By Saru Mukherjee
Parenting is not a piece of cake (oh how we wish it was). It comes with its ups and downs, like sitting on an endless roller-coaster ride. There are days when you have to coax and reward your kids for going to school. But one of the most challenging tasks for parents would be to indulge them in healthy eating and living, especially with visual media promoting binge-eating. The dependency on this kind of lifestyle has increased manifolds during the lockdown, when everything from sleep cycles to eating habits are off the rails. But as they say, the beginning is the most important part of any journey; it becomes all the more important to inculcate healthy eating and living habits right from the start.
Set an example
Kids are but mini versions of you. If they see you lying around the house, having junk food, always in your phone and/or not maintaining personal hygiene, they will learn from you. So, you need to teach your kids by setting an example. Indulge in healthy eating habits, exercise with them. They will notice the amount of importance you place on a healthier and conscious lifestyle, and they will slowly develop the same habits.
Cook and exercise together
If they help you cook meals, or help set the table and hand you over the ingredients, they will consider themselves as having participated in the entire process. It is likely that they will also eat the food they have helped prepare. Similarly, put down your devices together and engage in some offline detox before you sleep.
Snack smart and fix a schedule
Now, almost all of us are having healthier meals, but the everyday in-between snacking tends to get super unhealthy. Not to forget the bribes we offer our kids: ‘finish your work and you will get a chocolate’. Try to keep it to a minimum. Instead of unhealthy snacks, make tasty-yet-healthy options. You can make and store granola bars, sandwiches or wraps from leftover veggies. Also, you can fix up a schedule for some cheat meals or cheat days. Cheat meals once or twice a week are better than dedicating a day to them. Make an eating schedule beforehand for the week. Include their favourite options, light snacks, sugar treats, healthy bites, and let them decide which day they would want what to eat.
Hide and seek
Give them healthy ingredients in the guise of their favorite dish. Mask the flavor with a mix of ingredients to let them know they are having their favorite dish. For example, switch soy with potatoes in burger patty to make it healthier. Crush dry fruits and seeds and add them to the milk.
Balancing is key
Enjoy ice lollies before a meal on a hot day; binging on nachos on a movie night is okay, too. Don’t get paranoid or too strict. You don’t want your kids to be deprived of these little joys and pleasures. Strike out a balance with healthy foods and treats, lazy Sundays and active on-the-go Tuesdays.
Talk it out
It’s important your kids know the importance of a healthy lifestyle. And they shouldn’t learn it from the science book, but from you. Simple things like sitting straight, brushing at night, having a proper sleep routine will help them in the long run. Don’t induce fear, but talk about all the benefits they will reap in both short and long term.
Be patient with new foods
When a child is growing, they are still trying to figure out their own patterns, appetite, taste, likes and dislikes. Sometimes they may not like something in the beginning, but develop a taste later — so keep patient when experimenting or introducing new foods. Serve new foods along with your child’s favourite foods. Keep serving your child healthy choices until they naturally form a part of their like.
(The writer is a mom blogger and digital content creator. She started her blogging journey in 2017 with her blog ‘Diapers and Lipsticks’)