The basic habit of eating healthy is very crucial in every stage of life, especially during childhood days. Habit is the hardest thing to make or break. Most of the habits are formed during childhood. As a parent, it is our responsibility to develop healthy eating habits for children. Once children pick up healthy eating habits, they will continue with them for a lifetime. Are you concerned about your child’s health? Are you struggling with building healthy eating habits with your child? Then read this till the end.
How to develop healthy eating habit for children?
As a mother, it was my major concern to inculcate healthy eating habits in my kids. Like many other kids, my kids are very big fans of “Junk Food” and “ Sugary Stuffs”. And like many mothers, I was also clueless and helpless to tell my kids to not ask for junk foods. One thing I understood very well is being strict did not help me to restrict their food habits. Instead, I adopted little lifestyle modifications in our life and instilled healthy eating habits in my kids. There is no end to this struggle, I am still discovering new methods to keep my kids away from all kinds of junk stuff all around them.
Bring certain changes in your lifestyle and see the difference.
Develop healthy eating habit for child: Step 1. Get yourself educated
Include the habit of reading the label behind every product which goes into your kitchen shelves and refrigerators. Certain food additives have been linked to scary side effects. Start reading ingredient labels when grocery shopping to take control of your diet. Additionally, try to cut back on processed and packaged foods and incorporate more fresh ingredients into your diet.
Please do not fall for false advertisements showing particular health drink can replace all the meals nutrition or eating 2 biscuits per day will give the fiber for the day.No nothing of it is true. In fact, your favorite celebrity who is acting in the ad will never give those stuff to their family and kids. So these ads simply mislead users, don’t fall into this trap. (1, 2, 3, 4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14)
Here is the list of some common food additives used to enhance the flavor, appearance, or texture of a product or to extend its shelf life is shown in the table.
|ADDITIVE NAME||PURPOSE||FOUND IN||CONCERN HEALTH RISK|
|Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)||Used to intensify and enhance the flavor of savory dishes.||Processed foods like frozen foods, salty snacks, canned soups. Often added to restaurants and fast food places||.Associated with weight gain and metabolic syndrome. |
.Sensitive people experience simple’s like headaches, sweating & numbness.
|Artificial food coloring||Used to brighten and improve the appearance of the food.||Found in everything from candies to condiments||Food dyes like Blue 1, Red3, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 have been associated with allergic reactions in some people. |
Red 3 is associated with athyroid tumor
Promote hyperactivity in sensitive children.
|Sodium Nitrite||Preservative to prevent the growth of bacteria also adds a salty flavor and reddish-pink color.||Found in processed meats.||Higher nitrite intakes are linked to a higher risk of several types of cancer.|
|Guar Gum and Xanthum Gum||Used to thicken and bind foods.||Found in ice cream, Sauces, Soups, Salad dressings. |
|.Higher amounts can cause adverse side effects. It can swell 10-20 times its size. Potentially causing issues like obstruction of esophagus or small intestine. |
.Cause bloating and cramps.
|High Fructose Corn Syrup||Sweetener made from corn||Found in Soda, Juice, Candy, Breakfast cereals, Outside Snacks.||.Associated with weight gain, diabetes, inflammation.
.It can contribute nothing but empty calories in your diet.
|Artificial Sweeteners. |
Sucralose, Saccharin, Acesulfame, Potassium.
