The Importance of Healthy Early Eating Habits
It can be a challenge to encourage children to eat vegetables and fruits every day. The following tips can help to teach children healthy eating habits early in life.
Most parents know about the importance of their kids’ nutritional needs yet it is easy to feel overwhelmed when accessing information from various sources. Early childhood is an important time to establish healthy eating patterns. A balanced diet is key to healthy eating habits because it provides children with the nutrients they need to grow. Such a diet should contain three daily meals and two healthy snacks with foods of the following food groups: protein, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, dairy foods, some fat and sugar.
Healthy Eating as a Child and Its Impact on Adulthood
Parents who get their children to adopt healthy eating habits from a young age can have a positive influence on their kids’ dietary habits later in life. Over the years, researchers have found evidence that eating behaviors and meal habits in early childhood have an impact on children’s food preferences and eating patterns in adulthood. This does not mean that children who are overweight need to go on to become overweight adults but several researchers suggest that weight patterns of children are an indicator of health issues in adulthood. Additionally, research studies imply that the likelihood of children to suffer from obesity doubles when their parents are overweight. Luckily, there are several ways for parents to shape their children’s eating behavior positively.
Present Children with a Variety of Food Options
In today’s busy world, parents have less and less time to prepare healthy and home-cooked meals. However, it is important to avoid sugary soft drinks, junk food and meals that are high in fat and sugar in the diet of children as often as possible. This is because foods containing high amounts of fat or sugar and low amounts of carbohydrates can cause overeating since the brain doesn’t register that the stomach is full. It is a much better idea to offer children a variety of healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables which are easy to prepare. This way, parents can shape their children’s food preferences since kids are more likely to enjoy those foods they are offered regularly. Additionally, children learn eating habits through observation. This means that children are also more likely to eat healthy foods when they see parents, friends and older sisters or brothers enjoying them.
Offer Sweets and Snacks in Moderation and Don’t Put Pressure on the Kids
It is possible that children will adopt a feeling of negativity towards particular foods when they are forced or pressured to eat them. It is also not a good idea to completely eliminate salty snacks and sweets from the diet of children or to group foods into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ categories. Instead parents can take the plates away and introduce those foods again in the future. This will help to ensure that children don’t feel negative about the foods they don’t like. Furthermore, sweets can also be a part of a healthy diet as long as they are only included in moderation and are not used as rewards. Instead of using these ‘bad’ foods to reward good behavior or stop bad behavior, parents should find other solutions to react to certain behavior.
Teach Children to Recognize Hunger Signals
Most adults have the ability to determine whether they are full or hungry because they learned to listen to their physical cues for hunger and fullness as a child. Knowing about the importance of nutrients, it happens that parents send the wrong message to the kids about how much they need to eat until they are full by punishing or bribing them to eat everything off their plate. This way, parents teach their children the lifelong habit of overeating and to listen to outside cues. Such a risk can be lowered when children are allowed to listen to their own hunger cues. For example, a baby who turns away from the bottle tries to signal that he or she is full. Older children will stop eating when they are full. In this situation, don’t encourage or force them to finish everything on the plate.
Encourage Children to be Active
In today’s world, we spend many hours in front of the computer and are less active than we should be. This way of life also has a major impact on children. The results of several studies show that there is a correlation between the hours spent sitting in front of devices and being overweight. Encouraging kids to leave the house and play in the garden with their friends or join an athletic team at school will help to reduce the risk of becoming overweight. Children who are physically active also develop better social skills, are more self-confident and improve their emotional stability which can lead to strong self-esteem.