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Attention, Parents! Are You Helping Your Child Develop Healthy Eating Habits?

As adults, it is our responsibility to teach and encourage children to develop healthy eating habits, that will be our gift to them.

Does your child have healthy eating habits, or are they like this child?

Saima misses school frequently as she suffers from recurrent abdominal pain. She often goes to school without taking breakfast because she never manages to wake up on time. During break time at school, she eats only chicken nuggets and a bar of chocolate every day. At lunch and dinner time, she sits in front of the television and flicks through channels whilst her mother struggles to insert food into her mouth which she mostly swallows without chewing.

Very unhealthy eating habits.

Developing healthy eating habits in children does not have to be a battle if parents intervene early.

What are parents doing wrong?

Today most families have hectic schedules with both parents working and thus families are increasingly dependent on processed food or takeaway deliveries. As a result of nutrient deficiency, children are developing various kinds of chronic diseases that is resulting in regular hospital visits, consumption of antibiotics thus putting pressure on their immune system.

If parents show no concern about their children going to bed late followed by skipping breakfast in the morning or parents themselves skip breakfast and leave for work, children will imitate that behaviour because that is the established practice at home.

A mother running behind her child with a plate full of food whilst the child refuses to eat is a common scenario in our country. This usually turns mealtimes into a battlefield with most mothers complaining that their children do not eat what they cook or lack appetite. But such a situation can be positively transformed and mealtimes can be a peaceful time allowing the family to connect.

How to develop healthy eating habits in kids?

As adults, it is our responsibility to teach and encourage children to develop healthy eating habits. To achieve that, we may need to change our own habits or lifestyle.

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Children consider parents to be their role models so parents are capable of bringing about and implementing changes – Modeling healthy eating habits the best way. They can start by introducing regular healthy, home cooked meals and involve the children in the process of preparation so that the children develop an understanding of the effort that goes into making a meal.

Children should be invited to the table without putting a screen in front, and taught to sit with adults. It will cultivate table manners, as well as create an opportunity to try new food. Parents can also learn more about their children’s temperaments and preferences.

Children can participate in grocery shopping with their parents and help in the kitchen too. It will develop their understanding of the importance of healthier meal choices. They will be introduced to new ingredients, and it will make them feel as if they are in control of what they are going to eat.

Chubby does not mean ‘healthy’

As long as a child does not lose weight rapidly or falls sick frequently, parents should avoid worrying about the child being too skinny or not being as chubby as peers because proper nutrition is more important than appearing plump or well-fed.

We have a tendency to pass thoughtless comments about other people’s children’s appearance, but a parent should only be concerned when a medical practitioner expresses genuine concern or recommends additional diagnosis of a child’s health.

It is important to stress that childhood is the prime time for developing healthy eating habits, and a healthy relationship with food. It is up to the parents to take that initiative to build a positive food environment at home. They can achieve this by exposing the children to a variety of healthy meal options which is essential for their mental development and physical growth because this will ultimately shape their lifelong healthy eating habits.

Image source: Rusty Watson on Unsplash

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