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Ensuring that your child is eating healthy doesn’t have to be an arduous task. Little changes can go a long way in adding nutritional gains in your little one’s dietary lifestyle. Here are 3 ways you can instil healthy eating habits in your child and make sure they are getting ample nutrition in their everyday diet, without turning the dining room into a battleground!
1. Limit Sugar & processed foods
In our current fast-paced lifestyle where advertisements are always raving about convenient food options albeit unhealthy, it’s easy to not realize what we are ingesting into our bodies.
Added sugars in your child’s diet results in the gain of empty calories that makes them hyperactive, inculcates moodiness, and increases the risk for health conditions like Type 2 diabetes or obesity. A good way to prevent this is to limit your child’s consumption of sodas, juices with added sugars and other fruity drinks.
Processed foods such as white bread, pizza dough, pasta, pastries, refined flour, and cereals are stripped of fibre and nutrients that are essential. Instant foods may seem time-saving but at the rate of heavy healthcare costs down the line. They’re high in sodium and trans-fats which are linked to chronic diseases. A good rule of thumb is to check the ingredient list and nutritional value of the products you buy.
That being said, home-cooked meals that are wholegrain, fresh, and unadulterated with preservatives win any day!
2. Fats: Some are essential, some not
A common misconception is that all fats are harmful to the body but that is far from the ‘fat facts’.
Saturated fat and trans-fat are identified to be harmful to the body and should be avoided altogether or eaten sparingly. While saturated fats are animal-derived, trans fatty acids contain hydrogenated vegetable oils. Examples include fatty cuts of meat, high-fat dairy foods, tropical oils, lard, fried foods, margarine and shortening, baked goods etc.
So what are good fats? Well, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat are the helpful fats that improve blood cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats can be found in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils (olive oil, peanut oil, and canola oil), peanut and almond butter, avocado, etc. Polyunsaturated fats which also contain omega 3 fatty acids can be found in fatty fishes (salmon, herring, and mackerel), flaxseeds, tofu, roasted soybeans, walnuts, seeds, vegetable oils (corn oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil), soft margarine with no hydrogenated oils etc.
3. Introduce variety & added appeal
Don’t be alarmed if your child is a picky eater; it’s completely normal! Introducing a variety of nutritious foods can seem impossible but believe us when we say that all hope is not lost!
One way to introduce new foods to your child is to limit their snack intake throughout the day. Your child is more likely to eat new foods when they’re genuinely hungry. That being said, you don’t want to overwhelm them with a bunch of new foods at once, so go easy and add one new food at a time.
Another way to get your child to be more interested in trying new foods is to get them involved in preparing meals, as they would be more willing to eat a meal that they have helped make. You can also choose to incorporate new foods alongside their favourite foods to increase their acceptance.
To kids, foods are only as appealing as they appear. “Bento Box” meals are common in the Japanese cuisine where foods are made appealing visually, which triggers appetite instantly. If you’ve got the time, you can choose to make meals that look appealing to your little one by making fun shapes with vegetables and fruits. For example, broccoli florets for trees, cheese cut in star shapes, carrots shaped like flowers and more. Creativity is endless after all!
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