Updated: Jun 16, 2020
Often times I have had parents come to me with the problem that their children are hooked on to fast food, junk food, chips, namkeens etc and refuse to eat any fresh fruits or vegetables as well as a home cooked meal.
The first few questions I ask them are
“What do they eat?”
“How often do they eat out?”
“What does their typical grocery shopping list comprise?”
Their answers baffle me since their eating habits, frequency of eating out and grocery lists do not resonate with a healthy lifestyle. When the child is exposed to all kinds of processed foods, high sugar and high salt snacks as options how can we expect them to pick up a fruit instead.
The refrigerator is filled with soft drinks, packaged juices, artificial fruit syrups, candies etc whereas it would be better to fill it with fresh produce.
The first step therefore in encouraging children to eat better is to “ban” unhealthy food stuffs from home and open doors to real fresh foods.
Children are extremely observant and imbibe the habits of their parents quickly as they perceive it to be the right thing to do. Thus, the onus is on parents to try to become role models and that would naturally be transferred to children.
Few points to keep in mind to encourage children to lead a healthy lifestyle are:
1. Maintain a regular routine and sleep pattern for children. Sleep is an essential component of our holistic health and is needed for restoration, rejuvenation and rest our systems to be able to perform to their best capacity.
The Sleepfoundation.org has tabulated the sleep requirements with age as follows:-
0-2 months old need 12 to 18 hours
3–11 months old need 14 to 15 hours
1–3 years old need 12–14 hours
3–5 years old need 11 to 13 hours
5–10 years old need 10 to 11 hours
10-17 years old need 8.5 to 9.25 hours
Adults (including old age) need 7 to 9 hours
2. Include regular exercise in your schedule. This would encourage children to do the same and follow suit.
3. Stock the cupboards and refrigerator with healthy options such that the child starts trying these out.
4. Avoid high sugar and carbonated beverages while choose fresh nimbu paani, buttermilk, mattha, bel sherbet, aam panna, sattu drink and other traditional drinks.
5. Avoid adding sugar and salt to food for children. This way they would not associate taste with sugar or salt but appreciate natural flavours.
6. Try roasting, boiling or sautéing as cooking methods rather than deep frying or over cooking with too many seasonings.
7. Educate children on the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle. Warn then about potential dangers of processed and junk food while stressing the benefits of real and fresh foods.
8. Encourage children towards outdoor sports and control the screen time.
9. Too much of visual stimulation by way of TV, Smartphone, iPad etc is not advisable. Resort to board games and non-visual entertainment instead.
10. Spend quality time with children. Provide them with a loving, encouraging, inspiring environment to ease their stress.
Following these pointers would be a first step towards rearing a generation of conscious eaters.
Best of Luck!