Tips to help your children eat healthy food

Jun 01, 2014, 09:45 IST | Rinky Kumar

Kids are known to be fussy eaters. As exasperated parents, you can either throw up your hands in despair or heed their demands. But what if you could learn some tips and tricks to help them eat well? Rinky Kumar talks to nutritionists and doctors to find out more

Today’s frenetic pace of life has left adults and kids with hardly any time to eat right and get fit. To appease their children, parents often give them junk food, without realising that these items are high in calories but low in nutrition. The presence of additives and preservatives in products doesn’t make things easier. In fact, it becomes challenging to feed healthy food to kids, especially in the age group of 2-12.

Be persistent but not pushy while feeding your child
Be persistent but not pushy while feeding your child 

Nutritionists say that rather than throwing a fit, parents should take up this task as a challenge and involve children equally in the process. Here’s how:

Lead by example
Alia Almoayed, a nutritional therapist based in Bahrain, who has come out with her new book I want Healthy Kids, which deals with the same subject says, “Let your children see you eat healthy food and enjoy it. They will gradually follow suit.” Kids tend to model the eating habits of their parents. So if you’re reaching for lots of vegetables and fruits, then your kids are likely take them too.

Be persistent, but not pushy
Almoayed says that while researching for her book, she learnt a lot of things. “Children need to see a new food at least 20 times before agreeing to try it; most parents give up after the second time,” she says. Dr Sudhir Savale, a practising Mumbai-based paediatrician couldn’t agree more. He says, “In a bid to ensure that younger ones eat more, parents often end up being very aggressive. Rather than thinking that their child will accept and eat a new food item easily, they need to take it slow. They should give a particular food item to a child at least for 10 days in various forms, before the young one gradually develops a liking for it.”

Let your kid enjoy the meal
Most of the times, parents keep a strict vigil on the child while he or she is eating his food.

Parents should eat with kids and allow them to enjoy the meal
Parents should eat with kids and allow them to enjoy the meal 

This stresses out young ones who try to finish the meal in a jiffy, without really enjoying it. Almoayed says, “Parents should just relax and let children enjoy their meal. Also if the tiny tots don’t want to eat, it’s fine.”

Shop and cook with your child
Dr Savale suggests that parents should involve the child in the food selection, purchasing and cooking process. “Let them come shopping with you and choose something healthy.

Try to involve your children in the cooking process to pique their curiosity
Try to involve your children in the cooking process to pique their curiosity 

You can also ask them to assist you in kitchen chores such as washing and breaking up peas, cleaning spinach or coriander leaves etc. This will pique their curiosity about the product and once you ask them to eat it, they will try it.”

Add a creative touch
Kids get easily bored with the same stuff, so it’s essential that you offer them variety. Dr Savale says, “Also, there are some items that kids hate universally such as green leafy vegetables, certain kinds of fruits such as banana, pineapple or sweet lime and at times even dal-chaawal. In such cases, parents should camouflage the vegetables into cutlets and parathas or add them to fried rice and noodles. Smoothies and milkshakes are a good option when it comes to fruits. One can also make cutlets using dal chawaal or baked tikkis using just dal. The idea is to constantly innovate.”

Almoayed says that parents should also take efforts to make healthy food fun. “Add a creative touch to your kid’s lunchbox as that is one of the major attractions for children. They also play a crucial role in shaping their snacking habits as they grow older,” she adds.

What a child needs
>> Green leafy vegetables
>> Essential fats in the form of walnuts and almonds
>> Good quality fibre such as muesli, cereals and brown rice, etc among others.
>> Vitamin D from the sun
>> A lot of exercise through fun-filled activities

Date snowballs
Date snowballs are high in iron and fibre

>> 2 ½ cups pitted soft dates 
>> ½ tsp cinnamon 
>> ¼ tsp cardamom powder 
>> 2 tsp coconut oil
>> ¼ cup chopped walnuts
>> 4-5 tbsp dessicated coconut

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