A pos­i­tive out­look to food will shape healthy eat­ing habits

Mother & Baby - - CONTENTS - says Tanya Khubchan­dani Vatsa

Over time, we have be­come more aware of the im­por­tance of healthy food choices. It is the qual­ity of food more than the quan­tity, that has a detri­men­tal ef­fect on our fu­ture health, and just as we must fo­cus on qual­ity with our food de­ci­sions, it is the qual­ity of our chil­dren’s eat­ing habits that sets them up to make bet­ter food choices. There are sev­eral at­ti­tudes we can adopt when it comes to par­ent­ing our chil­dren’s eat­ing habits. How­ever, it is more im­por­tant to set them up to learn how to eat well so that they are able to main­tain that at­ti­tude even in their adult lives. Of­fer them a va­ri­ety of foods when they are lit­tle: This does not mean that each meal should have 5 en­trees for them to pick and choose from. It is much the op­po­site. Of­fer them one dish at each meal. How­ever, through the course of the day and week, they should get to try sev­eral dif­fer­ent veg­eta­bles, fruits, legumes, grains, and meats. It is safe to in­tro­duce meats as early as seven months, es­pe­cially if non-veg­e­tar­ian op­tions are on the menu at home. Do not be afraid to let your child try some. Even with in­fants, up­grade their tex­tures reg­u­larly un­til they are eat­ing ta­ble foods, and do not be afraid of what you are ex­pos­ing them to. Of course, this is once you have ruled out al­ler­gies by in­tro­duc­ing each new food for three con­sec­u­tive days. You will be sur­prised by how much a tooth­less child is able to chew – their gums harden and are ex­tremely strong. Chil­dren get pick­ier with their meals af­ter the first year of eat­ing. Make sure that by that time they have crossed their first year mark, they have been ex­posed to sev­eral dif­fer­ent food groups, flavours and tastes; it will help cul­ti­vate their pal­ette and give you an idea of what they re­ally like, once their pref­er­ences kick in. Fol­low their cues: Once they are eat­ing, al­low your chil­dren to con­trol how much they want to eat, and when they are full. Chil­dren who are pushed to eat be­yond their sati­ety point, grow up learn­ing to eat be­yond when

they are full, and are likely to have is­sues with obe­sity later. When they are turn­ing their head away, spit­ting, say­ing no, or not eat­ing any­more, take their cues and un­der­stand that their meal is over. If you still feel like they haven’t had enough, you can sit them on the ta­ble a lit­tle while later and of­fer some­thing else, but do not panic and force-feed them. Also, try not to im­me­di­ately of­fer them an al­ter­na­tive. This will teach them that they may get yum­mier food by refusing their first meal. One of the things chil­dren love to do is put their hands in their food, feel the tex­ture, and even play with it. En­cour­age it, par­tic­u­larly for early feed­ers. The bet­ter they know their food, the more likely they are to em­brace it, and even­tu­ally eat it. This will also teach them to feed them­selves. Let them play with the soft spoon, and try to get it into their mouths. They will miss the mark at first and ruin many sets of bibs, but even­tu­ally will learn to feed them­selves when they are ready. Fam­ily ta­ble: The most im­por­tant way to set them up for feed­ing suc­cess is by hav­ing struc­tured meal­times as a fam­ily. While this is not al­ways prac­ti­cal, it goes a long way in fos­ter­ing healthy food habits. The fact re­mains, chil­dren are our best im­i­ta­tors. They will not only learn to eat the way we do but will also pick up on what we eat, up­grad­ing their food choices. This also serves as a daily fam­ily bond­ing ex­er­cise, es­pe­cially af­ter chil­dren learn to talk and share the high and lows of their day with you. It is nec­es­sary to ban elec­tron­ics, toys and tele­vi­sion at meal time, as kids are more aware of their food cues when they are not be­ing dis­tracted. In­stead, tell them sto­ries to hold their at­ten­tion and they will even­tu­ally be the ones telling you sto­ries about their life, and shar­ing with you too. While hav­ing set meal times is not al­ways prac­ti­cal, stick­ing to them when you are home and for the most part, teaches chil­dren food dis­ci­pline. They learn to eat at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals, eat what is pre­pared for them, and more im­por­tantly, they learn to not fill up on junk food and dessert while wait­ing for their food be­cause meal time is just around the cor­ner. How­ever, this is some­thing that you will have to con­stantly re­mind them of be­cause chil­dren learn through rep­e­ti­tion. Even­tu­ally, they do learn to com­pre­hend. Ev­ery­thing in mod­er­a­tion: Have you ob­served that child who goes to birth­day par­ties and fills up on cake and candy, but won’t eat any­thing else? Or per­haps the one who steps out of the house and is beg­ging his friends and their par­ents for candy? I have. This tends to be com­mon among chil­dren who are not al­lowed any­thing sweet or in­ter­est­ing at home. Sweets are ev­ery­where, and even as adults it is hard for us to con­trol our sugar in­take. For chil­dren, this is just as hard if not more, since their im­pulse con­trol

is lower and they do not have our logic and un­der­stand­ing of what is healthy and what isn’t. In­stead, al­low them to eat the sweets they want, but in mod­er­a­tion. Do not use it as a re­ward for fin­ish­ing their meal or home­work, be­cause you are teach­ing them to value the sweet item above all else. In­stead, on oc­ca­sion or when you take them some­where (or they ask for it), give them dessert in mod­er­ate quan­ti­ties and teach them that they must eat other things as well. This way, when pre­sented with a choice, chil­dren learn that they can eat both the healthy and the un­healthy foods, and they even un­der­stand what pro­por­tions are healthy and ac­cept­able. Preach good habits: Talk­ing to your chil­dren about be­ing thin and the im­por­tance of weight loss (or your strug­gle with the same) teaches them to put more value on what they look like, and de­val­ues the im­por­tance of eat­ing right. They are ab­sorb­ing the mes­sage of eat­ing less, in­stead of eat­ing cor­rectly. In­stead, tell them about how good, de­li­cious and healthy food, helps you feel bet­ter, be more en­er­getic, be on your game, work­out, play a sport, or have a sharper mind. But more im­por­tantly, don’t just talk about it, live it! They will grow up to em­u­late what they see you do and how they see you be­have. Once our lit­tle ones know how to eat, the food choices will come easy. They will be less afraid of try­ing new foods, and ready for more culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ences – all fear­lessly, and in mod­er­a­tion.

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