Establishing healthy eating habits for children


Establishing healthy eating habits for children

November 5, 2020 5:05 pm Published by

Anyone with children knows that eating and mealtimes can be an unpredictable battleground! Many children are fussy eaters at some point, and if your child has a medical condition, that might make mealtimes more difficult as well. However – just like learning to walk, learning to eat well is an essential life skill that your child really needs.

What are eating habits?

Children eating well doesn’t just mean eating good fresh food, with a range of nutrients –though, that is very important also! Eating habits means things like when your child eats and how they eat. For example, how many times does your child eat a day? Do you have family dinners together? Do you encourage your child to finish everything on their plate? All these
questions are important to think about for your child’s dental and general health.

Why do they matter?

Studies have suggested that children learn their eating habits not just from what they are given, but who gives it to them. These habits are very often taken into adulthood. Different foods also impact health – for example, a diet heavy on sugary and processed foods is far more likely to give your child dental problems. So, as parents we must be good role models for our children and really think about our whole family’s eating habits!

What do healthy eating habits look like?

Children learn habits from the people who are around them. So, when teaching kids to eat healthy, it’s important that you eat the foods you want your child to eat. Ideally, that would include a range of fruit and vegetables (at least five a day for children), starchy foods like bread or potatoes for energy, and some protein and dairy. Be careful that young children don’t fill up on starch before they have had a chance to eat other food groups in their meal.

If your child is a fussy eater, don’t try and force them to eat certain things, as this can create negative associations that later are hard to lose. Children can take up to 10 or 20 times to accept new food – let alone like it! So, be patient but persistent. Allowing them to play with their food might sound like bad manners, but it can also be a good way to get them to accept new foods too.

How can I help my child get the right habits in place?

Healthy eating habits start with a positive environment. That means that mealtimes should be a relaxed experience – and, it’s great if it can be a family experience too, not in front of the TV (however tempting). Just make sure though that family mealtime aren’t too late – not past your child’s bedtime – otherwise it can affect your child the next day if they have
not had enough sleep.

Establish regular mealtimes, three times a day and at the same times. A few snacks are OK, but try and stick to the same times too. Don’t use food to reward children, as that can encourage children to want more unhealthy things like cookies and sweets. Equally – don’t use food your child doesn’t like as a punishment!

Finally – try not to serve your child very large portions of food. All of us want to ensure our children have enough to eat – but unfortunately, overeating is actually the bigger risk for many of us nowadays. Encourage your child to notice when they are feeling full – and stop there. Studies have shown that children eating with the family, means they have a lower chance of becoming overweight. Another good reason to make your next mealtime a family occasion!

With the right choices and a little thought, you can help your children develop healthy eating habits that will set them up for life. If you are worried about your child’s eating habits or dental health, you can always look up a pediatric dentist near you for help and advice.

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