Over the past few years, as our daughters grew, they started becoming conscious about what they eat, being able to tell between healthy and unhealthy food, and every time they say something is not healthy, I am impressed.
Many schools today are able to teach children about healthy food, which in itself is a relief, at a time when they are more exposed to junk food and sugary drinks.
However, the risk of being exposed to such is still very high, whether it is at a birthday party or event where they have to enjoy sugary treats.
It is important to always help them understand what is healthy and what’s not. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a war, rather make them understand that they don’t need certain foods or can do without them.
Tell them that switching to a healthy diet can have a profound effect on their health and then leave them to make their own decision.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), globally, obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese.
It is further reported that most of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight. 39 million children under the age of 5 were found to be overweight or obese in 2020.
On the other hand, over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016, yet obesity is preventable.
There are immense benefits that come from eating healthy from an early age, among them, maintaining a healthy weight, stabilising mood, sharpening the mind, and avoiding many health problems.
A healthy diet can also have a profound effect on your child’s sense of mental and emotional wellbeing, helping to prevent conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, among others.
Eating healthy supports your child’s growth and development into adulthood and may even play a role in lowering their risk of suicide.
If your child has already been diagnosed with a mental health problem, a healthy diet can help them manage the symptoms and regain control of their health. Below are some tips to consider to encourage children to eat healthier food.
Encourage healthy eating habits
Eating healthy starts early. Whether your children are toddlers or in their teens, they develop a natural preference for the foods they enjoy the most at an early age.
This is the perfect time to encourage healthy eating habits and this is the right time to shape their tastes and preferences. Make things like vegetables, fruits and nuts liked by your children early on.
Focus on full diet
Growing up, children tend to want to eat certain things and they don’t mind eating something over and over again. It is important to focus on overall diet rather than allowing them to eat specific foods.
Children should be eating more whole, minimally processed foods, with focus being organic food.
Be an example
Children naturally copy their parents. You cannot encourage them to eat healthy if you are not eating healthy. If you binge on junk, chances are your children will like junk food too.
Experts say the childhood impulse to imitate is strong so don’t ask your child to eat vegetables while you gorge on potato chips.
Make healthy foods likeable
They say most healthy foods are not tasty, however, there are many ways to make healthy food tasty to appeal to their taste buds. Add vegetables to a beef stew, for example, or mash carrots up with mashed potato, or add a sweet dip to slices of apple.
Eat at home
The best way to encourage children to eat healthy is to eat more meals at home. Restaurant and takeout meals have more added sugar and unhealthy fat so cooking at home can have a huge impact on your kids’ health.
The more they get used to restaurant food, the more they will be pushing you to eat out. The journey begins now.