‘Every time you eat or drink you are either feeding disease or fighting it’ – Heather Morgan
Food plays a very important role in how healthy your child is going to be as he/she grows over the years. Giving them a balanced diet right from the beginning is absolutely essential. It is rightly said by doctors: everything in the right proportion is good, it is when we consume one thing excessively it becomes a health hazard. Kids get addicted to certain kinds of food like ketchup that contains high percentage of sugar or to junk food because of the artificial flavouring that makes it tastier. Hence in the formative years of your child it is essential that one tries to avoid introducing these foods to your child. Eventually when they start going to school and see their friends eating, they will explore different foods and start asking for the same. Even at that point, it is important to substitute junk with tasty healthy homemade food items and explain to them that junk food is harmful / bad for them.
Maintaining a balance between delicious food and nutritious food is the key to healthy eating habits. Here’s how you can maintain this balance:
1.Set a meal menu: make a weekly meal menu so your child is aware of what they will be eating. Ask your child if they have any preferences and add them to the menu. Make sure there are 1-2 cheat meals.
2.Make food fun: children like to see interesting fun things on their plate. Make different shapes with bread, roti, or rice. Create their favourite characters or shapes on their plate. Cut vegetables in different shapes and sizes.
3.Let your children eat as much as they want: do not force your kids to finish what is on their plate. It is the wrong notion to have, if your child is full, at times they are genuinely full. It is best to avoid force-feeding as it may cause acidity, indigestion or even cause the child to throw up the extra food eaten. To start with serve them small portions at regular intervals through the day.
4.Make sure healthy food is accessible: stock healthy food like cereal, whole grain biscuits or snacks, dry fruits, fresh fruits and vegetable and store them at places that are visible and accessible to them.
5.Lead by example: children will look at you and follow your actions, so make sure you eat healthy too and avoid junk food. Or eat it when they are not around.
6.Limit sugary drinks: avoid giving your children sodas and fruit flavoured drinks. Give them milk or water instead or one can substitute the same with fresh fruit juices.
7.Get children involved in the kitchen: when children are involved in the cooking process they understand what’s healthy and what’s not. They will also enjoy eating what they cooked.
8.Disguise nutritious food: If your kids don’t like certain vegetables by them add them to other vegetables or lentils (in pureed form if needed). For example, you can add carrot, beans, etc to lentils or chicken, mutton, etc.
Each child develops their taste own palate and their own sense of preferred foods and foods that they don’t enjoy. As parents, we encourage you to make sure that you introduce them to all foods when they are young. In case there are some foods they do not like or stop eating, either find an alternative to the nutrition that food provides or add it in some other food they like eating. Also, make sure the food tastes good, that’s the key. Nutritious food can also taste good and if you crack that you will have won half the battle.