Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food– Hippocrates
School-going children require healthy food, including nutritious snacking, to maximize their growth and development. They have a steady yet slow rate of growth at this age and usually eat four to five times a day. Most food habits, likes and dislikes are shaped during this age so it is very important for parents and even teachers to inculcate healthy eating habits in children in the formative years of their life. Not only does eating healthy help the youngsters to maintain proper weight and normal growth; it also sets them up to maintain a healthy lifestyle when they are adults.
Salient points for a wholesome diet
In a nutshell, the following guidelines will ensure a proper diet regimen for children.
- First and foremost, school-going children require a balanced diet comprising of all five healthy food groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and protein. Each group is rich in different nutrients which are essential for the development of the child.
- Eating healthy is critical since it plays an important role in growth, development and learning.
- It is advisable to limit the consumption of excessively salty and sugary food. Beverages containing caffeine as well as excessive sugar are also best-avoided since they lead to obesity, tooth decay as well as caffeine-addiction.
- Water is the healthiest drink for children: it keeps joins, bones and teeth healthy and helps children maintain a healthy weight right into adulthood. Being hydrated also enhances mood, memory and attention for the youngsters.
- Children should be trained to opt for healthy alternatives when it comes to snacks and desserts. Good options include nuts, cheese, low-fat yoghurt, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Other tried-and-tested approaches to inculcate beneficial and nourishing eating habits in the youngsters include:
- Healthy is the way to be – Parents should make sure there is a wide array of healthy food available in the house. This will help the children develop their taste and appetite towards healthy eating.
- Encourage the children to eat slowly – Eating slowly can enable a child to detect hunger and fullness better. Before offering a second helping, it is advisable to make the child wait for about 10 minutes to understand if he is truly hungry. Overeating is a strict no-no.
- Eat meals together – This goes a long way to make the mealtimes pleasant and a time of the day children look forward to.
- Discourage eating or snacking while staring at screens – Consuming food while screen-gazing is extremely harmful, since it often leads to improper chewing of food as well as over-eating. It is thus prudent to eat at designated areas of the house, preferably while sitting at the dining table.
- Pay heed to portion size and ingredients – It is necessary for parents and caregivers to serve the adequate portion size as well as limit food that is rich in trans-fat. This is not only applicable to home but also when the children are eating out with their friends or at restaurants.
- Encourage the young ones to drink more water – For beverages, it is best to encourage children to consume more water. Over-consumption of sweetened drinks and colas has been linked to increased rates of obesity in children.
Do’s and Don’ts-that might help the parents to develop healthy eating habits in their ward
Be a Role Model
The best way for you to encourage healthy eating is to eat well yourself. Kids will follow the lead of the adults they see every day. By eating fruits and vegetables and not overindulging in the less nutritious stuff, you’ll be sending the right message.
Another way to be a good role model is to serve appropriate portions and not overeat. Talk about your feelings of fullness, especially with younger children. You might say, “This is delicious, but I’m full, so I’m going to stop eating.” Similarly, parents who are always dieting or complaining about their bodies may foster these same negative feelings in their kids. Try to keep a positive approach about food.
Don’t Battle Over Food
It’s easy for food to become a source of conflict. Well-intentioned parents might find themselves bargaining or bribing kids so they eat the healthy food in front of them. A better strategy is to give kids some control, but to also limit the kind of foods available at home.
Kids should decide if they’re hungry, what they will eat from the foods served, and when they’re full. Parents control which foods are available to their kids, both at mealtime and between meals. Here are some guidelines to follow:
- Establish a predictable schedule of meals and snacks. It’s OK to choose not to eat when both parents and kids know when to expect the next meal or snack.
- Don’t force kids to clean their plates. Doing so teaches kids to override feelings of fullness.
- Don’t bribe or reward kids with food. Avoid using dessert as the prize for eating the meal.
- Don’t use food as a way of showing love. When you want to show love, give kids a hug, some of your time, or praise
Get Kids Involved
Most kids will enjoy deciding what to make for dinner. Talk to them about making choices and planning a balanced meal. Some might even want to help shop for ingredients and prepare the meal. At the store, teach kids to check out food labels to begin understanding what to look for. In the kitchen, select age-appropriate tasks so kids can play a part without getting injured or feeling overwhelmed. And at the end of the meal, don’t forget to praise the chef. School lunches can be another learning lesson for kids. More important, if you can get them thinking about what they eat for lunch, you might be able to help them make positive changes. Brainstorm about what kinds of foods they’d like for lunch or go to the grocery store to shop together for healthy, packable foods.
There’s another important reason why kids should be involved: It can help prepare them to make good decisions on their own about the foods they want to eat. That’s not to say they’ll suddenly want a salad instead of french fries, but the mealtime habits you help create now can lead to a lifetime of healthier choices.
We are trusted in the field of education
While emphasizing the key milestones of education, Ruby Park Public School (RPPS) encourages all its students to focus on their strengths and goals in life. This CBSE-affiliated institution in Kolkata has already made a name for itself for its progressive approach and commitment to excellence. The strong management and experienced faculty are responsible for imparting liberal and holistic education that is in sync with international standards. This facilitates the students to become self-motivated, inculcate healthy habits and venture into today’s competitive world with supreme confidence!
For more information, visit www.rubypark.com