Instilling good eating habits in children is essentially offering them a better quality of life. We are their main influencers so it’s important that we help kids learn the benefits of eating and drinking the healthiest things and encourage them to be as physically active as possible.
Studies show that when we help kids learn good habits at an early age, these learned habits in childhood are then repeated throughout life. There are many things that we can’t control as kids grow up so starting young with their diets is a responsibility that needs to be taken seriously.
Good nutrition makes a huge difference in helping them to function properly and remain healthy. It is up to us as parents and carers to provide them with the right food and drink as consistency is key for good health. By teaching and encouraging healthy eating habits, you are providing your children with vital tools for their future.
Proper nutrition influences brain development, behaviour and attention span. Poor nutrition plays a major role in the chances of your child becoming overweight or obese or suffering from asthma, short stature, delayed puberty, menstrual irregularities, poor bone health, and increased risk of injuries, eating disorders and poor academic performance.
Lunchbox contents need to be tempting and tasty for kids to want to eat them. It’s important to provide variation and be persistent in encouraging them to try new healthy alternatives.
With so much conflicting information it can be difficult to work out what’s accurate and what is biased or misleading so here’s a few tips which may help kids learn to stay physically and mentally on top form.
- Think energy, stamina and strength. Your child needs protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals to feel great. Keep it simple and ensure all these are represented in their lunchboxes and meals daily.
- Encourage your children to drink water or milk instead of sugary fruit drinks, fizzy drinks, milkshakes or energy drinks.
- Make it interesting by showing your child how to read a label so they can see what’s in their food. The further up the ingredient list the more is in the product. Help them to understand the sugar content by reading the carbohydrate (of which sugars) and explain 4 grams is equal to a teaspoon of sugar. Linking sugar to bad health, reduced energy and teeth damage helps them to think for themselves and make informed choices.
- Be a good role model by practicing good eating and physical activity habits, your children will be more likely to follow your example, not as you demand them to do.
- Eat meals at the table as a family. Let the kids eat until they’re full, don’t demand a clean plate and don’t offer sweets or desserts as a reward.
- Always have the fruit bowl and fridge filled with fresh fruit and veg. Keep chopping up melon, apple, pear, grapes etc. and leave on plates for snacks or for after lunch and dinner. If it’s there they’ll eat it.
- Limit your child’s screen time, aim for at least one hour of physical activity per day. Set a good example by switching off your own screen.
- Breakfast is a must. Studies show that children who eat breakfast perform better at school. They have better problem-solving abilities, recall, memory, verbal fluency and creativity. They have lower absenteeism. Behavioural, emotional and academic problems are more likely in children who don’t eat breakfast or eat insufficient. The lower the sugar the better so read cereal labels carefully before choosing and aim for complex carbohydrates like porridge or wholemeal toast for slow release energy. Protein at breakfast is a super start to the day so encourage a boiled egg or slice of ham too.
- Help kids learn all the time, the more learned early the better. In simple language explain why you’re giving them certain food and drink, the more engrained the information the more they’ll carry on the behaviours of a healthy lifestyle into adulthood.