In today's day and age, as a parent one of the most important things we can do for children is inculcate healthy eating habits from an early age.
We see so many children, teens, and preteens suffering from obesity and other health issues. That's because they are not following a healthy diet. As adults, we are so mindful of what we eat and exercise to stay fit and healthy. But, what about our kids? The same isn’t being inculcated in them.
Parents should be mindful of what children are eating during their growing-up years because it’ll affect them in the future.
Children are snacking on unhealthy off-the-counter snacks and packaged food. They are so easily available that they are picking it up and taking it to school or binge-eating while watching TV or doing homework. We can always substitute those with healthy snacks or homemade snacks. Home-made food is the best. You have control over the ingredients, and it’s also nutritious.
Making them eat healthy food doesn’t mean restricting them... they are kids and need to enjoy their childhood to the fullest. Do not deprive them of anything.
They should enjoy their food and eat whatever they want. However, ensure that the child eats healthy food as well. For example, make a healthy burger at home. This way, the child is happy to eat what s/he craves.
Give them a balanced diet comprising items from all food groups – vegetables, whole grains, fruits, etc. I have also noticed a lack of protein intake by children. They should eat at least three to five meals a day, and maybe one to three snacks.
We can substitute sugar with honey, date or other equivalents. Children can, once in a while, have chocolate and sweets.
Another important point is hydration. I give my daughter a bottle of water and tell her to sip from it throughout the day, whether it's winter or summer.
As a parent, the most important rule is to be a good role model for your child. At the end of the day, no matter what you tell your child, s/he will imitate you.
I've seen this through my daughter because she always copies me. In fact, watching me doing yoga, she has also started doing it. I'm seeing positive changes in her. Yoga has helped her in her growth and has boosted her immune system as well, and she enjoys doing it.
Also, do not force-feed the child. S/he knows how much is enough or too much. Force-feeding will only lead to unhealthy eating habits and possibly weight gain. Don’t stress if your child refuses to eat a particular food. Find a way out by offering a different a healthy substitute.
If your child is a fussy eater, like my daughter, make a note of the foods the child likes. Keep a stock of that at home. Whenever possible, bring a bit of restaurant home by making say a butter chicken, pasta, or even a burger at home.
Another thing that parents need to stop doing is rewarding the child with chocolate or dessert. Whether the child has scored good marks in an assignment or completed homework on time, instead of a sweet, give the child a bowl of favourite fruits.
You can have a cheat day, but other days should be healthy eating. The motto should be — eat together, stay fit together. Food is meant to be enjoyed. So, when you are eating together as a family, keep away all your devices and make it family time. This way, you can keep an eye on what your child is eating as well.
(Riddhima Kapoor Sahni is a fashion and jewellery designer, and daughter of veteran actors Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Kapoor)