Getting my kids to love veggies
Children may not understand why they have to choose a fruit instead of a sausage as a snack. Ritah Karimi Nyaga lets us in on training her children to mind what they eat
After giving birth to her second born child on October 30, 2010, Ritah Karimi Nyaga, an administrator and human resource person decided to check her diet and that of her children.
Her weight shot to 100 kilogrammes and she had began to struggle with lifestyle diseases such as high blood pressure at just 30 years.
“My daughter was only three months old when my legs started swelling and my blood pressure rose. I had to go to hospital.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t be given any medication because I was breastfeeding and the doctor I saw advised me to book an appointment with a nutritionist at the facility,” she narrates
It took three months before she could finally get an appointment with the nutritionist who gave her a meal plan, which she followed to the latter.
Ritah was also advised exclusively breastfeed her daughter for six months and to go for her appointments without any fail.
In addition, the healthy eating plan became part of her family’s lifestyle to date.
“Through losing weight, I gained back my self-esteem and managed to put my blood pressure under control. I promised to teach my children about healthy eating at a younger age,” she says.
Tricks that work
Her family’s diet fully incorporates the three types of foods; vitamins, proteins and carbohydrates.
Since her children, a son aged 13 and a daughter aged 10, are now in school and they normally feed five times a day, Ritah has to be creative on what they carry to school as 10am or 4pm snack.
They carry fruits, yoghurt or milk. Since she doesn’t have much control over what they take at lunch, she makes sure she prepares a balanced diet for dinner.
When the children were young, she would use colour combination to entice them to enjoy eating.
“I used to buy different types of fruits then prepare fruit salad with the children in the kitchen.
I would also tell them to prepare onions, carrots, tomatoes, spinach or any green vegetable in the house, together with main dish such as rice, meat, chicken… name it.
Then we could shout out the colours when eating and the type of each food. To date, they know that their lunch and dinner need to contain the three major types of food,” she says.
Ritah notes that it is important for parents to walk with their children in the healthy eating journey.
“When they are fully involved in the process, they feel part of it, appreciate it and know there is someone who can give them a listening ear.
When they visit their relatives, they teach them what they have learnt and eventually help in changing other people eating habits.
I sometimes prefer letting them cook and correct them when they make mistakes such as overcooking,” she notes.
Ritah also goes shopping for vegetables and fruits with her children and watches videos to learn better ways of preparing foods without losing nutrients. This, as she has learnt, requires a lot of effort and sacrifice.
However, eating healthy doesn’t mean that once in a while they don’t eat junk food such as pizzas or even soft drinks.
“You can never find my fridge stocked with soft drinks, bacon or sausages. Not that my children don’t eat them, they do at least twice a month and I just buy what I will prepare for them that time,” she narrates
Make it a routine
In addition, her husband comes from the Luhya community known to have a liking for traditional vegetables, which she has since learnt to prepare. She further has a vegetable garden.
While it is not easy to train children to eat healthy at a young age, Ritah advises mothers to make it a routine slowly by slowly and then let the children participate in going for shopping, food preparation and making choices for what they want to eat.
“Bear in mind that change is gradual and many people do not accept change. Patient is key,” she says.
She prepares a menu for an entire week, which is strictly followed. When it comes to training her house helps, the mother of two is lucky that it hasn’t been a problem.
“I had an old lady who stayed with me for nine years and I taught her everything which she adapted.
When she left, I got few who came and left and currently, I have one who has stayed for three years now,” she reveals.
Ritah has also included her children in her workout plan. “I used to have evening walks. They started following me and sometimes they could ride bikes. Now it has become our weekend routine.
Last year was good for us as we used to do it every day in the evening depending on the weather and sometimes in our compound for at least 30 minutes,” she adds.
Doctor Kepha Nyanumba, a consultant nutritionist advsces parents to ensure that their children get all the nutrients they need for growth and development.
“This will also prevent lifestyle diseases among children. It’s important for parents to act as role models so as to help children establish a foundation of healthy eating habits that children can apply throughout life,” he saus in conclusion.