As a parent, you want your children to have the healthiest food possible. But good nutrition for kids goes beyond what's served at the kitchen table today. Even though your kids need your help now, they'll be making their own food decisions before you know it.
Jennifer Williams, MPH, a paediatric nutrition research scientist with Abbott, shares how you can give your kids some direction and ensure that they maintain healthy habits long after they leave the house.
Keep it age-appropriate
You know that healthy growth is predicated on a healthy diet with a balance of protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats and vitamins and minerals. But how do you translate that information into a language your kids can understand?
Young children tend to do best with simple explanations. Instead of trying to explain the science behind proper nutrition, tell them that milk helps their bones grow or that fruits give them the energy to run faster. Remind them to eat all the colours of the rainbow to get the vitamins they need to stay healthy.
Older children can handle more detailed information. To make sure that they engage with and process that information, focus on relatable examples. Next time your child asks why you're having chicken for dinner again, explain to them that chicken is packed with protein to provide the building blocks for muscle, which could help them be better at football or cricket. When your child is fighting a cold, offer a bowl of fresh fruit and let them know that fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and antioxidants that can help their immune system.
When you're trying to steer your child toward better food choices, it can be tempting to focus only on breakfast, lunch and dinner meals. But snacks can have a big impact, too.
Growing kids need between 600 and 800 milligrams of calcium per day, according to the National Institute of Nutrition. Milk and milk products are rich in calcium and make for great snacks that help build healthy bone mass. Children 5 years and younger should be given protein-rich foods such as nuts, edible oil or ghee, legumes, eggs and pulses as snacks. Fresh fruit, ragi cookies, kathi rolls, poha, chaats and salads are all great examples of healthy snacks that kids will love. These healthy, protein-packed snack ideas are great options, too.
Help your kids make better choices throughout the day by packing their bags with snacks that provide vitamins and minerals, protein and healthy fibre. Don't be afraid to offer the occasional treat — a good balance can help teach kids to make healthy choices down the road.
Teach healthy habits
Good nutrition means getting all the vitamins and minerals you need, but it also means enjoying a variety of foods. Setting time for relaxed family meals ensures that you'll have plenty of time for family bonding, but they also help your children establish a healthy eating schedule and teach them to appreciate the food you prepare.
Eating together and talking about the way food tastes and what goes into it can help kids develop a healthy relationship with food and eating. Because it takes time for your brain to recognize that your stomach is full, eating slower, more mindful meals teaches kids to tap into their sense of fullness to prevent overeating.
Get them involved
You can also pique your kids' interest in healthy foods by making nutrition fun. Many kids love helping their parents shop at the supermarket; turn this trip into a teachable moment by showing them how to fill a cart with healthy food. Meal preparation is also an easy way to engage kids of any age. Ask your little one to stir a bowl of dosa batter or to tear lettuce leaves for salad. Older kids can take on more complicated tasks, such as peeling and dicing vegetables and measuring ingredients.
Involving kids in food shopping and preparation not only teaches them valuable life skills; it helps them learn what goes into their favourite foods, too.
When it comes to nutrition for kids' growth, the most persuasive message of all might be nonverbal. Parents are a powerful influence in shaping children's food preferences and habits. If you prepare, eat and enjoy lots of nutritious foods, the chances are good that your child will follow your healthy example.
Disclaimer: This publication/article/editorial is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any products. Please consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.