|Enhances Sweetness while reducing the calorie content||All Sugar-free products.||May cause mild side effects like headaches.|
|Carrageenan||Thickener, emulsifier and preservative in many different foods.||Found in almond milk, cottage cheese, ice cream, coffee, creamers, and vegan cheese.||Cause high blood sugar, cause intestinal ulcers and tumors.|
|Sodium Benzoate||Preservative||Found in carbonated drinks, acidic foods like salad dressings, pickles, fruit juices, and condiments||Associated with increased hyperactivity and combined with vitamin C from benzene a compound associated with cancer development|
|Trans Fat||Used to increase shelf life and consistency of the products||Found in baked goods, margarine, biscuits, microwaveable popcorn.||Associated with inflammation, heart diseases, and diabetes|
|Artificial Flavours||Designed to mimic the taste of the ingredients||Used to imitate different flavors in popcorns, biscuits, candies, chocolates, etc||Toxic to bone marrow|
Develop healthy eating habit for child: Step 2) Start as soon as possible
Choose healthy options for your kids from the early stages of their life. Choose to breastfeed over Formula milk. Choose homemade soft-cooked rice or porridge over ready-made instant baby cereals and foods. By the time their taste buds are developed, they will be more inclined to natural flavors, if they are not fed with artificial or instant baby foods. Please avoid plastic sippers, spoons, straws, and glasses for your kids.
Develop healthy eating habit for child: Step 3) Handling Peer Pressure
Food peer pressure is very common these days. As kids grow they become more independent in choosing food options. They get influenced by external factors like friends, food advertisements, birthday parties, sleep-over treats, etc. You cannot follow them everywhere and check on their plates. So explain to them how to choose healthy options next time and don’t get attracted to colored candies or frosts on cakes. Discuss with other parents in the group about healthy food options at such parties. Keep encouraging kids to opt for healthy foods, they will get tuned automatically to it.
Grandparents and immediate relatives play a very major role in a child’s eating habits. Please tell them politely to not encourage kids with chocolates and Candies. Ask them to teach kids about the benefits of eating homemade healthy foods. They can convey to kids in innovative ways like in the form of stories, acts, etc.
Develop healthy eating habit for child: Step 4) Observe their eating patterns
For two days just observe their eating patterns. Note down what they eat, what they ask for, When do they feel very hungry? How much water they drink etc.Trust me all these small points will be an eye-opener for you. Now it’s time to categorize all the food items which your kid is consuming into Junk, Pseudo Junk, and healthy food groups. In the below-mentioned categories see where your pantry stuff falls into. Kids who are having healthy food consistently will have good health, immunity, and growth. Period.
|JUNK FOOD||PSEUDO JUNK FOOD||HEALTHY FOOD|
|Unhealthy foods are high in calories, high salt, and trans fats with zero fiber.||These foods are claimed to be healthy but they are also considered unhealthy.||All naturally grown, locally available seasonal foods are Healthy. Anything prepared with these at home is very healthy and nutritious.|
|Examples:-Pizzas, Carbonated drinks, Soda, Chips, Burgers, Pizzas, Maida snacks, margarine, candies, chocolate bars||Examples- tetra pack fruit juices, Packed cereals, Packed jams, cookies, ready to eat or ready to cook noodles/pasta/popcorn/soup, etc||Example – All fruits, vegetables, local farm milk, poultry, etc|
|Results in childhood obesity, clogging arteries, constipation, worms infection, lack of nourishment.||These have adulterants, preservatives, and food coloring agents. They have Hidden sugars and salts in them. These can cause cancer and other health-related issues. Moreover, they are zero-calorie/empty-calorie foods.||They help in proper growth, boost immunity to fight against seasonal allergies, help our body in regular wear and tear. |
Do not worry if your kids’ major meals come from the junk and pseudo junk category, it is not late, analyze the damage and take steps to bring back your lifestyle onto the normal track.
Develop healthy eating habit for child: Step 5) Be a role model
Only healthy parents raise healthy kids. Kids are copycats of their parents, they will just follow what their elders do in the family. So, keep yourself away from all the unhealthy stuff which you binge every now and then in front or behind your kids. Do not always discuss gaining weight and losing weight in front of them, they may too start thinking the same. Always talk positively about healthy food in front of your kids. Explain why Junk food is bad for their health. We must answer all their queries as they do not ask them for time pass. They grasp everything you say!!
Explain to them depending on their age group about the impact of junk and processed foods on our gut health and the level of damage they do to our health. How they are related to diabetes, obesity, and other health issues in long run.
