Good health is not an overnight achievement. It is the outcome of good habits that one follows since early ages or childhood. A lot of course depends on the parents, and the diet they adhere to at home. The truth is that there is a common belief that children can eat anything and everything because they are young, active, have the ability to digest fast, and no harm can really come their way at such a young age. Parents as well as relatives are often seen pampering the children with all sorts of food items, right from fried samosas to sugar candies, wafers and namkeens because they needn't worry about obesity, diabetes and other diseases until they turn 30.
Not all habits can be changed when enough harm has already been done. It is therefore crucial to instil in children the importance of eating healthy as early as possible. Only when there is awareness can healthy habits be adopted as a conscious choice right from the start. Health experts will tell you that what we eat today shows consequences not immediately but in the years ahead of us. So here are some everyday food habits that children should start following -
1. No Skipping Breakfast
As adults, we are all guilty of skipping breakfast at some point in time because of our hurried schedule. But for children, since it is the time for their growth and development, skipping meals, especially breakfast, could hamper their health in many ways. According to a study done by King's College London, children who skip breakfast may be putting themselves at risk of malnutrition since they may not be consuming the recommended amounts of key nutrients vital for their health. As per the findings, children who didn't skip their breakfast were found to have higher daily intakes of key nutrients such as folate (important for the development of genetic material), calcium, iron and iodine (key in the development of thyroid function) than children who skipped breakfast.
Breakfast is the most important meal; Image credit: Istock
2. Fatty Snacks Shouldn't be an Everyday Affair
Children love snack time. After all the running around and games, hunger pangs make them seek munchies and other treats. So, bringing home samosas or cheesy pizzas is not a good solution. As parents, it's important to plan health snacking options for the kids throughout the week. Did you know that diets rich in fat deplete the levels of a key protein known as reelin which help synapses in the brain to work properly? According to a study done by Swiss researchers, low levels of reelin hampers behavioural flexibility and memory, putting kids at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease in later life, other than problems like obesity, diabetes and more.
Snack time shouldn't be fats time; Image credit: Istock
3. The Dark Side of Sugar
Who doesn't love candies, bubble gums, ice creams and lollies? With sugar being tagged as the culprit behind deadly lifestyle diseases like diabetes, affecting even younger individuals, the need to watch children's sugar intake has become more crucial than ever before. An Indian survey revealed that children are consuming up to three times more sugar than recommended for their health everyday! Of course, you shouldn't completely deprive them of these sweet treats, but maybe make them aware of the dark side of sugar and its negative health consequences, and perhaps reserve sweet treats for special days or weekends.
Sugar is the evil for health; Image credit: Istock
4. Eating Greens
As kids, we hated being told to eat our greens, but there is no denying the fact that greens are essential for the growth and development of children as well as the well-being of adults. Having said so, green veggies needn't always be boring. There are so many interesting ways you can spruce them up to make kids love them, such as tikkis, wraps, sandwiches, baked wafers, salads, and the like. According to experts, exposing kids to a new vegetable early in life encourages them to eat more of it compared to offering new vegetables to older children.
5. Healthier Substitutes
The word 'healthy' may not sit too well with children. Most often they correlate it to 'boring'. The objective is not to restrict them from eating their favourite foods, but to provide them with healthier substitutes for equally relishing flavours to give them the best of both worlds. For example, if they love pizza, how about making them at home using whole wheat flour and fresh, unprocessed ingredients? If they love munchies, how about baking them instead of deep-frying?
There are many healthier substitutes to popular foods
6. Loving Fruits
All fruits contain a range of nutrients that are beneficial for the body in various ways. They are the perfect sources to get one's daily dose of minerals and vitamins. Fruits should be included in children's diet to make them reap their benefits. Besides they are sweet and juicy, and wouldn't need much convincing for the kids to munch on.
While they may be young, it is still important to make them aware of a healthy diet and the different kinds of essential nutrients - carbohydrates, proteins, good fats, vitamins, minerals - that are required for the body. Only when they learn can they make better choices in the years to come.