This is because food habits learned early on can affect your children’s food choices, attitudes to food and ultimately their health and wellness over time.
In our busy tech-driven world it can be more challenging for us than ever before to develop healthy habits around food and meal times. The key to success lies in having structure around available food, and the routines we live by and teach our children. Here are some pointers to get you started on the right track:
Make meal and snack times a routine. Decide and plan in advance what kinds of food you will keep handy around the house and offer balanced meals and snacks, rich in fresh fruit and vegetables instead of sugary treats or processed food.
Do your level best to switch off the TV and digital media. Pause playtime and pack away toys. As your children grow, work on making meal time an event in itself and you will be rewarded with healthy kids and family bonding. What’s more, children eat better and learn better habits in life without simultaneous-activity distractions.
It’s important not to force-feed your children. Let them decide how much they want to eat. If they don’t eat at your scheduled meal time, don’t push it. Let them off the hook - but be sure to only offer food again at the next scheduled time. Otherwise you’ll forever be out of sync, they’ll be forever snacking, and routines will be impossible to create.
Remember, if you have a picky eater on your hands, he or she is far more likely to try new foods if you eat them too.
The Australian guide to healthy eating can be a good place to start in balancing your child’s (and family’s) diet. For the most part, ensure there’s a variety of fruit and vegetables on offer at each meal time - and be sure to include diverse foods from each food group.
If your child is not a fan of vegetables, try these sneaky nutrition-smuggling tips:
Encourage your family to drink water before fruit juice or other drinks. Learning to stay hydrated can be a habit that’s neglected in childhood and can have an impact later in life. Water is essential to our wellbeing, and healthy weight management. Being dehydrated can also impact our energy, and our brain and body’s performance.
Parents are advised to be aware of potential intolerances or allergies. If you encounter issues, it can really help to get appropriate nutritional advice from a practicing dietician.