Thursday, October 3, 2013

Eating Healthy: How Parents can make it a Habit for their Children

The importance of eating healthy cannot be stressed enough – overweight and other health problems related to sub-optimal nutrition have become a serious issue all over the world. These health issues tend to appear at a very early age, stressing the need for educating children for proper nutrition as a top priority.

By teaching children healthy eating habits, parents not only support a healthier growth process for their children, but also provide children with helpful tools for proper eating habits throughout the rest of their lives. This charming video shows a 10 year-old girl explaining the importance of healthy food – an excellent example of how nutritional education from an early age can help raising a healthier generation:

The first step in teaching children healthy eating habits is to maintain a fixed schedule of meals throughout the day. Knowing when breakfast, lunch and dinner take place turns eating into  a planned routine, rather than a spontaneous activity, and so cuts down on unwanted habits like eating snacks between meals. It is highly recommended to turn the daily meals into family events held at home, with home-prepared dishes. Children should learn from an early age that eating at a restaurant or a fast-food stall is an exception, not the norm. In addition, food should not be used as a reward or 'bribe' for children – this kind of behavior teaches them that eating is a goal by itself.

Eating healthy does not mean that everything on the dinner table must be low-fat, but it does mean that the food on the table should consist mostly of healthy products including fruit and vegetables. It is a good idea to consult the family doctor about the recommended diet for children before deciding on what they should eat.  Snacks can at times be a part of the meal, but children should understand early on that they are not the main course, and that there's a hard limit on how much snacks they are allowed to eat.

Parents should set an example for their children in their choice of food. The best example parents can set for their children on the subject of healthy eating is involving them in the process of preparing meals – starting with shopping at the supermarket (explaining the advantages of selecting certain products over others), through the decision of what the meal should include, to cooking and serving the meal itself – lessons learned through practice and involvement are by far the best.

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