Raising healthy kids is the real and true essence of parenthood. Ralph Waldo Emerson would, among other things, count among the success stories of life leaving the world a bit better, even by a healthy child. Kahlil Gibran wrote about children as being the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. Added he: “they come through you but not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”
Healthy eating habits are an important lesson we can teach our children. The example we set is the best way to help our kids make smart food choices and to develop a positive relationship with food. But, well before that, we should teach the habit of hand-washing ever before touching the food let alone eating it.
A group of researchers in London called the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene (IFH) tracked germ transmission through homes and found that people's hands are the number-one source for spreading infection. We may blame our pets, sneezing kids, and dirty shoes, but they're not the real cause. We transfer germs from our hands into our body when we touch our eyes, mouth, or nose. And young kids touch their face a lot: One study found that it's as often as 50 times an hour.
The goal, then, is to reduce the number of germs on their hands. Certainly, door handles and toys are germ reservoirs, so wipe those down frequently. Other hot spots are the bathroom and the kitchen, which the IFH found to contain some of the most contaminated surfaces in the home. It can be tough for kids to navigate their world with so many food choices. "It's all about gradual changes, it's not overnight, and it's an uphill battle for parents," Sothern tells WebMD. "Everything outside of the home is trying to make kids overweight. The minute they walk out of the home, there are people trying to make them eat too much and serving them too much." Teach them how to be smart about food at home, and they will learn lessons about healthy eating to last a lifetime.
We should offer lots of fruits and vegetables to the kids. Eating five servings every day is good for our heart and helps protect against cancer and prevent obesity. Unfortunately, kids facing, say, broccoli won't be particularly persuaded by a reference to the scientific literature. They often need to be taught to like fruits and veggies. When kids reject a food, it is more often because of unfamiliarity than true dislike. So offer the same food many times. While babies eagerly try new foods, older kids may need as many as 15 tries before they'll like or tolerate them.
Never restrict foods. This can have a negative effect on growth and development, and it can also increase the risk of a child developing an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia later in life. Instead, emphasize a healthy eating plan with a wide variety of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while avoiding processed and junk foods.
We should keep healthy food always ready. Kids tend to eat whatever is available and they can only eat what you keep in the house. Keep a bowl of fruit such as apples or bananas on the counter, and when you snack, have some fruit. "Your actions scream louder than anything you will ever tell them," says Sothern. That way you can model healthy eating habits at home.
We should not label foods as “good” or “bad” even though we may have personal opinions about various foods. When providing our kids with a healthy eating plan, we should instead try to connect them to things our child likes. Make sure they know that the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables will keep their hair shiny and their skin clear. Let them know that lean protein such as that in turkey breast, or the calcium in dairy products and non-dairy milk will help them stay strong for their soccer games. Encourage them to eat a healthy breakfast so they can stay focused in school.
We should always let our children know that we are proud of them when they make healthy food choices. We should praise them and let them know they made a smart choice when they opt for fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Even though we praise healthy choices, kids are going to choose unhealthy foods sometimes. The best strategy is to ignore it. Opt instead for healthy versions of the foods they crave. Try roasting potato sticks tossed in a hint of oil in the oven as a substitute for French fries. Fresh strawberries dipped in a little dark chocolate can satisfy a sweet tooth, and dried fruits make great handy snacks to keep on hand. Try some healthy snack ideas as substitutes for less healthy versions.
We should never use food as a reward. When food is used as a prize it can create weight problems and issues around food later in life. Instead of food rewards, give your kids non-food rewards. The best kind involves fun physical activity, such as trips to the park, bike rides, or a game of catch. We should avoid to serve these:
J: Junk foods U: Ultra-processed foods N: Nutritionally inappropriate foods Caffeinated/coloured/carbonated foods/beverages S: Sugar-sweetened beverages
As parents, the secret is to serve delicious yet nutrient-rich foods and beverages, for every meal they consume. These foods should be low on fat and sugars. When a child’s tummy is filled up with the right kind of meals, there will be less room for eating nutritionally poor foods such as candy, desserts, and french fries. A balanced diet will help us nourish our child. Eating a balanced diet can ensure our child stays healthy.
A balanced diet provides quality nutrients by including different foods in adequate quantities. By providing our children with a balanced diet, we are ensuring they get all the essential nutrients such as amino acids, vitamins, minerals, fats, and carbohydrates. Nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D are important to fuel the rapid increase in bone strength and growth in pre-schoolers. Iron and omega-3 fats are needed for brain development, minerals like zinc and selenium are needed for immune system development. A balanced diet can easily provide all the growth nutrients, protecting our children from malnutrition, and various lifestyle diseases.
Parents know about the importance of a balanced diet but could face difficulties in putting it to practice. Here are a few tips on how a balanced diet should look on your preschooler’s plate:
Start by filling half of your child’s plate with vegetables of various different colours. Potatoes and French fries may not make the cut here, so go for options such as spinach and broccoli.
Choose beans, dals, sprouted pulses, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, and poultry for protein. This should be occupying one-fourth of the plate. As a precaution, limit the portion of red meat (mutton, beef, or pork) as it has a high-fat content.
Go for whole grains such as whole wheat or multigrain bread, whole wheat pasta, oats, or millet-based foods. They give essential fibre to your child and should occupy the remaining one-fourth portion of the plate.
Always reach for different fruits as a substitute for a snack. Consider cutting them in enticing ways for the child. Cut whole fruits should be preferred over fruit juice.
Limit the use of butter and use healthy oils for cooking food instead.
Thirsty? Give the child a glass of unflavoured low fat milk or water. Milk provides calcium, vitamin D, and protein.
Nutritious meals can ensure the physical and mental well-being of our children. Kids being kids, would ask for sugary treats and drinks. These foods should not be made a regular feature of their diet.
Toddlers and pre-schoolers require higher nutrients than adults to help with growth and development. But getting nutrients for toddlers and pre-schoolers is no cakewalk. Firstly, getting our pre-schoolers to eat everything that is served to them can be difficult, as picky eating is very common. Secondly, even if we serve the most nutritious dishes and the child eats them gladly, there is no way to ensure that the nutrients are getting absorbed. It then becomes important to pair nutrients to maximize absorption. Vitamin D is needed to absorb and use calcium; Vitamin C improves utilization of iron; Vitamin E can help with omega-3 fat absorption
Adding pre-biotics has been shown to improve absorption. Pre-biotics are naturally found in bananas, onions, beets, and garlic. It is important to have a consultation to understand if a child needs supplementation. The diet should suit the child’s health goals. Apart from hygiene and diet parents should also pay special attention to timely vaccination of the child, ensure that it brushes the teeth with fluoride, enforce a regular bedtime (starting in toddlerhood), insist on wearing a helmet, apply sunscreen whenever necessary and invariably use safety straps.
As we understand, kids would be kids, and that’s why they should play hard, work hard, and eat healthy! Remember the foundation for the future is set in childhood. Raising Healthy Children is a comprehensive, preventive intervention that concentrates on promoting positive youth development by using a social developmental approach to target risk and protective factors. The school and family environment need to be incorporated into the individual programming, which targets the child. The program should cover children from kindergarten through high school with developmentally and age-appropriate material at different stages; the ultimate goals, apart from being a healthy individual, are to increase school commitment, academic performance, and social competency and to reduce antisocial behavior.
Bhushan Lal Razdan, formerly of the Indian Revenue Service, retired as Director General of Income Tax (Investigation), Chandigarh.