating. Food should never be used as punishment or
reward. Doing so might result in unhealthy eating habits. Make sure you provide healthy food in a decent variety.
Children should be able to serve themselves with no pressure.

Buy healthy foods

When you are shopping for food, try going for the healthier options. Your children will be used to eating the food
that is available in your cupboards, pantry, and fridge. Avoid buying unhealthy foods in bulk. Even when you are
buying a treating, purchase the smallest possible package. If you do buy bulk-size snacks, make sure you keep
them out of the sight and reach of your children.

Set an example

You may think that your children completely disregard you’re eating advice, but your opinion does have a huge
impact on their view of nutrition. In particular, your actions should set an example for your children. For instance,
preschoolers tend to copy their parents. Take advantage of this behaviour by making healthy eating choices
yourself.

Foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grain products, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, legumes, fish
and eggs should be encouraged. At the same time, foods with a high content of calories, sugar, salt, and fat should
be avoided. Cakes, chocolate, doughnuts, cookies, ice cream, potato chips, French fries, pop, energy, and sports
drinks, and sweetened cold or hot drinks should be limited as much as possible. It is okay to consume these foods
in moderation and occasionally.

To sum everything up, parents have a vital role to play in shaping their children’s food habits. It all starts with
being a good role model and creating a healthy eating environment. If you do so, you will be able to help your
children develop eating habits that are healthy and have a lasting impact.

-Dr Santosh N, MBBS, MD,
Consultant Neonatologist & amp;
Paediatrician, Apollo Cradle Jayanagar

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