Registered dietician and head of Discovery Vitality’s nutrition strategy, Candice Smith gives advice on how you can encourage good eating habits in your child.
Many parents are concerned about what their children do or don’t eat and the impact of this on their health.
Most children do have healthy diets, but here are some tips to help you encourage good eating habits.
Under-eating and the picky eater
A decrease in appetite can be common in children, depending on their stage of growth and development. Parents naturally react by attempting to get their child back to their previous food intake, but an eating problem may develop if you show too much concern about your child’s appetite or eating habits.
Respect your child’s appetite
Forcing a meal or bribing your child to finish their meal will only ignite a power struggle over food. Emotional scenes can be avoided by putting food in front of your child and removing it after 20 to 30 minutes without commenting on it.
Preparing a separate meal for your child may encourage picky eating. Keep serving your child healthy choices until she becomes familiar with it.
Make it fun
Serve veggies with a favourite dip or sauce. Cut foods into various shapes with cookie cutters to make it a little more appealing for your little one.
Be patient with new foods
Your child may need repeated exposure to a new food. Encourage her by talking about the colour, shape and texture of the food — not whether it tastes good.
Add chopped green vegetables to spaghetti sauce, top cereal with fruit slices, or mix grated carrots into casseroles and soups.
The little helper
Ask your child to help you select healthy foods when you go shopping. At home, encourage your child to help you with the cooking or to set the table.
Stick to the routine
Children should be offered three meals and two to three snacks each day and be allowed to choose from whatever food is offered. Mealtimes should be scheduled at the table with other family members.
Curbing overeating and obesity
Overeating is equally problematic and can lead to childhood obesity.
Set a good example
If you eat healthily, your child will be more likely to follow suit.
Variety is the key
Provide a spectrum of healthy foods for your child to choose from.
During meals, sit together as a family in a relaxed environment to promote slower eating.
Less fat and sugar
Bake, grill and steam foods rather than frying them. Opt for low-fat dairy and meat products and fibre-rich snacks rather than sweets. Limit your child’s intake of fruit juices that are high in sugar.
Don’t offer dessert as a reward
Using dessert as a reward may increase your child’s desire for sweets. Select one or two nights a week as dessert nights only, or make fruit, yogurt or other healthy dessert choices.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.