By Alecia Carroll
Photo: Creative Commons by ND via Bing
November 23, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) -- A balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle are the wishes of every parent for their children. The problem is that busy schedules can make making healthy diets at home challenging. Furthermore, children's fussy eating and advertisements promoting high-fat and high-sugar foods add to these challenges.
There are many things to consider when choosing what to feed your kids/preschooler. Their eating habits and preferences are always changing, making it difficult to serve a balanced and nourishing diet to them. In the beginning stages of your child's development, they will form eating habits that will follow them throughout their lives. Developing healthy eating habits in childhood is a wonderful way to prepare them for adulthood. Remember that developing healthy eating habits often takes time and patience.
Importance of Creating Healthy Eating Habits
According to a Healthline, 23 million people (including about 6.5 million children) live too far away from supermarkets to get to them. It is important to help your children adopt good eating habits so that they maintain a healthy weight and are able to grow normally. This will also contribute to them maintaining a healthy lifestyle in adulthood. In addition, people who eat unhealthily are more likely to develop obesity, obesity-related conditions such as sleep disorders as well as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease.
It is essential for young children to obtain a nutritious diet to support their growth and development. Children can benefit from a healthy diet by stabilizing their energy levels, sharpening their minds, and evening out their moods. In addition to feeling good and maintaining a healthy weight, it increases energy levels for play and school.
An Acosta 2020 report found that 55% of Americans have been eating at home more often due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unhealthy eating can also restrict the intake of nutrients, especially those found in fruits and vegetables, that are crucial for good health, such as vitamins, phytochemicals and fiber.
Benefits of Healthy Foods
The pressure of peers and adverts for junk food make it difficult for parents to get their kids to eat well. Families' hectic schedules also add to the problem, which is why convenience foods constitute a significant portion of a child's diet. Changing your child's diet, however, can improve their health in a number of significant ways, including preventing obesity, disorders of the gastrointestinal system, and various types of illnesses. You can also reduce the chances that your child will experience conditions such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder by promoting a healthy diet for their emotional and mental wellbeing.
Keeping your child healthy throughout their growth contributes to a healthy future and may even lower their suicide risk. Taking care of your child's diet can help them manage their mental health symptoms and regain health if they have already been diagnosed.
Keep in mind that your kids are not born hating veggies like broccoli and carrots or craving French fries and pizza. Over time, they become conditioned to unhealthy food choices as they are exposed to more and more. Nonetheless, it is possible to retrain your children to crave healthier foods in place of their unhealthy ones.
It's possible to establish a lifelong relationship between children and food if you introduce them to wholesome, nutritious choices at an early age. And you'll find that it's less of a hassle than you think.
A child needs three meals and one to three snacks per day. A healthy snack is as important as healthy meals.
A healthy diet should consist of whole, fresh foods, including fruit and dairy products; and at least one meal per day cooked at home
Sugar and sugar substitutes
- Ensure that there are no added sugars or sugar substitutes in your food. Consume as little refined sugar (sucrose, glucose-fructose, white sugar) as possible, as well as honey, molasses, syrups, and brown sugar. Each of them is high in calories and contributes to tooth decay.
- Substitutes for sugar are much sweeter and nutrient-less than sugar. Neither aspartame nor sucralose contains calories or causes tooth decay, but they are both sugar substitutes. The result may be a preference for only sweet foods and making fruits and vegetables hard to adjust to for your child. Keeping them to a minimum is a good idea for your child.
Juice and water
- Make sure your child has access to water when thirsty, particularly between meals.
- Don't exceed one serving of juice each day (125 ml [4 oz]).
- Actual fruit is healthier for your child than fruit juice.
The body relies on sodium to maintain fluid balance. Nerves and muscles also depend on sodium. High blood pressure, however, is associated with too much sodium, increasing that risk. Salt is the common name for sodium.
- Provide your child with as many healthy foods as possible that are low in sodium.
- Sodium levels are usually high in processed and prepackaged foods.
- Children who consume too much sodium can develop a taste for salty foods, which later on may contribute to obesity and/or disease.
- Comparison of products can be done by looking at the % Daily Value (DV) on the labels. Avoid eating foods containing more than 15% Daily Value (DV) of sodium.
What about Fat?
A healthy diet contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that cannot be synthesized by the body. Vegetable oils, including soybean, canola, and olive, should be used. In addition to salad dressings and non-hydrogenated margarines, healthy fats can be found in mayonnaise and nut butter.
A solid fat at room temperature contains a greater amount of trans fats than saturated fats, which are linked with cardiovascular disease. Butter, hard margarines, lard, and shortening should be limited. Avoid many store-bought products that contain trans or saturated fats, including cookies, donuts, and crackers.
