By Hima Bindu
National Nutrition Week 2020: Kids pay very close attention to the world around them. From the time they wake up, they are intently watching you and soaking in the surroundings. They learn healthy food habits from our conduct as well as the examples we set for them. They imitate the actions they see and the words they hear. The food habits that we as parents follow at home have a significant role to play in a child’s positive or negative relationship with food. A simple statement that you make or an action that you indulge in can set examples for your toddler. Therefore, it’s important to choose your actions and words with care.
Ensuring that your child eats healthy is no easy feat. With so many options of candies and flavorful snacks around, it’s definitely a tough task to inculcate healthy eating habits. As a parent it’s important to create a healthy balance. Don’t entirely restrict or prohibit your child from indulging in junk food. Create an environment that naturally makes children lean towards healthier eating habits.
How to ensure your child enjoys eating healthy food:
- Walk the talk: If you want your child to eat fresh fruits, vegetables and all things healthy, it’s time to practice what you preach. For the health of your overall family, ensure that the snacks that you bring for yourself and your children are wholesome and healthy. Replace candies with fresh fruits, stock your fridge with bite sized vegetables and berries, avoid sugary drinks and make freshly squeezed fruit juice at home. In addition to this, make it a point to have discussions with grandparents and relatives who tend to offer chocolates and candies to kids.
- Involve them in cooking and growing: One of the best ways to make your kid interested in food is by involving them in the process of cooking. Let them experiment with cooking a simple dish. Give them a choice to decide the menu for dinner or lunch. In addition to this, teach about the value of food by involving them in gardening and growing vegetables. When kids know the effort it takes to grow a vegetable, they will surely think twice before discarding a piece of tomato or broccoli.
- Mind your language: Be mindful of what you speak in front of your children. ‘Your dad doesn’t eat that’ or ‘Your sister does not like cabbage’ can be a trigger to the way your kid thinks about food choices. If you are making statements like this about food, then you surely can expect your child to do the same.
- Don’t impose strict rules: All of us deserve a cheat day. It’s perfectly normal to give in to your temptations of junk food once in a while. The more rules you impose, your child might over indulge in unhealthy snacks. Create a healthy balance. A bar of chocolate or a can of juice once in a while can be allowed. Be mindful of the quantity and set aside one day in a week where your kids can enjoy their favourite snacks in appropriate quantities.
- Make it interesting for them: Introduce your children to new foods. Avoid cooking the same dish every few days. Try adding a twist to your regular rotis by presenting them in new ways. If they love indulging in pizzas and pastas, try making it at home from scratch and make them a part of the cooking process. In addition to this, make dinner/lunch time a happy occasion that they look forward to. Don’t force feed them or give ultimatums because it can result in aversion towards certain foods. In addition to this, make sure you and your child avoid any kind of screen time during a meal to help them eat appropriate quantities and indulge in dinner conversations with family.
The columnist is Co-Founder and nutritionist, Timios. Views expressed are the author’s own.