Nutrition Foundation

Teaching Children Healthy Eating Habits – Tips and Guidance from Mothers

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7 Key Rules for Mothers to Get Kids to Eat Healthier

Raising children isn’t easy. And, as a mother, you have all the more responsibilities on your shoulder. You are busy (irrespective of whether you are a working mom or a stay-at-home mom) and your children are also busy. School, homework, special classes, extracurricular activities, play dates – there so much to do and so little time to get it all done.

Kids today fall victims to our increasingly busy lifestyle. The result – they lack proper nutrition and don’t practice healthy eating habits. Today, a rising majority of Indian kids are either overweight or obese. Children should learn healthy eating habits and practice an active lifestyle in their growing years so that they can avoid health issues like obesity, diabetes, blood pressure, heart diseases, osteoporosis later in life.

Teach Healthy Eating Habits Today for a Healthier and Happier Tomorrow

As mothers, we must ensure that our kids build healthy dietary habits early on in life. As a family, it’s essential that you make the right nutritional choices. Children learn by imitating their parents, and hence it’s important that you set the right example for them.

Here, we have collected tips and guidance from several mothers on how to encourage and motivate your kids to inculcate healthy eating.

7 Key Rules to Help Your Children Eat Healthily
1. You are in control of the Supply Lines

As parents, you have the power to decide which foods to buy for your kids and when to serve them. Even if your kids ask for junk and other unhealthy foods, you can decide what to stock in your house.

The thing about kids is that though they may be fussy, they never go hungry. By stocking your pantry shelves with healthy choices, your kids are likely to eat it. This doesn’t mean you have to ban all chocolates, fried items, and other fast foods. You can serve these treats once in a while (once a month or for special occasions) so that your kids don’t feel deprived.

2. Don’t force your Kids to “Finish their Plates”

Most of us grew up being forced to finish our plates. While this may seem like a great idea to ensure that you don’t waste food, it’s one of the reasons for obesity later in life.

Instead, of serving food directly on your kid’s plate, let them choose how much they want to eat. This way, they are likely to respond to feelings of fullness and avoid overeating.

3. Follow a “Schedule”

Kids need to eat every three to four hours because their bodies are rapidly growing and they spend their energies faster than adults. All children up to the age of 18 require – three full meals, two snacks and plenty of fluids throughout the day.

Your children are likely to have mood swings and get cranky when they get hungry. So, make sure that you stock the pantry and fridge with healthy food choices – cut vegetables like carrots, cucumber, fresh fruits, and milk so that they don’t crave junk.

4. Don’t cook Separate Meals for Pre-teens and Teens

Once children outgrow their toddlerhood, they can eat regular meals that the rest of the family eats. Don’t prepare special meals for the kids. Instead, prepare one meal for the whole family and serve it family-style. Let the kids choose what they want.

While it may be hard, don’t keep on annoying your children on how much they are eating. Try to remain neutral. Remain, you have done your job by serving your kid's balanced meals. And, by enforcing them by saying things like, “Eat your veggies,” they are likely to resist it.

5. Make Breakfasts the Most Important Meal of the Day

By having a healthy and filling breakfast, you ensure that your child starts his/her day right. Even though mornings are rushed, try to ensure that your child eats a healthy breakfast before leaving for school. If your child doesn’t feel like eating a full breakfast, you can serve a glass of calcium and vitamin D fortified milk along with a few mixed nuts – almonds, walnuts, flax, and sunflower seeds. This provides your child with all the nutrients – fibre, carbs and protein to begin the day.

6. Catch them Young

Food preferences are developed early in life. So, make sure that you offer your kids different types of foods while growing up. Don’t expect your kids to fall in love with greens, broccoli at the first try. You may have to offer it a few times before your child begins to accept it. As mentioned above don’t force them to eat, if they don’t like a particular food. With older kids, teens and pre-teens, make it a rule that they should try a couple of bites before they can refuse.

7. Be a Role Model

Kids don’t listen to what you say. Instead, they follow what you do. If you have erratic eating habits and are constantly on a diet, your kids are likely to grow up believing that this is normal. Teach them to trust the natural signal their body is sending – eat when you are hungry and stop when full. Avoid mixing eating with emotions.

Eating should be Fun

Remember that your kid's association with food all through his/her life will be based on their eating habits in their growing up years. There’s nothing wrong if your child has an ice-cream sundae on weekend outings, popcorn at the movies and fried chicken at restaurants. These are some of life’s real pleasures and will create memories that last a lifetime for your kids.

Don’t make meal-times a power struggle. Instead, use the tips listed above to make mealtimes enjoyable and healthy.