How can parents encourage healthy habits in older children? Already developing their own independence, and subject to peer pressure, are there ways parents can help their kids aged 6 or 7 years and older get a mindset of healthy lifestyle choices?
Healthy eating habits and lifestyle in children starts with the family.
Children have receptive minds and are easily influenced.
They acquire a lot of behavioural traits by observing their parents and older people around them.
Therefore, it is essential that parents and caregivers teach children healthy habits as early as possible especially by living a healthy lifestyle themselves since children tend to copy the adults around them.
This influence can result in the creation of significant and long-lasting lifestyle choices from very early years.
Hence, it is crucial that parents and caregivers are good role models; by setting good examples via their eating habits and food choices.
Where possible, it is important that the family eats their meals together.
In fact, some studies have shown that children who usually take meals with their family have a higher chance of experiencing long-term physical and mental health benefits.
One such study is a Canadian study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioural Pediatrics in 2017.https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-12-family-children-physically-mentally.html
However, to get the long-term health benefits associated with eating together as a family, the meals must be healthy and composed of a balanced diet.
Here are 10 other ideas that you can try to encourage a healthy eating habit/lifestyle in your child:
1.Buy healthy food options when grocery shopping
Review your grocery shopping lists and cut out processed foods, buy more natural unprocessed food items.
This way your fridge and pantry will be filled with healthy food options.
2.Get your adolescents and teenagers involved in grocery shopping and meal planning
This enables you discover their food interests and preferences so that they can be included in the family menu.
It also ensures that they learn how to make some of their favourite meals; this comes in handy when you’re not around, they’d be able to make their own meals rather than opting for fast food/junk all the time.
Always have a variety of healthy snacks like peanuts, fruits like apples, vegetables like carrots, garden eggs, etc. available so that the child has ample options to choose from. This would reduce the likelihood of snacking on junk food.
4. Serve every meal with a portion of fruits and vegetable
Eat together as a family as often as possible and always accompany every meal with a serving of fruits and vegetables e.g. salads and seasonal fruits.
5. Explore healthier cooking methods
Choose healthier cooking methods like grilling and broiling instead of deep frying.
Do not serve fizzy drinks with meals. You can make natural juices from time to time depending on the fruits in season.
All natural fruit juices like mango juice and orange juice are quite easy to make and taste good.
7. Practice portion control
During mealtimes, encourage everyone to serve themselves but to only put an amount of food they can finish at a time on their plate.
You can use plates that are partitioned so that each meal serving contains the essential food groups and can be accompanied with salads or vegetables as the case maybe.
8. Switch up your menu
Eating the same foods everyday can easily become boring so, vary food options but remember that your aim is to prepare foods that would provide a balanced diet.
Let your children decide what the meals for the day would be sometimes – and when making your meal schedule, always bear in mind your child’s tastes and dislikes.
9. Do not skip meals
Never use food as punishment or reward as this can result in anxiety and an unhealthy relationship with food.
Skipping meals should also be discouraged as this might cause overeating during the next meal.
10. Make time for physical activity
Play with your children during the weekends and organize family trips to the park or a swimming pool. Encouraging outdoor playtime and activities would help children exercise while having fun at the same.
And so to conclude: getting your child to start making healthy food and lifestyle choices should start from when they are very young, but no matter which point you begin, small and consistent changes from less healthy meals will add up to great returns when they are older.
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