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World Food Safety Day: How to inculcate good food habits in children?

Parents have a tough time with kids who are picky eaters. These tips will inculcate good eating habits in children.
Healthy food habits for children
Inculcate healthy eating habits in your child early. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock
Shweta Mahadik Published: 7 Jun 2022, 13:55 pm IST
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A well-balanced diet and good eating habits in children play an essential role in their physical and mental development. When children learn healthy food habits at a young age, it will ensure that they live healthier and more productive lives as an adult.

The environment in which the child grows up is strongly influenced by parents and even by family, friends, and teachers. Since all of them play pivotal roles in helping a child pick up good dietary habits, the following certain dos and don’ts should be followed, especially by the parents.

Here are a few step to inculcate good eating habits in children:

  1. Have meals with family to make mealtime pleasant.
  2. Encourage them to eat slowly to ensure proper digestion.
  3. Discourage eating meals while watching TV or playing on a device, which may lead to overeating.
  4. Make an eating schedule for your child.
  5. Avoid giving snacks just before a meal.
  6. Prepare a complete and balanced plate.
  7. Keep your child physically active and indulge them in outdoor games.
  8. Restrict intake of too many sugary foods, carbonated drinks, and junk foods.
  9. Include fruits and vegetables daily in their dietAs per the child’s age, there are different ways by which good food habits can be established.

Below are some food habits that you can include in a child’s dietary plan depending on their age:

2- 4 years

Include all the five food groups (cereals, pulses, milk and its products, fruits, vegetables, fats, and nuts). Teach them to eat their food independently and eat food with family. Make your kids aware of the harmful effects of junk food and the benefits of healthy food.

how to prevent dehydration
Give your kids the right foods to prevent dehydration and provide nutrition! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

5-7 years

Teach them table manners. Involve your children in grocery shopping and preparing meals. Discourage eating meals while watching television or playing mobile games. Give importance to the portion you serve them and ingredients of the meal. Encourage them to be involved in outdoor activities too.

8-10 years

Discourage eating snacks just before the meals. Involve them in meal preparation of their choice. Treat them occasionally with junk food to ensure healthy eating and always keep fruits handy. Make healthy snack options available; instead of chips, farsan or namkeen, you can keep roasted chiwda, khakhra, nuts, popcorn, chana, masala puri or else offer them freshly prepared snacks.

childhood obesity
Inculcate healthy eating habits in children to provide them the nutrients they need. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

While inculcating food habits, children will tend to oppose parents and hence one needs to be careful about their likes and dislikes as this will influence your child’s taste and preferences. To avoid this, make sure to store healthy food items in the refrigerator so that your child will not have access to junk snacks and will habitually start eating healthy food, even if they do not like it. It is good to make meals more appealing by using colourful fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. Also, most importantly, if your child rejects any food, do not force them to eat; introduce the same differently in their diet.

Besides good food habits, it is equally important to encourage the child to play outdoors so that they can grow and develop in a better manner.

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Here are 3 reasons why physical activity for children is crucial:

  1. Physical activity and exercises improve metabolism and digestion and help to develop more robust bone structure and muscles.
  2. The nutrients in the foods would get absorbed better after a workout.
  3. Exercise gives stronger immune system and reduces the risk of obesity

In conclusion, teaching children healthy food habits is a crucial life lesson that needs to be prepared for them as it can affect their overall health and well-being. Start small and build on these habits to make them an integral part of their lifestyle.

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About the Author

Shweta Mahadik, Clinical Dietitian, Fortis Hospital, Kalyan, Mumbai ...Read More

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