6 Worst Eating Habits of Children and Ways to Overcome Them
Healthy eating is vital for everyone, but most importantly for a child’s health and well-being. We all know the importance of good nutrition and exercise, but how do we feed a picky eater or encourage a child who hates sports to play outside?
It’s important to learn how to keep your child healthy with the right diet and exercise. Proper nutrition is critical to ensuring your children’s overall emotional and physical health. Good eating habits help prevent chronic diseases in the future, including obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
By understanding the child’s eating habits, parents can be better prepared to assess the nutritional adequacy of their child’s diet and ensure they are meeting the minimum nutritional requirements for maintaining better health. By addressing each of these factors individually, you can ensure your child is getting their minimum daily nutritional needs.
Here are the six worst eating habits our kids have and what you, as a parent, can do about them:
1. Skipping Meals Mainly breakfast
Skipping meals, especially breakfast, is one of the most common nutritional mistakes children make. Breakfast is an important meal for the whole family and even more so for a child. The point of breakfast is to provide your child’s body with the protein and energy it needs to start the day and carry it through to lunch. Eating breakfast can also boost your child’s metabolism, which helps with weight management, mood, and academic performance. Give your child a strawberry milkshake or a chocolate milkshake if they get upset about drinking regular milk. Fruit juices are rich in powerful antioxidants and an ideal breakfast accompaniment. Cheese slices on whole wheat bread or whole wheat khakra serve as a delicious and healthy breakfast. Green mung bean sprouts mixed with chopped green lettuce and topped with shredded cheese and cottage cheese, rice kheer/porridge made with milk, almonds, sesame seeds and jaggery, milk and granola, eggs with roti or wheat bread are some nutritious options for your child. Choose the options that your child is most likely to like, because variety whets everyone’s appetite
2. Excessive snacking
Snacks in children are inevitable and parents don’t need to worry about it or judge and prohibit the children from eating snacks. Snacking between meals is healthy as long as the snack choices are appropriate, and as parents we should aim to provide our children with smart snacking options. The notion that food should be healthy at mealtimes and that snacks don’t have to be so is wrong. The problem arises when they tend to eat too many high-fat, high-calorie snacks.
The key is to encourage them to consume snacks that are nutrient dense rather than junk food low in nutrients. Healthy snacks for kids would include fruit, nuts (almonds and peanuts), sprouts bhel, vegetable or chicken frankies (made from whole wheat bread), dairy products like cottage cheese, cottage cheese (paneer), tofu (made from milk), roasted or steamed corn, fruit juices, dosa , Idlis, Dhoklas, etc.
3. High consumption of junk food
Junk foods are processed and refined foods that are nutritionally empty, low in fiber, and are the easiest way to pick up unwanted calories. Consuming these foods once is acceptable if the children eat a balanced and healthy diet. But when it becomes an addiction, there can be deficiencies that ironically result from overfeeding. If children continue to neglect a balanced diet while sticking to fast food, they risk becoming malnourished and weakening their immunity. This leads to frequent colds, allergies, asthma, irregular menstrual cycles in girls, lack of energy and difficulty concentrating, poor performance in school, excessive hunger, constipation, mood swings, depression, irritability and the list is endless.
As a parent, you should encourage them to eat right at mealtimes so they don’t feel hungry between meals and tend to eat fast food.
4. Neglect of exercises
Being physically active is a key component of good health for all children. It helps strengthen their muscles, control their weight and reduce the risk of obesity-related diseases. The key is to find activities that your child enjoys. The possibilities are endless – from jumping, kicking, catching, ice skating to cycling, tennis, soccer, dancing or even badminton. When kids find an activity they enjoy, they often will.
5. Limited intake of vegetables
We all know the health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables and the variety of vital nutrients and antioxidants they contain. The only problem is that our kids refuse to put them in their mouths.
A few safe ways to incorporate the veggies into your diet are:
a. Cook, mix and add to soups, ketchups, pizza and pasta sauces.
b. Juicing vegetables like carrots and beetroot (raw) along with fruits of your choice (orange, sweet lime)
c. Dry the cooked vegetables in a heated pan with a little oil and add them as a filling for your sandwiches, chapattis and paranthas.
i.e. Preparation of paneer/chicken chops with spinach, carrot or peas as an addition.
e. Serve tomatoes, cucumbers, carrot sticks with cream, cheese or cottage cheese.
Most importantly, remember that your child will mimic the eating behaviors they see at home. If you’re picky about the vegetables on your plate, it’s pretty obvious that your child would be too. Maintain a healthy and balanced approach to eating and your child is more likely to do so.
6. Replace Meals With Supplements-
A balanced diet of nutritious meals and snacks can provide all the vitamins and minerals a child needs. And that’s the best way to provide them. If your child is eating right, you don’t need to give them any additional supplements. The introduction of any dietary supplement or vitamin should only be done under medical direction and solely based on your child’s nutritional needs, to supplement their diet and never as a meal replacement.
A common denominator in getting kids to eat healthier and avoid these bad eating habits is your active role in providing healthy food. Make a habit of making these foods more accessible to your child and you will soon see a change in their eating habits. Work with your child to promote a healthy lifestyle that includes healthy eating habits and regular exercise. You could both benefit from it.
Thanks to Dr. Panchali Moitra