By Dr Seema Khanna
Teaching your children healthy eating habits and modelling these behaviours in yourself can help them maintain a healthy weight and normal growth. Some of the most important aspects of healthy eating are portion control and cutting down on how much fat and sugar your child eats or drinks. Simple ways to reduce fat intake in your child’s diet and promote a healthy weight include serving:
· Low-fat or nonfat dairy products
· Poultry without skin
· Lean cuts of meats
· Wholegrain breads and cereals
· Healthy snacks, such as fruit and veggies
· Reduced amounts of sugar sweetened drinks and salt in your child’s diet.
Other approaches parents can take to develop healthy eating habits in their children include:
Give food options
Make a wide variety of healthy foods available in the house. This practice will help your children learn how to make healthy food choices. Leave unhealthy choices like chips, soda, and juice at the grocery store. Serve water with meals.
Encourage your children to eat slowly
A child can detect hunger and fullness better when they eat slowly. Before offering a second helping or serving, ask your child to wait at least 15 minutes to see if they are truly still hungry. This will give the brain time to register fullness. Also, that second helping should be much smaller than the first. And if possible, load that second helping with more veggies.
Eat meals together as a family as often as possible
Try to make mealtimes pleasant with conversation and sharing, not a time for scolding or arguing. If mealtimes are unpleasant, children may try to eat faster to leave the table as soon as possible. They then may learn to associate eating with stress.
Plan for snacks
Continuous snacking may lead to overeating, but snacks that are planned at specific times during the day can be part of a nutritious diet, without spoiling a child’s appetite at meal times. You should make snacks as nutritious as possible, without depriving your children of occasional chips or cookies, especially at parties or other social events. Have healthy snacks within reach and at eye level.
Set some family goals
Perhaps restrict desserts to weekends and only have sodas on weekends. Make sure water-bottles are empty before dinner time to encourage hydration.
Discourage eating while watching TV
Try to eat only in designated areas of your home, such as the dining room or kitchen. Eating in front of the TV may make it difficult to pay attention to feelings of fullness, and may lead to overeating.
Add more water in your kid’s beverage options
Over consumption of sweetened drinks and sodas has been linked to increased rates of obesity in children.
Balance your child’s meal outside the home
Find out more about their school lunch programme, or pack their lunch to include a variety of foods. Also, select healthier items when dining at restaurants.
Pay attention to portion size and ingredients
Read food labels and limit foods with trans fat. Also, make sure you serve the appropriate portion as indicated on the label.
The eating habits your children pick up when they are young will help them maintain a healthy lifestyle when they are adults. This will teach them to eat consciously right from the start, reducing chances of obesity and nutritional deficiencies.
(The writer is a consultant nutritionist.)