Tips on cul­ti­vat­ing good eat­ing habits from young

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Vital Signs -

WHETHER you have a picky eater or a child who will hap­pily eat ev­ery­thing, it is best to cul­ti­vate good eat­ing habits right from start. A child who is trained to eat well bal­anced, nu­tri­tious meals from a young age, will re­tain this habit for life. A child who isn’t given sweets for snacks will reach out for an ap­ple or ba­nana in­stead. A child who isn’t used to soda will show a pref­er­ence for wa­ter or fruit juice.

Here are some tips on how to do this.

Ob­serve proper meal times. Young chil­dren do need to eat meals more fre­quently than an adult. Mid-meal snacks are im­por­tant so that they will get enough nu­tri­ents for their grow­ing bod­ies. You can slot in a mid-morn­ing snack, teatime treat and sup­per but avoid the ran­dom of­fer­ing of food to a child apart from these meals. Snacks can be a cookie, milk and crack­ers or even fruit.

Don’t worry if a child eats poorly dur­ing a meal or snack as the next meal is only a cou­ple of hours away. Na­ture dic­tates that a child will not starve to death vol­un­tar­ily. Do cre­ate a con­duc­tive am­bi­ence dur­ing meal­times and en­cour­age the child to sit at the ta­ble till ev­ery­one else has fin­ished. Eat­ing in front of the tele­vi­sion is def­i­nitely a no-no. In­stead, play soft mu­sic in the back­ground as this has a calm­ing ef­fect and helps di­ges­tion.

Eat as a fam­ily when­ever pos­si­ble. Meals should be a pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence and a time for shar­ing and bond­ing. Switch off de­vices, leave toys in the liv­ing room and keep con­ver­sa­tions pleas­antly neu­tral. Avoid ar­gu­ing and yelling at each other. Limit food choices but, at the same time, keep in mind that va­ri­ety is a key. Don’t ask a child “what do you want to eat?”. In­stead, give op­tions like “Would you like rice or potato?” If a child doesn’t want a cer­tain item, don’t rush to the kitchen to pre­pare some­thing new. Just give the child more of what he/she wants in­stead.

Of­fer ap­pro­pri­ate foods. Very young chil­dren, for in­stance, may find deep fried foods and nuts too dif­fi­cult to swal­low. Don’t try to of­fer a dif­fer­ent food at ev­ery meal or of­fer only the child’s favourite food. Chil­dren need to get used to a cer­tain food, so re­peat an of­fer­ing even if the child re­jects it. To start, of­fer only one spoon­ful in­stead of heap­ing the food on the plate. Be a good role model: When chil­dren see par­ents en­joy­ing the dish, they may change their mind and give it a try.

As you eat, de­scribe what the food tastes in a pos­i­tive way so that the child may be tempted. Give wa­ter in­stead of sweet drinks. A child who drinks too much juice or soda will feel full quickly and not be able to eat a proper meal. In any case, there is no nu­tri­tional value in soda and canned drinks. The next time you go to the su­per­mar­ket, bring the chil­dren along and take the op­por­tu­nity to teach them about nutri­tion and mak­ing wise food choices.

Al­low them to get dirty in the kitchen. Get them to give you a hand, even if it’s just play­ing with beans, stir­ring bat­ter or throw­ing in­gre­di­ents into the pot. Chil­dren with a sense of ac­com­plish­ment will be ea­ger to en­joy eat­ing the food they help pre­pare. Don’t in­sist on a child fin­ish­ing ev­ery­thing on the plate or force feed if a child says he/she is full. Al­low a rea­son­able time limit of per­haps 30 min­utes and, if a child doesn’t want to eat any­more after this time, re­move the plate qui­etly in­stead of get­ting an­gry. There’s al­ways snack time later.

It’s tempt­ing to say “fin­ish your broc­coli and you can have ice cream” but don’t! When food is used to bribe, pun­ish or re­ward and child will get the im­pres­sion that such “re­ward food” is more de­sir­able than the rest. Above all, keep calm and don’t make a fuss about your child’s eat­ing pref­er­ences. Too much coax­ing will only make both the child and par­ents un­duly stressed and turn meal­times into bat­tles. This ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Hi­malaya Health­care Malaysia

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