Every adult in a child’s life can help instill healthy lifestyle habits, which include important factors such as eating a healthy diet and following a proper fitness program. Many of us believe that as long as our child is eating a lot, active and doesn’t look fat, there’s no need to worry about his or her health. While your child might not look overweight, he or she may already have many fat cells that can lead to future health risks. Children as young as three should follow a proper diet and active lifestyle with enough hours of sleep to insure a healthy well-built body and mind. Here are some of the important ways in which adults can help children learn to eat.>>
“Children as young as three should follow a proper diet and active lifestyle”
- Availability of foods
Children may need to try a food eight to ten times before they develop a preference for that food. Encourage your child to try the different tastes a couple of times before they decide whether they like it or not.
- Meal structure
Children need to eat a balanced diet, so using the MyPyramid is very important. Stick it on the child’s bedroom wall to teach him/her that it’s important to eat fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and whole grains while limiting fats, salt and simple sugars.
- Adult food modeling
When adults eat a poor diet, children will too. When you sit at the same table, eating the healthier options they will be interested in doing the same. When they hear the message that too many snacks and sweets are not good, but see you eating them they will get confused. Lead by example.
- Food socialization practices
Avoid referring to food as GOOD or BAD, and cut the habit of using food as prizes or comfort. This type of behavior starts a process of emotional eating, which has little to do with hunger. These associations will be very difficult to change when they grow up. Instead refer to healthy food as, “healthy for you and will make you stronger, and give you energy.”
- Food related parenting style
Many researchers believe that children as young as three are able to adjust their own food intake and regulate calories over the course of time. When parents try to regulate their child’s food intake, the child’s own ability to regulate starts to fade away so then children rely on their parents for when and how much they eat. Restricting calories and specific foods usually backfires and produces undesirable behavior such as sneaking food or over-eating.
The following are some general guidelines to follow when introducing food to your little ones
– Reduce added sugar or sweetened drinks.
– Use unsaturated oils such as sunflower oil, olive oil or corn oil instead of the saturated solid fats.
– Offer fresh, frozen and canned vegetables and fruits at meal; be careful with added sauces and sugar.
– Eat fish or chicken instead of meat, you should minimize eating meat to once a week.
– Eat whole grain breads & cereals rather than refined products, read food labels wisely and make sure whole grain is the first ingredient.
– Eat more legumes (beans) and tofu.
– Avoid high calorie sauces such as mayonnaise and instead use mustard or tahini.
– Allow them to hold a bottle of water all the time to get used to drinking water instead of anything else
Beside eating healthy, your child will need a well structured physical activity according to his age, children starting from preschool need about 30 minutes 5 to 6 times a week of active play to prevent obesity and maintain a positive attitude, learn more about their body, grow well structured muscles, proper bone growth and consequently have better self esteem.
VIBE gym certified pediatric obesity nutritionist, sports athlete nutritionist and holistic nutrition therapist.