Ten ways to encourage your child to eat right
As family routines continue to change following Covid-19 pandemic, we may be finding ourselves snacking more, exercising less, and relying on easier, less nutritious meals. We have increased access to the kitchen, refrigerator and anything edible we can lay our hands on. It is even more challenging if there are children in the house, and health experts fear we may face an obesity epidemic soon. BETTY MUINDI explores basic guidelines you can follow to avert this.
Don’t keep the ‘good stuff’ out of reach
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, people have been using social media to kill time. One of those ways is sharing their hilarious toddler candy challenge videos.
It involves parents putting a tempting snack in front of their children and telling them to have some after waiting for a minute.
The challenge tests their will power, patience, and obedience. While this challenge may seem like a mere game, it is a true reflection of how parents worry that children will binge on treats, so they often put them out of sight or on a high shelf.
But a large body of research shows that if a parent restricts a food, children just want it more.
They found that restricting the cookies had a profound effect as consumption more than triples compared with when the cookies are within reach.
Control the supply lines
Decide which foods to buy and when to serve them. Though your child may pester you for less nutritious foods, be in charge when deciding which foods are regularly stocked in the house.
The children won’t go hungry, they will eat what’s available. If their favourite snack isn’t all that nutritious, you can still buy it once in a while so they don’t feel deprived.
Schedule regular meal and snack times
From the foods you offer, children get to choose what they will eat or whether to eat at all.
They need to have some say in the matter. From the selections you offer, let them choose what to eat and how much of it they want.
This may seem like a little too much freedom. But your children will be choosing only from the foods you buy and serve.
Teach them about nutrition now
Food preferences are developed early in life, so offer variety. Likes and dislikes begin forming even when children are babies.
So if your child is still young, take this stay-at-home opportunity to introduce a variety of healthy foods.
You may need to serve a new food a few different times for a child to accept it.
Don’t force them to eat, but offer a few bites. With older children, ask them to try one bite.
Rewrite the children’s menu
You maybe surprised that if you decide to order a home delivery, that your children may skip fries, sausages, pizzas and burgers.
Present them with the menu and let them choose for themselves, prompt them to choose new foods and they might surprise you with their willingness to experiment. You can start by letting them try what you picked.
Don’t coerce them
Occasional sweets are fine, but don’t turn dessert into the main reason for them to eat their dinner.
When dessert is the prize for eating dinner, children naturally place more value on the reward than broccoli or whatever food they don’t like. Stay neutral about foods.
Food is not love
Find better ways to say ‘I love you’ than offer certain foods. When foods are used to reward children and show affection, they may start using food to cope with stress or other emotions. Offer hugs, praise, and attention instead of food treats.
Children do as you do
Be a role model and eat healthy yourself. When trying to teach good eating habits, try to set the best example possible. Choose nutritious snacks, eat at the table, and don’t skip meals.
Limit screen time
When you limit TV or computer time, you will avoid mindless snacking and encourage activity.
Research has shown that children who cut down on TV-watching also reduced their percentage of body fat.
When TV and computer time are limited, they will find more active things to do.
Make ‘boring’ foods exciting
Nutritionists say parents shouldn’t be afraid to dress up vegetables. Adding a little butter, honey dressing or cheese sauce to a vegetable dish can significantly improve its appeal.
And adding a little fat to vegetables helps unlock their fat-soluble nutrients. So avoid serving just plain vegetables.