Make your kitchen smart. Always prefer homemade fresh warm food for kids. Reduce ordering from food apps and dining out frequently in restaurants. Your kid’s frequency of eating outside must be only 2 times or less in a month including birthday parties and other functions. Opt for healthy food options instead of deep-fried, sugary, spicy foods when dining out.
Encourage your kids to play outdoor games or sports for one hour every day. I know it’s very difficult for kids these days as they are always busy with homework and television. But, try and encourage them for physical activity. Take them out for cycling, badminton, frisbee, swimming, etc on weekends. Physical activity and sports will help to unlock all the nutrients from their diet and assimilate them into their body. (15,16)
Develop healthy eating habit for child: Step 6) Make a chart
Make a chart on the best and the worst foods for the whole family and stick it on your freezer and kitchen cabinet. This will help you in stocking all healthy foods in your kitchen. Do not bring any unhealthy junk foods home. This will give you and your kids a chance to explore all the healthy stuff in your kitchen.
Develop healthy eating habit for child: Step 7) Make a Schedule
Put a meal time and adhere to it. Your breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks must be on time every day no matter what. It will be very difficult initially but in a few days, you will feel easy to follow this. A little bit of planning ahead will help you to stick to your meal timings. Make the weekly menu plan on weekends. Stock your groceries for the next week then it will consume hardly 2 hours in the morning and 1 hour in the evening meal.
Involve kids in menu planning, ask them their likes and dislikes, their favorite dish, etc. Give them some healthy options to choose from. In the end, they will feel happy that something of their choice will come on the plate and you will be relieved that whatever they chose is healthy.
Please involve your spouses in meal preparation, vegetable shopping, and table preparation before a meal. I request all the men who think the kitchen is a woman’s responsibility to give up such thoughts and equally help their mother and wife in the kitchen. Learn basic dal, rice, roti, khichadi, and soups, which will come to the rescue when your mother or wife is not feeling well or busy with their professional work or your cook is on leave, etc. Please do not rely on food apps or food advertisements…trust me you can cook much better and healthier than them. Those who are already helping their wife and mother a big clap for you…keep going. (17)
Be disciplined and consistent with your routine.
Develop healthy eating habit for child: Step 8) Provide healthier choices
Make sure they eat healthy every meal. Their plate must have all 5 food groups like vegetables, good carbohydrates, high-quality proteins, good fats like ghee, and dairy products like milk or curd.
Make sure they eat breakfast and leave for school instead of having it in the bus or car or skipping it. Provide them with regular dals, sabzi, chawal, roti, or non-vegetarian foods which you prepare at home for lunch and dinner. Check they are well hydrated throughout the day.
Keep the snacking a healthy option. Give them healthy homemade bhel, poha, fruits, jaggery or til chikki, nuts, etc. Replace regular snacks and drinks with healthy snacks like homemade muffins, cakes, and homemade sweets, drinks, and savories.
Once in a while, you can make healthy versions of Pizza, burgers, and pav bhaji at home. Give them a treat with their favorite dishes homemade by you.
Do not reward your kids with chocolate or candy for their accomplishments instead gift them a book, a long drive, a walk to the park, etc which will not harm them in long run.
Develop healthy eating habit for child: Step 9) Meal time fun time
Make meal time for your kids a fun time. Let them munch with merry, do not bring any arguments over the table. Make sure to have dinner with your kids. You can teach kids a lot while having the meal with them. They can observe you how to dip their main course with side dishes. For example how to finish the dal with chawal, roti with sabzi, or whatever traditional homemade food you make.
Portion control is another important thing which they can learn at the family meal time. You can use simple sentences like it’s yummy but mummy is full, so i will not have some more, etc.
Switch off the television while your kids are having the meal. Let them concentrate on what they are eating and how much they are eating. In turn, you keep your phones away while eating. This will be a win-win situation kids.
Develop healthy eating habit for child: Step 10) Do not be in hurry
Ask your kid to sit down, relax and eat the food. It’s ok if they take 30-40 minutes for each meal. Encourage them to chew the food properly rather than just swallowing. Kids are always in hurry to catch their school bus or friends calling them to play down. But make sure you tell them the benefits of proper chewing and ask them to eat the food mindfully.
