Family & Lifestyle

Encouraging Your Children To Eat Healthy

The Tussle between choosing healthy over "yummy" is real. However, worry not, as Sakeena Verma from Team Salaam Life gives you some easy peasy ideas for encouraging those little ones to eat healthily!


 

Eating healthy is a good habit and like many other good habits it comes to us with repetition and persistence. Most mothers struggle with feeding children let alone feeding nutritious food. I have been through the same, so completely understand the frustration all mums go through. I decided to take action, keep my frustration at bay and made some changes in the way we consumed food at my home. Today both my kids eat well, they eat healthy and make the right food choices.

So, here are some tips to make your children eat healthy and help them make right nutritional food choices –

      

Be a good role model 
 
 
 
 
 
You have to create an environment of eating healthy at home. Kids learn by looking at you. So set the right example by eating right. You can’t be eating junk food and expect kids to eat healthy. Eating healthy has to become a daily routine or a good habit. Make it a habit in your home. Looking at you your kids will also learn.

 

      Say no to packaged food 

 
 
 
 
Stop stocking your home with packaged food. Packaged food(s) contain harmful preservatives, Trans fats, high sodium and sugar content. I know your kids would love to eat chips from a packet. You should not deprive them of junk completely. Complete deprivation will lead to more craving for the same thing. Give it to them occasionally, maybe for a school picnic with friends once in two months. Another favourite food of kids is French fries. I know frying French fries from a frozen package is much easier than actually peeling and cutting a potato but for your kids sake, make an effort do it. It might take 5 minutes extra but you will be relieved that you are feeding your kids something which free from preservatives and its harmful effects. Try to bake the fries in the oven instead of deep frying by putting little oil and salt on it. They would still turn crispy from outside and soft from inside.

      

 
Remove Gadgets 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Remove all gadgets when your kids are eating. Whenever children are eating make sure they do not watch television, I-Pad or have any other devices near them. If they eat which watching something they will tend to either under or over eat. Being distracted and not paying attention while eating usually leads to overeating and thus an open invitation to obesity. Once the kids start eating their meal, it takes at least 20 minutes before the brain sends a message of being ‘Full’. So it will be easy to take in more food if the child is distracted and will tend to eat in a hurry in front of these gadgets. Hurried eating will not give them the message of being ‘Full’ and they will tend to eat more than required in those 20 minutes.
 
 
 
 
 Involve Kids in the process 
 
 
 
 
 
One should involve kids in the entire process of preparing a meal. You could do this once a week on the weekend, when kids have more time at hand. Let them accompany you when you are going to buy your vegetables and fruits. They could help you cook the meal. Get them to peel and chop the vegetables. Younger ones can help lay the table. Communicate with your kids and praise them when they help you. This will get them interested in the process of meal preparation and eating right. They will value the effort put behind sourcing and preparing a meal. They will tend to enjoy the food more since they have also worked towards it. End of the day cooking is an important life skill so make it fun while they learn.
 
 
 
 
Be creative 
 
 
 
 
 
I know as mums you are worried about the vegetables and fruits your kids refuse to eat. Cook the food your kids like but creatively hide the nutrition in it. For eg. If they like to eat white sauce pasta just add loads of finely chopped spinach in it. The taste of the Spinach (which your kids might resent) will get masked by adding garlic and herbs in the béchamel sauce. Make the food colorful by adding carrot, spinach, beetroot, turmeric, red cabbage purees in your food. For eg. you could add spinach (either pureed or finely chopped) in your Atta (whole wheat flour), your lentils, your stir fried noodles, Idlis etc. which will add some natural color to your dishes and will take care of your kids nutritional needs too. Style the food creatively so that when your kids look at their plates they get interested in their food. You could do some food art on their plates for eg. make smiley faced idlis/sandwiches or make some flowers using tomatoes and carrots. Check out a DIY video on Youtube on simple food art hacks. Now who will not be interested in a nicely styled colourful plate of food ?
 
 
 
 
Eat together as a family
 
 
 
 
 
In today’s world families are busy and find it difficult to have all the meals together. So make sure that you sit down as a family to eat at least one meal together. It can be breakfast or dinner. Eating together not only increases your family bonding but also help kids eat better. Have healthy conversations on the table. Do not nag your little ones to finish their vegetables instead make it a happy time for them discussing things which interest them.  As long as your kids are eating homemade food the entire week long they are getting all the nutrition they need. So do not worry!!
 
 
 
 
Give them Variety
 
 
 
 
 
We all get bored of having the same food everyday. So how can you expect your children to eat the same boring food day in and day out. I know planning a menu can be a challenging task. Including variety in your meal planning will help kids taste different types of ingredients, textures and flavors. When you go out for dinner give them the exposure of trying different cuisines of other countries. This will help them to open their mind to different kinds of food. When you plan to go on a family holiday, you will be less worried about what your kids will eat. If they are used to eating variety then they would be open to experimenting and trying out the food of different countries and cultures. Also give them the freedom of choice. There may be some vegetables your kids absolutely resent, don’t force them to eat those. The vegetable can be substituted with another vegetable giving the same nutritional benefit.
 
 
 
 
Importance of physical activity 
 
 
 
 
Make sure your children go out to play in the evenings. Physical activity is extremely important for kids. It is important for their healthy growth and development. Physical activity helps them to maintain a healthy weight. Usually after playing and running around kids feel hungry and eat better. Just make sure they drink lots of water when are doing any kind of physical activity.
 
 
 
 
Healthy drinks
 
 
 
Just stop keeping sodas/soft drinks at home. Do not give your kids these harmful fizzy drinks. These sugary drinks are linked to numerous health problems including obesity. Encourage them to drink lots of water. You could prepare a lot of different healthy fruit shakes and smoothies for your kids. Turmeric Almond milk can be prepared in a few minutes and is extremely healthy. You could also prepare Lassi for them which is prepared from curd and is good in summers. Homemade fresh lime water is something usually kids like because of its sour and sweet/salty taste. These drinks provide nutrition and also will keep your child hydrated.

      

 
 
 Smaller plates, Smaller bites, More chewing
 
 
 
 
 
 Make smaller plates for your kids. They get overwhelmed by looking at huge quantities in their plates. Encourage them to finish the small portions and later refill if required. Children who are obese will tend to eat less like this. Also, it is important that they take in smaller bites and chew longer. This will make sure that they do not eat too quickly and overeat. 

 

All this will ensure that your kids lead a healthy life and remain happy!!





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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Sakeena Verma

Sakeena Verma is former corporate honcho, a dedicated mother who loves to cook delights for her kids. She does a lot of research in food, studying the complex interplay of ingredients and the subtle nuances of how to cook and indulges in keen experimentation. She also tries to understand the historical origins of food and how food fits into human psychology. She cooks using her instincts and is not limited by any formal training. She consults professionally on food styling, recipe(s) & menu designing.

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