Break your child’s unhealthy diet habits

If you want your child to eat healthy, you must lead by example!

By Karishma Chawla

Ever wondered why your child craves for a pizza and not an apple when hungry? Or why your child says, “Mom I knew that answer, but just blanked out!”

Well, it’s important to understand why healthy eating is so important for your child, especially what he or she carries in their school tiffin. Let’s look at the food behaviour of children aged 10 to 17 years of age. Peer groups, the media, and body image—giving rise to eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia—play an important role in determining their food choices.

These are a few unhealthy food patterns:

* Irregular meals

* Skipping breakfast

* Dependency on junk foods

* Under-nutrition or overeating

Parental influence tends to become weaker in this age group and it is, therefore, imperative to first lead by example, by making healthy choices yourself and then instilling the same habits in your child.

Energy requirements, in terms of calories, are higher for adolescents than adults keeping in mind the growth and development the body goes through as well as their physical activities. It’s important to eat adequate protein for growth needs, bone development, synthesis of hormones and enzymes. Fats should be included in meals as they play an important role in the growth spurt that takes place, keeping in mind foods that are low in saturated fats. Foods rich in antioxidants must be included in meal plans to handle physiological stresses and strengthen body systems.

Dietary guidelines for adolescents

* Consumption of whole balanced meals should be encouraged, rather than dependency on junk foods (chips, pizzas, etc).

* Include calcium rich foods like milk, curd, paneer, cheese, sesame seeds and green leafy vegetables.

* Include iron rich foods.

* Include protein rich foods like eggs, meat, dairy products, nuts, seeds and pulses.

* Include whole fruits or in porridges and milkshakes.

* Discourage over indulgence in sweets, chocolates, fried foods, ready to eat snacks, processed foods, biscuits and soft drinks.

* Educate your child about healthy eating habits.

* Lead by example as children often ape their parents’ habits.

* Encourage them to carry healthy nutritional dabbas instead of indulging in unhealthy eating habits.

Here are suggestions for five healthy dabbas

* Paneer parathas with green veggies

* Oats /moong dal/ besan chillas

* Vegetable paneer wholewheat sandwiches

* Oats upma with veggies

* Fruits and nuts

(The writer is a Mumbai-based nutrition consultant and motivational speaker.)

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