Tips for Creating Healthy Eating Habits
The importance of healthful eating for your kids cannot be overstated, but in today's society, kids have become addicted to junk food so much that it has replaced healthy eating. As a parent, that is extremely concerning.
But you can't let them eat junk food on a regular basis if you care about their health. What can you do to prevent them from becoming junk food lovers? How can you encourage your child to adopt healthy eating habits?
Here are some tips on how to teach your kids healthy eating habits.
- Start Early
Take a moment to reflect on how your own eating habits changed from childhood to adolescence and adulthood. When you gained more independence and were able to shop for yourself or prepare meals for yourself, what foods intrigued you? Even though a significant role is played by parents in determining what and when kids eat, many people fail to recognize that good eating habits are established as early as the toddler years.
"By exposing children to fruits and vegetables in infancy and toddlerhood, it is possible to promote their later consumption," reports the Encyclopedia of Early Childhood Development. Additionally, child development experts have found that during the first two years of your child's life, food preferences begin to develop - just when your child is able to eat solid food and feed themselves.
By the time your child attends daycare, peer pressure can also be a factor in their lives. Children as young as two-years-old were placed at mealtime next to their peers in a study published in Child Development. It was more likely that a child with a distaste for a vegetable would try it, change their minds, or declare that they preferred it if they sat with others who liked it.
By the time a child can walk, he or she does not have to be eating complex foods or choosing between fruit and cookies. The good news is that exposing kids to a healthy diet and access to nutritional items when they first start teething can set them up to make healthy choices well into adolescence.
- Be a Role Model
Your family and friends will be more likely to eat healthily if you are eating well yourself. Kids will mimic their parents' actions. Eating healthy foods, and not overindulging in processed junk, is the best way to set a good example for your children.
Serving appropriate portions and avoiding overeating are other ways to be a good role model. Especially with young children, describe how you feel when full. Parents who continuously diet or complain about their bodies may also cause their children to develop these negative feelings.
- Avoid Handing Out Smartphones to Kids While Eating
Parents often struggle to make healthy food appealing to children because they are fussy when it comes to eating.
Then, what do most of us tend to do?
While they eat, give them a smartphone to play with! No wonder kids end up using smartphones for long periods of time.
Quite literally, children are distracted enough to gobble up their food when they are watching something or playing an app.
There might be a short-term respite. In the long run, however, you are depriving your child of a chance to learn vital social skills that come with interacting with people rather than screens. Kids who are having trouble making friends or who are young should take this into consideration. You can use meals as an opportunity to practice listening, paying attention to others speaking, and taking turns.
- Add Variety to the Food
When they're served one item and have to finish it, kids tend to be cranky and fussy about their food.
You should give them a variety of foods at every meal so they can incorporate a balanced diet routine into their lives. It will not be as difficult as you might think.
Add cut-up fruits and perhaps some flavored yoghurt to cereal and milk for breakfast, for example.
A salad, rotis (Indian flatbreads) and whole grain rice or pasta paired with a protein source (meat, paneer, beans, etc.) make great lunch and dinner options!
- Limit Sugar and Refined Carbs
A simple or refined carbohydrate is a sugar or refined grain that has been stripped of all bran, fiber, and nutrients, such as white bread, pizza dough, pasta, pastries, white flour, and white rice. Foods like these cause mood swings and spikes in blood sugar. In contrast, complex carbohydrates are rich in nutrients and fiber, providing longer-lasting energy.
Sugar is naturally occurring in foods and is all a child's body needs. Empty calories from added sugar can lead to hyperactivity, mood disorders, obesity, diabetes, and even self-harm in teenagers.
- Have a Snack Plan
Snacks are a great way to provide kids with food that might not be present at meals. A snack can also be useful if you have a busy schedule and/or you don't feel like eating right now. Snacks are also more positively received when kids have a say in what they are. Kids can be helped by providing them with two snack options or allowing them to plan their snacks for the week.
There is also the matter of timing, and children and families differ greatly in the timing for snacks. In theory, kids should eat snacks with enough time left before eating a meal so they are not too hungry by the time they eat.
The majority of a child's eating habits are formed before age five. Despite the difficulty in getting toddlers to eat well, early childhood is the best age to teach them healthy eating habits. Furthermore, what they learn at this age will likely follow them into adulthood.
Children's healthy eating habits require a lot of creativity and patience, but they are extremely beneficial for growth, development, and overall health. Developing a healthy relationship with food that lasts a lifetime can be achieved by introducing children to it at a young age.