When it comes to food, little ones are the most difficult to please. Place a bowl of healthy oats mixed with fruits and they will reject it. Offer them a burger or pizza and see them gobble it up with glee in their faces. Exasperating, isn’t it?
Children often fret over food choices and are picky eaters. This adds to the woes of parents as children, especially aged between two and twelve, are growing at a rapid pace and need their daily dose of nutrition for proper growth and development.
Today, newspapers, WhatsApp forwards and social media and other similar channels flood you with tons of information regarding new diets and nutrition facts for growing children. While these are explanatory, too many details only lead to further confusion.
What can be done?
To make things simpler, one must stick to the basics, especially when it comes to nutrition. Foods enriched with vitamins, proteins, calcium and iron are essential during the growing years of children. In many cases, a deficit of these vital nutrients can impact the mental and motor skills of children adversely. Hence, parents must ensure that their children are given a balanced diet.
Let’s be friends!
Children find it easy to befriend a new person, habit or thing. Try to adopt the same approach with nutritious food. Great, healthy food need not be boring at all. The trick is to simply stick to a set of nutrition goals and ensure that you follow them. Children learn the most from the things parents do. So, good, healthy living begins at home!
Here are 10 nutrition goals for the new year that’ll help you create a healthy living atmosphere in your home, in general, and encourage your growing children to embrace it:
- Give them more of good quality carbs: A lot of parents give their children white bread for breakfast in multiple forms. It may seem like an easy option but avoid it as much as you can. Instead, opt for low GI (glycaemic index) carbohydrate foods like good quality home-baked bread (such as sourdough), unprocessed oats and hand-pounded rice for your children as far as possible.
- Go for folate: For pregnant women, folate is a must. It is also very important for the growth and development of children in their formative years. Include foods such as spinach, chickpeas and brussels sprouts in their daily diet.
- Be patient while introducing new foods: Children tend to take time to adjust to new foods. So, start by getting them accustomed to new colours, shapes and textures. Keep serving them these foods until they develop a familiarity with these attributes – and subsequently, they will become familiar with the taste too.
- Mix it up: Have you come across a child who hates sauce, chocolate and fancy dressings? Rarely, right? Diced fruits in some delicious yoghurt or ice cream, oats loaded with nuts and berries, sliced carrots and cucumber with dips for snacks…who said healthy snacking needs to be boring?
- Schedule it: Children should ideally consume four to six short meals in a day, three main meals, two snacks and lots of water. Even if you stick to this plan, it would be enough! Your children’s diet will automatically be full of nutrients and keep them agile.
- Be a role model: What you do, children follow. Children these days learn more from what we do and don’t. Hence, the onus to develop a healthy lifestyle is on you parents! Eat well, spend some quality family time eating nutritious meals together and see how your children will imbibe the same habits.
- Introduce nutritious foods gradually for an everlasting habit: Nobody likes orders, and children tend to resist things that are forced down on them. As parents, while you must ensure that they eat healthy food, you should introduce nutrition-dense foods to them gradually and allow your children the space and time to develop an affinity towards these foods. A great way of doing this could be to tell them that their favourite actors, superheroes or singers eat those foods.
- Reduce external distractions: This one is the hardest of them all! It is hard for parents to get their children to even eat a morsel, without their electronic companions, let alone a whole meal! Teaching your child the art of mindful eating is one of the best virtues you can teach her.
- Keep them engaged: A great way to get your children to eat healthy is to involve them in cooking. When they engage themselves in the preparation of meals, they’ll enjoy what they eat. Take them out grocery shopping, let them choose the type of sauce and veggies. You can choose which way to head from here but the secret is to learn and grow together with your children. After all, healthy eating is all about happy, healthy living.
- Don’t woo them with sweet treats: Giving your children 'chocolate rewards' often sends the message that dessert is the tastiest course of the meal. So, avoid using sweet treats like biscuits, cakes, chocolate and candies, to get your way with them. Instead, rationalise and explain to them your point of view and you’ll be surprised to see how well they reciprocate, well, at least, most times!
Luke Coutinho — Adviser of Integrative Lifestyle and Nutrition at Purenutrition.me
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