Remember the first time you tried to sit your child down at the dinner table? You made the mistake of turning your head away just for a moment. When you turned back around, the rice was on the floor, the vegetables had magically jumped onto someone else’s plate, and the tiny pieces of beef you lovingly cut up ended up embedded in your plush, dining room rug.
As time passed, this scenario repeated itself over and over again. Finally, your precious little angel learned that food belonged in the mouth and that he/she could use a spoon or fork to get it there. As children age, they continue to learn. Once your children learn to eat on their own, teach them the importance of a good diet. In the long run, their diet will determine their health. "Parents play an important role in the nutrition education of their children," stresses MyDiet TM dietitian Ana Maria de González. "This education takes place during family meals at the dinner table."
Review your own habits
If your children see you eating large servings of snacks, fried foods, and candy, and drinking large glasses of soft drinks while in front of the TV, they’ll learn to mimic these unhealthy habits. "If children learn from their parents/care-givers that excess is normal, they’ll adopt poor eating habits that can lead to obesity in childhood, adolescence and adulthood. These unhealthy behaviors will also put that child at risk for other health problems," explains Eleazar Lara-Pantin, a MyDiet TM doctor who specializes in nutrition. "Parents really need to pay close attention to what they serve at the dinner table."
Plan your menu carefully
Just like the other members of the family, children need to participate in the family meal. "Parents should include a variety of food in proper amounts to promote healthy eating habits at the family dinner table," González points out. Children and adults benefit from a variety of foods in their meals. Varying the foods eaten at family meals will increase the likelihood that all the nutrients the body needs will be provided.
Moderation is key for:
- Serving sizes
- Ingredients added during food preparation
- Frequency of eating the same food
Establish lifelong, healthy habits
"Children shouldn’t feel rushed to eat," González says. "They should sit with a proper posture, and eat in a relaxed environment. They should also put their fork down between mouthfuls to allow enough time for adequate chewing." Chewing initiates the digestive process for all the food we eat. It shreds food into small pieces and mixes it with saliva so it enters the digestive system in an appropriate form. Parents should promote and exemplify good chewing habits. Children will learn from their parents' example to chew their food well. "If a family shares a healthy, well-balanced diet, the children will likely internalize the concept and put it into practice. The family dinner table acts as the children’s basic training ground, and they’ll carry those habits into adulthood," González concludes.
*with the MyDiet TM Editorial Team
© 2016 HolaDoctor