Nutrition For Your Child
No matter how old you are, nutrition plays an important role in every aspect of life. Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine” and not without reason. Proper nutrition is the key to lasting health which is why it’s important that we should take care of what we eat and how we eat. Start Them Young Like your investments, health is a long-term game. Habits formed early in life tend to endure over the rest of your life so it becomes vitally important to create good eating habits in our children. Let's understand different ways in which you can build the habit of eating nutritious food in your child: Introduce more whole food sources: These days, it is easy to get packaged foods that are full of salt and sugar which makes them easy to overeat. The more processed a food is, the lower will be the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) which will ultimately decrease the overall energy expenditure and increase the chances of overeating. Focus more on home cooked food; this way, you can limit the number of ingredients used and it is a better choice than packaged food. Moderation is the key. Grow fruits and vegetables in your home garden or terrace: A home garden is a great way for kids to learn about fruits and vegetables; this can help develop an interest in them for fresh produce. If that’s not possible, then take them to the local farmers’ market/ vegetables shop and talk with them about different vegetables and fruits found there. Ask them which food they want to eat at home. Involving them in the decision-making process will cultivate healthy habits as well. Try to limit their screen time as these days, food marketing is growing and TV ads can paint a very different picture about what constitutes healthy food. 1.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22421053 Be a Role Model: There is some evidence that the environment that parents create has a significant impact on children's eating habits. If you want them to eat nutritious food, then you need to lead by example. Instead of pressuring them, become a role model yourself. A study found that when both the parents were physically active, then the children were 5.8 times more active than the children of inactive parents. The same can apply to eating habits. 1.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1993947/ 2.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18257948 3.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15140846 Sit with them for a family meal: There is a lot of evidence suggesting that children who regularly sit down to eat with their families actually stay healthier. This also allows sharing of ideas and open communication between family members which also impacts their eating behaviours. Evidence suggests that when parents are present during the evening meal, children tend to consume more fruits and vegetables (2). 1.https://www.ncbi.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5259977/ 2.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12729986 Make nutritious food accessible: Stock more fruits and vegetables at home and avoid keeping packaged food around the house. Involve them in the cooking process. For instance, give them different fruits to mix and make a smoothie. Teach your children to cook easy meals such as a sandwich from green salads or a quick chickpea salad. This will make children self-reliant and even if you’re not at home, they can cook something for themselves. Prepare a balanced meal: Include a variety of foods in their daily routine which helps to get a variety of micronutrients and macronutrients. Give them some portion of green veggies and protein sources in each meal (good protein sources include dairy products/lentils/meat products). Include healthy fats as well such as olive oil/coconut oil/butter/ghee and fats from dairy products and meat products. For their lunch boxes, you can add some vegetable portions such as pieces of carrots so that when they feel hungry, they can eat these instead of buying junk food in the school canteen Takeaway: Don't pressure your child to eat healthily. Instead, adopt a healthy lifestyle yourself. Children are great imitators and will pick up good habits on the go. Make it a habit to spend some time with your child daily. Talk to them, show them how to make good food choices. All they need is the right direction.