Sunday, December 15, 2013

Snacking: How to Deal with Children's Unhealthy Eating Habits

It seems that over-consumption of snacks has never skipped a generation: people who were scolded as children on the subject find themselves fighting their own children over bad eating habits. The problem has grown worse for today's children, however, as researches indicate that the current daily consumption of snacks by children averages on three snacks (totaling about 200 calories), as opposed to a daily average of only one snack among children in the late 1970.
The wide variety of easily-available unhealthy food products in today's market poses difficulty for parents who want their children to cut down on such products in their daily diet.

The solution to the problem, however, remains the same as it has always been: basically, it all comes down to educating children about proper eating habits. This article offers a few useful tips for successful nutritional education.

1)      Checking children's meals
Contrary to common opinion, "Snacks" and "Food" are not two separate categories. If a child's breakfast cereal contains too much sugar, it is every bit a snack as a chocolate bar or a cookie. The same is true for sandwiches that contain peanut butter and Jam, soft drinks, fatty cheeses and pastries, and even fried meat dishes.
If children's meals contain too many such 'snacks', they will see the consumption of snacks between meals as a logical continuation. It is important to pay attention to the nutritional value of the different ingredients used to prepare their meals. Parents should check the labels on food products and explain their importance to their children. Stress should be put on the difference between  food packaging, attractive as it may be, and the nutritional value of the food inside (this way, parents could teach their kids not only healthy eating habits, but also good consumer behavior).

2)      Setting specific times and locations for meals
Children should eat their meals at the dinner table at fixed times. All distractions are to be kept aside including books  and homework, mobile phones, computers and especially television watching should be avoided at the dinner table. The rule children should be taught is simple: eating is not something to keep you busy while engaged with other activities.

3)      Eating at Home
Let's face it, when people go out to eat, either at a restaurant or at a fast-food stall, eating healthy isn't a top priority. This does not mean parents should give up eating out (or taking their children with them while they do so), but it does mean that eating outside should be kept for special occasions. Daily eating should be done at home, with meals prepared at home and children should be involved with making meals from an early age. There is no other way to achieve control over children's diet.

4)      Finding substitutes for unhealthy food
If children want to finish their meal with something sweet, a fruit (or fruit salad) is a wonderful alternative to candy. There are other tasty substitutes to junk-food; parents can consult dietitians, cook books and internet websites on the subject.

5)      Setting a personal example
All the lectures children from parents on the subject of healthy eating are worthless if the parents don't live up to the same standards. An important step in this direction would be to just keep unhealthy food products out of the house – if it's not available, both children and their parents won't eat it.
Your Kids and Food: The Secret Life of Snacking

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