As parents we want give our children the best in life.However when it comes to healthy eating and living,we seem to somehow fall short.
These days children’s wellbeing compete with a lot that is already on the parents plate and more often than not,it’s the children’s eating that is compromised.
Even health conscious parents find themselves competing against easily available unhealthy temptations.Children are bombarded with messages of unhealthy food choices which puts them in a certain peer group if they drink this drink or eat this fast food. This creates a ‘need’ for them to belong to and a dilemma for parents who want their children to be healthy and to be accepted in their peer groups.
Of course food and eating does not have to be an unpleasant task.Food is meant to be enjoyed,each bite savoured.Mealtimes should be social events,where the family gathers and shares day’s news.It is meant to be a slow time,a time to reconnect with each other and with oursleves.But our hectic lifestyles do not allow this often.However all is not lost.
Obesity among children is on the rise and this warrants our concern.As a parent you can take action to ensure that your children cultivate healthy eating habits.By making a few simple changes you can make good nutrition and healthy habits part of your family’s daily routine
1.Keep it simple and in ubandance
Childern like simple foods.Offer them simple but nutrition packed fresh food.Carrot sticks,cucumber slices,assorted fruits and simple salads make the best treats.
That being said,offer a variety of simple and healthy food so that your children can choose what they like.Do not force them to finish what is on the plate especially when it’s vegetable.That just creates more resistance and nobody wins.Instead keep offering the food with other food until they get used to it.I only started eating avocado,paw-paw and spinach a few years ago.As a child I hated it but now,it’s on my top 10 favourite foods.However I still do not eat the butternut(squash)that I was forced to eat as a child.Lesson- do not make a big deal when you meet resistence.You can try other means to get that food into their system.I used to grate a whole variety of vegetables into the bolgnaise sauce when my children were younger,they ate the vegetables without even knowing.
2.Ditch the Sugar
The habit of offering healthy foods as snacks has to start at a young age. I was horrified and saddened all at once when I saw a mother give their 10 month old a sucker(lollipop).I had to literally sit on my hands to stop from grabbing that poison away from the child.Sugar is addictive.Recent studies have found it to be as addictive as cocaine and poisonius to our bodies.Repeat after me:We do not need added sugar in our food.
Get into the habit of offering pieces of fruit,vegetables,nuts,berries and seeds as snacks.Taste buds can be trained.Start to train them young.
3.Lead by example
Childrn learn best by observing adults.They will most likely do what you do than what you say.I could write a whole post about this because it is such a wide topic as it includes how we talk about food,weight and the attitude we display around food.Is it something we enjoy?Is it an enemy to be feared?Does it “make us” fat or thin?Does it make us beautiful or liked?Do we use food to make us feel better or as a reward? Do we make bad food choices and blame it on genes?There is a long list of questions that we are almost never aware of when we have conversations about food in front of our children.What we might not be aware of is that it rubs of to them and impacts on how they view food.
As a start be aware of the conversation you have regarding food and weight.Make healthy choices-not because you want to lose weight but beacause you want to be healthy.Choose low-carb real food over processed food.Banish fizzy drinks and high sugar fruit juices.Switch to water and water infusions,teas and herbal teas,kombucha,coconut water and freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices.
4.Meal Preperation is King
The familiar saying that “If you fail to plan,you plan to fail” must have been coined with meal prep in mind.A lot of people blame our busy lifestyle for bad eating habits and fast food people know this and capitilise on it.Healthy eating does not mean you have to be chained to the kitchen.
Meal planning and preperation is key.Just as you plan your work week or even your work wardrobe in detail,the same commitment is required for healthy meals.Set a day in the week,plan your meals,do the necessary shopping and you can even cook 2 or 3 meals ahead and freeze them.That way there is no reason for you to stop at a take away joint for greasy,chemical laden food.
5.Make it Fun
Make meal preperation fun for your kids.Get them involved in planning and cooking of your meals.Instead of teaching them to make a jam sandwich,why not teach them how to put a simple crunchy salad together?Salads are a good way to start them on. They are easy,colourful and they have different textures which children love experimenting with.
By making these simple changes you can start giving your family the gift of health and vitality.Obesity among children is on the rise and that comes with a lot of health burdens.That is not a legacy we want to give our children.Your children might not take kindly to the changes you make but be assured that they will thank you later in life once it makes sense to them and you get the reward of knowing that you gave them your best in a way that matters the most.