Written by Dr. Chetan Ginigeri
Balancing a toddler’s appetite and inculcating better healthy eating habits in kids can be quite a task for the parent. Their likes and dislikes keep changing with time, they start becoming opinionated, and it is natural. The graph sometimes becomes unpredictable, thus pushing the parent into the zone of confusion. But, kids need to have a nutrition-filled diet for better physical and mental growth. Nutrients help the organs work properly, thus building the necessary immunity.
A good diet also helps the child be active and alert during studies and other extracurricular activities. In short, a nutritious diet will be a boon for their health in adulthood. Once you understand the behaviour pattern of your kid for that phase, there are numerous ways to teach the proper eating habits to them. Here we have discussed eight ways to inculcate the healthy eating habits in kids.
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So we put together the following ways which you can follow to inculcate healthy eating habits in Kids right from a very young age. This will ensure that your child is a conscious eater all through his life. And not to worry, this ain’t hard on you either!
Children might not listen to a lecture, but they surely imitate their parents. While you give them a snack or meal, make sure they keep everything they are doing aside and help them concentrate on the food they are eating. It will take some time for the body to register the food they are taking and to tell them that they are full. So, eating slowly can help them understand and savour the taste of that particular snack or meal completely.
It is also important to chew the food thoroughly before they swallow it. Swallowing without proper chewing can lead to choking and indigestion. Do not rush while eating in front of your kid. They might think fast eating is normal, and they will start to follow you. Fast eating can be harmful as it leads to overeating and subsequently, obesity. Obesity will make kids less active and lethargic and bring many uninvited health problems as they start to grow.
Family time is very important, both while having a good meal and spending a healthy break time. It creates a special and long-lasting bond with the family and the food they eat together when they sit with you. It can also help them mould the time and the type of food they eat as the vital routine of their lives. Make one standard meal for everyone in the family. Create a proper timetable for any mealtime, be it lunch or dinner, and try to follow it as often as possible. This routine will help your kids understand and take a complete look at the meal you serve them. They should know that eating healthy is not a punishment but the right thing to do.
Arrange a colourful meal when you eat with your kids. Vegetables like coloured capsicum, green beans, beetroot, carrot, cucumber are enough to make the table look like a rainbow. Make it a habit for yourself so that whenever you get time to eat with your kids, you do not have to change the whole table. Make sure you do not involve any junk on the table. Junk immediately draws kids’ attention, and they may end up eating it more instead of a healthy meal. Schedule the right snack and mealtime. Children need three healthy meals and two snacks for their growing body and better immunity.
Many parents routinely practice distracted feeding for their kids. This means feeding them in front of a television or while playing games on mobile. Distracted feeding deprives kids of eating, or it may encourage fast eating. Kids would not want to miss even a single frame of a cartoon or any other channel or game. So, they simply might either push the plate of snacks away or eat it without even knowing what they are eating. Watching television while eating can be addictive, making them want to finish the meal soon and get back to it again. Make sure to cut off all the digital environment when eating. It must be a strict habit of the family. It can help the child adapt and understand that screen time is forbidden during a meal.
A lot of advertisements that endorse junk and fast foods can grab the kid’s attention while eating. This can make the child think that eating junk is fine and they can develop a dislike towards healthy home food. Avoiding television and other digital sources while having meals can also build a good positive environment. Tell your kids about the story of the particular vegetable included in their meal. This can also help them develop an interest in healthy eating. Involve them while cooking a meal. This can distract them from the digital world. Help them add some ingredients to the food you are preparing and let them enjoy the cooking.
Yes, it is known that junk food is harmful to kids at their growth stage, but once in a while, giving in to your children’s cravings should be fine. Do not deny and do not strictly ban junk food. Banning it completely might lead to a stage where they can start to develop an aversion towards home food and not eat it behaving aggressively. Take them out for a good trip and let them satisfy their cravings. Call this a cheat day so that they can understand that they cannot repeat this often.
Bake a good cake at home on a holiday, eat together as a family. Include your kids while baking, they will understand the effort behind the tasty cake. Involving kids while cooking will automatically make them eat the outcome.
