How to develop healthy eating habits for children:A step by step guide

 How to develop healthy eating habits for children:A step by step guide

The basic habit of eating healthy is very crucial in every stages 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 habit, they will continue with them for lifetime.Are you concerned about your child 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: kids eat on your own

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 helped 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 for this struggle, I am still discovering new methods to keep my kids away from all kind of junk stuffs all around them.

Bring certain changes in your lifestyle and see the difference.

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 cutting back on processed and packaged foods and incorporating 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 in this trap. (1, 2, 3, 4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14)

How to develop healthy eating habit for children: Get educated

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 are shown in the table.

ADDITIVE NAMEPURPOSEFOUND INCONCERN HEALTH RISK
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)Used to intensify and enhance the flavour of savoury 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 headache, sweating & numbness.

Artificial food colouringUsed to brighten and improve the appearance of the food.Found in everything from candies to condimentsFood dyes like Blue 1,Red3, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 have been associated with allergic reaction in some people.

 

Red 3 is associated with thyroid tumour.

Promote hyperactivity in sensitive children.

Sodium NitritePreservative to prevent the growth of bacteria also adds a salty flavour and reddish pink colour.Found in processed meats.Higher nitrite intakes are linked to higher risk of several type of cancer.
Guar Gum and Xanthum GumUsed to thicken and bind foods.Found in ice cream,Sauces,Soups,Salad dressings.

 

Gluten free recipes.

.Higher amounts can cause adverse side effects.It can swell 10-20 times its size.Potentially causing issues like obstruction of oesophagus or small intestine.

 

.Cause bloating and cramps.

High Fructose Corn SyrupSweetener made from cornFound 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.

 

Examples: Aspartame ,Sucralose, Saccharin, Acesulfame, Potassium.

Enhances Sweetness while reducing calorie contentAll Sugar free products.May cause mild side effects like headache.
CarrageenanThickener, 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 tumours.
Sodium BenzoatePreservativeFound in carbonated drinks, acidic foods like salad dressings, pickles, fruit juices and condimentsAssociated with increased hyperactivity and combined with vitamin C form benzene a compound associated with cancer development
Trans FatUsed to increase shelf life and and consistency of the productsFound in baked goods, margarine, biscuits, microwaveable pop corn.Associated with inflammation, heart diseases and diabetes
Artificial FlavoursDesigned to mimic taste of the ingredientsUsed to imitate different flavours in popcorns, biscuits, candies, chocolates etcToxic to bone marrow

2) Start as soon as possible

Choose healthy options for your kids from early stages of their life.Choose breastfeeding over Formula milk.Choose home made 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. 

How to develop healthy eating habit for children: Handling peer pressure

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 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 group about healthy food options in 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 child’s eating habits.Please tell them politely to not encourage kids with chocolates and Candies.Ask them to teach kids about benefits of eating home made healthy foods.They can convey kids in innovative ways like in the form of stories ,acts etc.

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 its 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 stuffs fall into.Kids who are having healthy food consistently will have good health, immunity and growth.Period.

JUNK FOODPSEUDO JUNK FOODHEALTHY FOOD
Unhealthy foods which are high in calories ,high salt and trans fats with zero fiber.These foods are claimed to be healthy but they are also considered as unhealthy.All naturally grown, locally available seasonal foods are Healthy. Anything prepared with these at home are very healthy and nutritious.
Examples :-Pizzas,Carbonated drinks,Soda,Chips,Burgers,Pizzas,Maida snacks, margarines, candies, chocolate barsExamples- tetra pack fruit juices, Packed cereals, Packed jams, cookies, ready to eat or ready to cook noodles/pasta/popcorn/soup etcExample – 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 colouring 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, boosts immunity to fight against seasonal allergies, help our body in regular wear and tear.

 

 


Do not worry if your kids major meals come from junk and pseudo junk category, it is not late, analyse the damage and take steps to bring back your lifestyle on to normal track.

