I wish there was a simple answer to the question of how to achieve healthy living for kids? Many a times my own patience has been tested as my own children refuse vegetables or balanced meals and pester me demanding foods that are advertised. In this article, I have tried to combine my expertise and experience as a nutritionist, health writer and mother.
Cooking for my children is more than getting the dinner on the table. It is about forging the foundation of a healthy relationship with food that will last through the rest of their lives. Ever since they have been old enough to sit up, they have been my audience when I sliced, stirred and sautéed. I made it a point to offer them a spoonful so they are constantly exposed to new tastes and textures. They did not approve all the time, but my objective was to open their minds to the real whole foods from the very beginning.
Healthy living for kids starts from the very start, right at home. Children begin to make conscious decisions about their likes and dislikes from the moment they are born. So the moment children move away from breast milk or formula is the time when you can make a gigantic difference in what they consider delicious and the way they eat. All you have to do is cook.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
There are four things you need to enforce to establish mindful eating which will ultimately help you achieve healthy living for kids:
Proportion, Variety, Moderation, and Balance
– Proportion: Consuming foods in proportion to their healthful benefits- wholesome foods more than the junk.
– Variety: Eating different kinds (color, texture, groups) of foods.
– Moderation: Habit of eating right amounts of foods–not too much or too little. We eat only when we are hungry and we stop when we are full.
– Balance: Food intake and energy expenditure should be balanced to maintain a healthy weight and body composition. Balance is achieved from practicing proportion, variety, and moderation.
This way you don’t have to worry about what your children eat on a day and you don’t obsess about a couple of particular nutrients. Keeping this structure in mind, children see and children do. They learn by example, if they follow you enjoying healthy meals, they are more likely to do the same. Follow the 80/20 rule: If children eat balanced meals 80 percent of the time, then they are free to enjoy other foods they want the other 20 percent of the time.
Be consistent. Decide on your ground rules and stick to them e.g. when it’s time to eat (and when it’s not), how many sweets to eat in a day, a fruit or a vegetable with every meal and every snack, or they have to try eating some of everything before they choose to eat all of any one item. Be persistent–childrens’ tastebuds change and they will eventually learn to like what they are given. You decide what food you’re going to provide and let them decide how much they are going to eat.
Involve them- Include children in menu planning, grocery shopping, and cooking as early as possible. Share at least one mealtime with kids when you can and feed them the same food you eat yourself. Make children feel valued, talk to them about food but not complicated nutrition and health terms, or they will tune you out. Talk specific statements that produce good eating and includes directions about how to choose what to eat, not how much to eat.
Don’t ban any food- It will only increase your child’s craving. Also, don’t use food as a reward. Make meals as attractive, varied and imaginative as possible, perhaps a picnic set up in the lawn instead of the traditional dining room. Keep treat foods as treats and bring them in the house only on special occasions. Much like sleeping or bathing or manners, eating is an area that requires a heavy dose of parenting. Just like how they don’t learn to walk or talk overnight, inculcating habits that achieve a healthy living for kids is a work in progress.