Develop healthy eating habit for child: Step 11) Involve Kids in Shopping
Ask your kids to help in making weekly menu plans and grocery shopping lists. I am sure they will be pretty excited to accompany you to the shopping. Show them both healthy and unhealthy options in the shop. Do not lecture them too much, instead just ask them to read the price, manufacturing date, and expiry date. You can ask them to read out the ingredient list behind the pack, most of it they will not understand but you can explain them. Their benefits impact health. The more they read the more they will learn in long run. Soon they will understand why parents call certain food unhealthy.
Develop healthy eating habit for child: Step 12) Involve kids in cooking
I remember my mother asking me to help out in washing the vegetables, chopping the vegetables, mixing the curry, or flipping the dosa, etc. It always used to make me curious to see the outcome of the vegetable I chopped or stirred in the pan. The dosa I used to flip would be a special dosa for my parents. Lol!! You can also involve your kids in cooking especially on weekends. You all can bake a cake or make a vegetable pulao or dessert. Kids will enjoy and understand the basic knowledge about the science of cooking. The more they get involved in cooking the more they think about eating healthy.
Develop healthy eating habit for child: Step 13) Proper sleep improves appetite
Every child needs 8-10 hours of uninterrupted sleep for proper digestion and growth. Just assure that your child goes to bed on time wake up early in the morning to get some Sun. Waking up early will also give your children plenty of time to finish their breakfast and leave for the day.
All the growth hormones are released during sleep. These carry out many internal processes like digestion in our body. This is an important factor in a kid’s growth.
Develop healthy eating habit for child: Step 14) Involve kids in gardening
Have some small kitchen herbs like Coriander, Fenugreek, Basil, or plant of cherry tomatoes, etc on your balcony. Involve kids in gardening like planting seeds, watering them, cleaning the pots, etc. This will help kids understand how the natural foods are grown and all be excited to eat them. If you are blessed with a big garden at your home you can plant many vegetables and fruits which can be easily grown.
Take kids to agricultural lands, farms, and nurseries once in a while. They will understand the importance of locally grown fresh foods. They will understand the essence of traditional agricultural practices from a very young age. So this weekend instead of going to a fancy restaurant or mall divert your car to a agro farm.
Develop healthy eating habit for child: Step 15) Try to find Underlying issue
If your kids are continuously fussy for eating one morsel food or refuse to take feeds persistently (in case of babies) or if you observe any unusual pattern in your kids like vomiting immediately after a meal or increase in bathroom visits please consult your pediatrician to find out underlying issue.
|JOB OF THE CHILD||JOB OF THE PARENT|
|To eat whatever is served.||To choose and cook food under the most hygiene conditions|
|To eat as much as he/she needs||To provide scheduled meals and snacks|
|To behave well during meal times||To teach meal time behavior and to abide it themselves|
|To learn to eat foods the family eats||To make mealtime pleasant and fun|
|To adhere to a routine||To train children not to eat other than scheduled|
22% of Indian kids are obese and 1 out of 3 kids are found to be obese in the USA. The best thing we can give back to society is a healthy child. These 15 steps Mantra helped me to develop healthy eating habits not only with my child but the entire family. Eating healthy is the step forward to stop/avoid health issues like obesity, heart diseases, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetics, and cancer in long run.
Do not take any chance with your child’s health. Once you become a parent it is very important to pay attention to each and every habit of your children until they become mature to handle themselves. Good habits instilled in childhood will help them throughout their life. Developing healthy eating habits in children is the prime responsibility of every parent.Sit down with them and explain the impact of unhealthy foods and benefits of healthy foods on their health. Inculcate healthy lifestyle changes to bring healthy smiles to your kid’s face. (18,19,20)
I am sure just like me, you would have tried many other things that would have worked with you. Why not share those ideas in the comment sections. Your ideas will help many mothers