Children are fussy eaters, there’s no denying the fact. But, I feel to get children to eat healthy food, the parents need to make changes to their eating patterns. Practice what you preach and be a good role model for the child. For example, if your child catches you eating chips or chocolate or munching on not-so-healthy eatables at odd hours, s/he will do the same. I've mentioned this before as well – children usually imitate their parents. No matter how hard you try and tell them not to do a certain thing if your child sees you doing it, s/he will automatically replicate the same thing. Young children, especially, take inspiration from parents and consider anything that they do as the correct way. Hence, parents so let go of bad eating habits.
Talk to your child about their favourite food, and what they enjoy eating, and then possibly make variations and experiment around it. It's important to involve the child. If your child loves to eat pizza, burgers, pasta, etc, instead of ordering it from outside, you can make it at home. Also, ensure healthy snacks are always available so that children can munch on them instead of chips and other things. You can also keep a bowl of fruit handy or nuts, which children can eat in between their meals.
Monitor what they eat, but at the same time, don't deprive them of any kind of food because that could have adverse effects. They could binge eat in your absence. Because the more you restrict, the more your child will want that. Allow them a small piece of chocolate or sweet, whatever they like, maybe once a week or once every few days.
Talk to your child about portion control – how much to eat, how to listen to your body. Teenagers, sometimes, just keep eating. It's age; the hormones that are causing changes in their bodily functions. Binge eating can cause weight problems in the future. If they are eating out or at school, tell them to start with a small portion and take more if they feel hungry. Rather can fill their plate with everything and then eat for the sake of finishing the food because they don’t want to waste it.
It's a good thing to teach your child not to waste food. But at the same time, teach your child to listen to their body and not to overeat for the sake of eating.
My daughter, for example, has never been a fussy eater. She mimics me and often says, ‘Mama, I don't enjoy eating junk food. I enjoy eating healthy, just like you do.’ Children are like blank slates. They fill their mind and heart with what they see around. They will unconsciously do and follow what adults around them are doing – be it in their eating habits or behaviour.
A slab of chocolate will always look more appetizing than a bowl of fruit. But, to help the child learn the importance of healthy eating, as parents, you have to change your sedentary lifestyle.
(Riddhima Kapoor Sahni is a jewellery designer, and daughter of veteran actors Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Kapoor)
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