Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: Say, your preschooler has a reputation for being fussy, especially when it comes to eating. But have no fear - for you're not alone in this struggle. The fact is that this is the age when they start to show independence and have a reputation for being fussy eaters. Hence, all it takes is a little bit of good food and nutrition knowledge and, of course, lots of patience!
Perhaps, parents need to understand that children in their preschool years are very impressionable, which makes it the perfect time to establish a foundation for good nutrition and healthy eating habits. The choices that parents make in feeding their young children help establish tastes, preferences and habits that carry into adolescence and adulthood. Therefore, by providing your child a healthy diet now, you have the chance to set in motion a pattern of healthy eating that will follow your child into later life, to possibly prevent the difficult task of having to change to a healthy diet, once poor eating habits have already set in.
Mrs Meenal Arora, Executive Director of SHEMROCK Preschools & the Founder Director of SHEMFORD Futuristic Schools, gives some brilliant tips to help parents establish healthy eating habits in their child during their early years. Following are some suggestions for promoting good nutrition and healthy eating in young children:
- Plan a quiet time before meals and snacks as children tend to eat better if they are relaxed. Also, set aside regular meal and snack times, which will help discourage idle snacking and will also help young children learn social aspects of eating.
- Encourage your child to sit at the table when she eats, and arrange food attractively on child-sized utensils that she can handle with ease, like small plates. Give her plenty of time to eat her meal. Even if you are not eating with your child, sit with her for encouragement, supervision and to prevent choking.
- Remember, young children generally refuse unfamiliar foods several times before trying them. Therefore, when you serve a new food item to a child, make sure it is accompanied by familiar food items. Encourage the child to taste it, but don’t expect her to accept it the first time.
- Expose your child to a wide variety of healthy food items from the start. Offer plenty of variety from each of the food groups. This will help her develop broader tastes and a preference for natural flavours, as opposed to artificially flavoured and processed foods.
- Choose fresh fruit and vegetable juices rather than artificial fruit drinks, which are high in sugar and low in nutrients. Also, avoid feeding your child sticky, high sugar foods such as sweets, frequently. Such food items are known to stick to the teeth for long periods of time, causing tooth decay.
- Pay attention to the portion size of foods & beverages and encourage your child to stop when she is done. Forcing children to eat more than they want, reduces their ability to know when they are full, leading to overweight and even obese children. Also, don't use food as a reward or as a punishment. This can lead to unhealthy attitude towards eating and food.
- Last but not the least; try to become the best role models for good eating habits for your child. Lessons about healthy foods will be understood more when you eat healthy too! Better yet, replace the unhealthy food items in your refrigerator with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Turn meal time into ‘Fun Time’ so not only does the child enjoy nutritious food, but also experiences the fun way of eating it while learning good eating habits and etiquettes. In the end, it is important to know that as parents, caregivers and teachers, it is beneficial for us to work together in educating our children to eat healthy and wisely.