5) Be a role model

Only healthy parents raise healthy kids. Kids are copy cats of their parents, they will just follow what their elders do in the family. So, keep yourself away from all the unhealthy stuffs which you binge every now and then in front or behind your kids.Do not always discuss about gaining weight and loosing weight in front of them, they may too start thinking the same.Always talk positive 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 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 home made fresh warm food for kids. Reduce ordering from food apps and dining out frequently in restaurant.Your kids 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 everyday.I know its 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 in their body. (15,16)

How to develop healthy eating habit for children: make a chart and schedule

6) Make a chart

Make a chart on the best and the worst foods for 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 to home.This will give you and your kids a chance to explore all the healthy stuffs in your kitchen.

7) Make a Schedule

Put a meal time and adhere to it.Your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks must be on time everyday no matter what.It will be very difficult initially but in few days you will feel easy to follow this. 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 favourite dish etc.Give them some healthy options to choose.At 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 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 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.

How to develop healthy eating habit for children: provide healthy choice

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 diary products like milk or curd.

Make sure they eat breakfast and leave for school instead of having it in bus or car or skipping it.Provide them with regular dals, sabji, 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 home made bhel, poha, fruits, jaggery or til chikki, nuts etc. Replace regular snacks and drinks with healthy snacks like home made muffins, cakes and home made sweets , drinks and savouries.

Once in a while you can make healthy versions of Pizza, burger and pav bhaji at home.Give them treat with their favourite dishes at home made by you.

Do not reward your kids with a 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.

How to develop healthy eating habit for children: meal time is fun time

9) Meal time fun time

Make meal time for your kids as 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 home made food you make.

Portion control is another important thing which they can learn at the family meal time. You can use simple sentences like its 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.

10) Do not be in hurry

Ask your kid to sit down, relax and eat the food. Its 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.

11)  Involve Kids in Shopping

Ask your kids help in making weekly menu plan and grocery shopping list. I am sure they will be pretty excited to accompany you for 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 the  to read out the ingredient list behind the pack, most of it they will not understand but you can explain them.Their benefits on impacts on health. The more they read the more they will learn in long run.  Soon they will understand why parents call certain food unhealthy .

How to develop healthy eating habit for children: involbe in cooking

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 weekend.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.

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 the sleep.These carry out many internal processes like digestion in our body.This is an important factor in kids growth.

14) Involve kids in gardening

Have some small kitchen herbs like Coriander, Fenugreek, Basil or plant of cherry tomatoes etc in your balcony.Involve kids in the 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 big garden at your home you can plant many vegetables and fruits which can be easily grown.

Take kids to agriculture 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 very young age. So this weekend instead of going to a fancy restaurant or mall divert your car to a agro farm.

How to develop healthy eating habit for children: encourage in kitchen garden

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 CHILDJOB 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 needsTo provide scheduled meals and snacks
To behave well during meal timesTo teach meal time behaviour and to abide it themselves
To learn to eat foods the family eatsTo make mealtime pleasant and fun
To adhere to a routineTo train children not to eat other than scheduled

Bottom line

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. This 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 parents it is very important to pay attention about 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 on your kids 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

Akhila Y

Akhila holds a Post graduate diploma in clinical nutrition and dietetics from Apollo health education and research foundation. She is into this field since a year.She worked as an intern at Apollo hospitals, Hyderabad. She is trained in both inpatient and outpatient dietetics department. She did nutritional assessment, diet planning and clinical counselling for individuals with Hypothy-roid, Diabetic mellitus, Hypertension and kidney dysfunctions at outpatient department in Apollo. Akhila was into agricultural biotechnology but destiny had different plans and her strong passion towards nutrition and food sciences got her into clinical nutrition field. Having a strong background in biochemistry and human genetics she acquired a deep knowledge in the statistics specific to whole body macronutrient and micronutrient metabolism and its relation to metabolic diseas-es.Coming from agricultural background she did research on how organic foods are beneficial than conventionally grown counterparts in terms of nutrients such as antioxidants.She always motivates to encourage locally grown food for better health. She doesn’t encourage usage of supplements and crash diets. She believes the blend of traditional food wisdom and modern nutritional science is necessary for healthy body and mind. She em-phasises more on health gain than just loosing weight.This can only be possible by Sustainable diets.She is all happy in to help her clients who are ready to lead healthy, happy and nourishing life through Wellness munch!

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4 Comments

  • v.informative

  • Very useful parenting tips Akhila…. Thank you for sharing and All the very best!!!

    • Hi,We are glad that you find it useful. Keep reading and keep supporting us.

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