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Anything in excess is dangerous, so make sure your kid is not habituated to overeating. Try to pay attention to the portion they are consuming. This is where kids’ three meals and two snacks come to the rescue. Once you serve them a meal and snack at the right time, they can avoid being overly hungry. Being hungry for a very long time can lead to overeating as the insulin levels in the body start to go down. When the body needs immediate energy, we tend to satisfy it by eating anything available. This type of overeating can later be a problem. That is why it is important to fill your kid’s day with small meals and snacks like dry fruits and fruits.
Watch out for the ingredients you add while cooking. Avoid using excess oil for everyday meals. An occasional party meal with more oil and sugar is fine but never make it a habit, even if it is homemade. Do not make it too spicy, salty, and oily. Keep an eye on what they eat and tactfully push them to eat more raw vegetables than cooked food.
Kids usually tend to become aggressive when you start dictating them. Give them a choice and let them choose what they want to eat that day. Make sure you select some healthy options and let them pick one among them. This will make your kid eat their own choice with so much joy. Make a good meal plan for the week. Help them choose a snack for the day.
Take them to the grocery store and let them help you select the vegetables for the week. While buying snacks, make it a habit to look at the ingredients on the packet. Try to explain to them why junk is not good and how it can harm them in ways. Write a meal plan and try to stick to it. Have plenty of choices, flip through the menu if needed. At the end of the day, feeding them a nutritious meal is all that matters.
Kids always enjoy shopping. If you can involve them in the shopping you do for the kitchen, they can enjoy it even more. It will help them to feel good about themselves. Take them to the grocery store and help them select the things you need. They will happily do it for you. A little older kids can also help you in cutting vegetables. Make sure to involve them while you cook and explain to them the value of the vegetable they are about to eat. Kids become extremely enthusiastic if they cook and they will be ready to eat whatever they have made. Explain to them the extent of nutrients they will gain by eating the one they are cooking. This can help them remember the nutritional value of that particular vegetable.
If your kid is a very picky eater, make some interesting shapes while making rotis and pancakes. Allow them to roll out the chapatis so they will enjoy the cooking session and mealtime. Do not give much importance to preparing junk at home. Encourage your child as much as possible in preparing and eating a healthy meal. The parent should be a role model for them in this matter. Your eating habits will influence them to an extent that they will blindly follow you. Give them the right direction and stay there while they cook and finish the process. Kids are meant to be fussy while cooking. Admire them while they cook. This increases the enthusiasm to learn new things. Be patient and ask them for help while you clean the kitchen.
Meals are not just enough for a growing kid. Snack time is equally important. Snacking completes the nutrition and can act as an energy booster in between meals. Understandably, finding so many nutritious meals and snacks for children without them losing interest in it is a bit tough. Here we have given some easy and reliable options that can be useful during the snack time of your children.
Snacking gives them enough energy to be active by fulfilling their hunger between meals. It is fine to give in to their junk food requests once in a while, but keep an eye and stop tactfully before that falls as a pattern.
All the above tricks and tips may work or may not. But trying these can eventually help you build a proper timetable and stick to it. It will be easier to plan your day, which can lower the weight of your daily tasks. Remember that you need to be someone your child can look up to and follow. Most of the kids simply imitate their parents and start following them. Inculcating a healthy diet plan and the right eating habits in your kids can help them grow stronger with better health and immunity. Sticking to a weekly meal plan and snack plan can also inculcate disciplined eating habits in them from a very early age. Anything that sticks to a tender mind will stay with them growing to be a beautiful and appreciable habit.
It is not easy to pull your children back from the world of that addictive junk. Try your best to make home food interesting and appealing. Sit with them while they are having a meal, or have it together as a family. Give them a chance to cook sometimes, they will eat their creations. Explain to them that junk can be harmful in many ways.
Read Also: Top 12 Most Unhealthy Foods For Kids
Dr Chetan Ginigeri is an experienced Pediatric Intensivist with national and international training. With 15 years of experience, he is one among very few Intensivists in India trained to take care of children who need/had organ transplants. He has been responsible for coordinating the Pediatric Organ Transplant program.Read more.
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