Establishing Healthy Food Habits In Our Children
We recently received a new set of guidelines for healthy eating in Australia, released by the National Health and Medical Research Council. Based on evidence reviewed by health experts around the country, the main points remain the same; increase intakes of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy products or alternatives; and, lower intakes of added sugars, high fat foods, salty foods, ‘junk food’ and soft drink.
Parents provide genetic predisposition to different body shapes and health conditions but also provide the environment where these predispositions take place. Although dietary habits can change during a person’s lifetime, eating behaviours established in childhood track over early years and persist into adulthood. Therefore, establishing healthy food habits early in life has the potential to significantly prevent the onset of many dietary related chronic diseases.
Do any of these sound familiar…? Strategies for encouraging healthy eating behaviours;
- ‘There’s nothing to eat…’ Children need exposure and access to healthy foods – have the fruit bowl in a place where older children can reach an apple or nectarine for snacks, all washed and ready to go. Have carrots and celery already peeled and cut up in the fridge
- ‘But HE / SHE get to have one…’ Children learn from modeling their behavior on parents, peers and siblings – make meal times a special occasion where the family sits down to eat together. The younger children can learn how to use their cutlery and other social skills
‘Mum, I’m hungry….’ Children prefer what is eaten when they are hungry, so if this is a typical saying in your house, ensure your child gets to eat nutrient rich foods at this time and not calorie dense junk foods
- ‘If you pack away all of your toys, you can have...’ Children love reward foods and will almost do anything for a special treat. Make your special treats a fruit face (a variety of fruit cut and arranged into the shape of a face), vegetable skewers or a homemade treat that is low in sugar, fat and salt
- ‘No you can’t have a chocolate frog...’ Restriction of any foods tends to promote a preference for that food. Children will find any way to get up into the cupboard to reach the contraband foods and a liking for fat, sugar and salty foods is usually enhanced by the environment where food is present
Megan Allender M. Sc. B.Ed.