12 tips to encourage good eating habits in your child

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.

Don’t double-up

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.

ALSO SEE: How to introduce new foods to picky eaters

Be sneaky

Add chopped green vegetables to spaghetti sauce, top cereal with fruit slices, or mix grated carrots into casseroles and soups.

Click here for a secret cauliflower sauce that tastes just like white sauce.

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.

Minimise distractions

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.

ALSO SEE: Heres how much sugar your child should have daily

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.

ALSO SEE: Healthy gummies recipe

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