Children should be encouraged to eat healthy in order to avoid obesity and other health issues. Here are some tips to make your child eat healthy and make the right food choices.
Children have a large appetite in their growing years and require a lot of energy as they are involved in a lot of physical activity. Nearly all the essential nutrients are obtained from dietary sources.
Nutrition Guide for Children
The required nutrients and their sources are as follows:
Carbohydrates: They provide energy required by our body to perform any physical activity. Staples like grains and cereals, starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, beans, bread, pasta, etc., contain high amount of carbohydrates. They should be included in the meals every day, as our body constantly requires energy.
Proteins: Proteins build and repair body tissues, and also regulate body processes. They are also known as building blocks of the body. As they are the most essential nutrients, one must have a regular intake of protein-rich foods like milk, cheese, tofu, poultry, meat, beans, lentils, peanut butter, nuts, and seeds.
Vitamins: Every vitamin has a specific function. Deficiency of any of the vitamins can cause serious disorders. Therefore, vitamins-rich foods must be regularly consumed. Spinach, carrots, broccoli, pumpkin, apricots, peaches, etc., contain vitamin A. Vitamin B is found in whole grains, bread, cereals, poultry, meat, and eggs. Citrus fruits, dark green vegetables, mangoes, etc., contain vitamin C. Milk, eggs, fish, margarine, and sunlight provide vitamin D. Vegetable oils, butter, egg yolk, milk contain vitamin E, whereas, green, leafy vegetables, and milk contain vitamin K.
Minerals: Calcium is an important mineral required by our body for normal growth and development. Along with it, other minerals like potassium, iron, magnesium, and sodium are also needed in lesser quantity. Most of the minerals are found in milk, vegetables, and poultry.
The Food Pyramid
The food pyramid concept is suggested by most of the nutritionists. (Take a look at the picture given alongside) It gives us an insight about the amount of various foods to be consumed for a healthy life. The pyramid is divided into four parts horizontally. Grains and cereals are placed at the lowermost part (largest part) of the pyramid. Hence, they must be consumed in a large quantity. The second part consists of vegetables and fruits which must be consumed in equal amount. The third part contains dairy products and proteins, also to be taken in considerable amounts. The topmost (smallest) part consists of foods containing oils, fats, and sugars. They must be consumed minimally.
Tips on Healthy Eating
☞ Parents must schedule family meals regularly at a specific time. This will help children learn to have complete meals, rather than having quick mini-snacks. As it is observed from the above nutrition guide that vegetables, fruits, grains, and milk contain nearly all the required nutrients, they must be included in meals regularly.
☞ Parents should make a variety of healthy options available for children to choose from. They should also encourage children to try new foodstuffs. Do not provide sweets, candy, popcorn, and chips during meals. Also, aerated or sweet drinks must be completely avoided during meal times.
☞ It is a universal complaint that children do not opt for vegetables and fruits. Parents must make vegetable dishes look attractive and tempting. They can include more vegetables in sandwiches or even make vegetable soups, pies, etc. Children should be encouraged to eat whole fruits instead of fruit juices. Meat dishes should be prepared on alternate days. Parents can also opt for low-fat food alternatives.
☞ Parents must set a good example before their children by themselves opting for healthy meals. Children usually imitate their parents. If parents try different foodstuffs, children will be eager to follow. Parents can involve children in planning and preparation of meals. They can be encouraged to provide ideas about the daily menu. They can be involved in buying foodstuffs for meals or their lunch boxes. This will make them feel concerned and connected.
☞ The most important thing that parents should keep in mind, is not to force their children to eat. Forcing anything will make children dislike the food altogether. Instead, help them realize the nutritional value of foodstuffs. Parents should let children decide when they are full, and not force them to eat.
☞ Also, parents must not completely deprive children of sweets and junk food. This will only make them crave for more. Just cut down the amounts gradually, and make it ‘once-in-a-while’ dish. Healthy foods like salads, soups, veggies, etc., should be chosen when eating out. Parents must try to avoid processed and junk food for children.
Lastly, as a quick tip, make meal time a tension-free and conflict-free zone. Children will definitely look forward to healthy meals, and that will ease your worries.