Childhood is the most important life stage for incorporating healthy eating habits. If you offer tasty and nutritious foods to your kids from an early age, they’ll grow up strong and healthy. Besides, without even noticing, they’ll find a world of possibilities at each mealtime.
Children and adolescents are increasingly suffering from obesity. According to a study by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), obese children are more likely to become obese adults. Eighty percent of children who were overweight between 10 and 15 years of age became obese adults at age 25. Recent research has shown that if overweight begins before eight years of age, the child is very much likely to become obese in adulthood.
Prevention is better…
Although alarming, statistics create awareness on the real importance of a healthy diet during childhood. However, the strong advertising of unhealthy snacks and “junk” food makes it almost impossible to teach healthy eating habits to children.
The KidsHealth organization has provided the following tips to promote a healthy, balanced diet during childhood:
- Establish specific times for family meals.
- Offer varied foods and healthy snacks.
- Start with yourself. Be a good example by following a healthy diet.
- Avoid negative discussions during meal times.
- Involve children in the process.
Before feeding your children, “feed” your refrigerator!
When children are hungry, it can be difficult to persuade them to wait while you prepare a healthy meal. They’ll probably grab the first thing they find in the cupboard. Therefore, it’s important for you to plan ahead and try to have specific eating hours. Design a weekly menu to know what you'll be eating each day. This way, you won’t have to rush to buy a missing ingredient.
Here are some suggestions to offer a healthy diet to your children:
- Make fruits and vegetables part of every meal. Include at least five servings per day.
- Always leave on the table a bowl of fresh fruits and vegetables. This way, when your kids are hungry, they'll find a healthy alternative at hand.
- Keep healthy snack choices in the refrigerator: yogurt, celery stalks, or whole-wheat crackers with cheese.
- Always choose lean meats and hams.
- Include fish, eggs, and nuts in your meals.
- Select whole-wheat or whole-grain bread.
- Buy different types of breakfast cereals, so your children don’t get bored of eating the same one every day.
- Avoid fried foods. Try baking, grilling, or steaming.
- Choose skim or low-fat milk and dairies.
- Even if children ask for it, avoid visiting fast-food restaurants too often.
- Teach your children that snacks and sweets are only occasional. Don’t eliminate them completely, or you’ll get the opposite result!
- Get your kids used to drinking enough water and skim milk, while limiting soft drinks and other sugared beverages.
Source: "Healthy Diet." Article by KidsHealth.org / The Nemours Foundation
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