Article on developing healthy eating habits in Children

Nurturing good health in little warriors

Childhood, an era synonymous with carefree lifestyle -with a liberty to eat, sleep and play at leisure is a blessing. It’s considered to be the most beautiful and enjoyable stage of a person’s life but since past few years, childhood isn’t considered the same. With increase in nuclear and smaller families, society witnessed a shift in the lifestyle where life became a race and from a small child to an adult all were compulsorily participating and competing. Health took a jog to the left, impacting children, adolescents and adults equally.

Children these days are busy following a time-table where they need to excel in every department of life -be it studies, sports or hobbies. Long school hours and added extra co-curricular activities clubbed with their picky eating habits have put their overall well-being atgreat risk. Parenting is no more a happy responsibility -it’s a challenge and the expectations are very high. A happy and healthy child is the reflection of a wise and balanced parenting.

A child’s health is directly proportional to what they eat and right nutritional choices are very crucial. Whether toddler or a teen, both require apt nutrition through a balanced diet for their mental and physical development. Remember, unhealthy eating habits can cause problems in later life that can even develop in lifelong diseases. Healthy eating habits are more likely to stay with you if you imbibe them as a child. That is the reason why we need to focus on eating habits of kids and improve them when there’s time still.

Dr Shreya Dubey, a consultant Pediatric and Neonatologist, talks about the importance of healthy eating habits in kids to avoid illness. She states nutritional food plays a key role in the growth of a healthy child. She emphasizes that seasonal allergies, upper respiratory tract infection and stomach disorders are frequent illnesses that children are susceptible toand this majorly happens due to low immunity. Environmental triggers due to seasonal infections cancause severe health damage at times. Several children undergo clinical tests due to deficiencies because of poor nutrition or unhealthy eating habits. Behavioral conditions like fussy or picky eaters result in parental anxiety looking for supplements to bridge the gap. She specifies a 3-5, 8-11 and 13-15 are growth spurt ages and kids should be nourished well for an overall physical and mental development. Specifically, during this time food rich in high protein, vitamins, nuts and dry fruits, green veggies and fruits should be given. She specifies that metabolism can only be improved by proper nutrition and age appropriate physical activities.As Anemia is a common problem in Indian sub-continent, iron rich foods are a must for growing kids.Healthy diet with a healthy upbringing curates a healthy child.

Dr Shubhy Aggarwal, a Holistic nutritionist and homeopathic physician states that, “Building strong immunity in kids should be of prime importance”. She explains that as children these days have a hectic life, they need to be strong from inside to conduct their daily routines with energy and enthusiasm without falling prey to illness easily. She suggests a colorful diet rich in all sorts of nutrients and milk should not be considered the only source of nutrition for kids. It’s a good source of vitamin D and should be included in the meal along with fish, finger millet(Ragi) and fox nut(Makhana). Calcium rich foods like citrus fruits, curd, buttermilk, cheese, soybeans, fortifies cereals,etc. should be included in diet to absorb vitamin D in body. She reveals in recent years many parents complained that their kids have severe stomach issues including acidity, bloating and constipation. This is due to lack of right digestion and unhealthy eating patterns. Intake of too much junk and packaged food activates prolonged digestion thus using all the energy which should otherwise be utilized for more significant stuff. She calls Ragi a super food and a must for growing children. Starting the day with a banana or soaked nuts does half the job. Fill their plate with surprises rather than boring routine meals. Experiment with dishes and encourage them to develop taste for healthy food.

Praggati Rao, a child psychologist states that unhealthy eating habits contribute as a factor for depreciating a child’s mental well-being. She explains that nutrition does affect the mind and unhealthy diet aggravates situations like mood swings, loss of concentration, frustration, anxiety. irritability and lack of performance. A well-nourished child is a warrior. Factors like over exposure, peer pressure, scheduled lifestyle and exertion require proper and balanced diet to keep a child mentally and physically fit and happy. She states, “You are what you eat, so a good diet should be the culture in a family”.

Healthy eating has several benefits for our little ones like, stronger immunity, healthy mind, channelized energy, reduced mood swings, good metabolism, increased focus and attention etc. There are so many ways you can inculcate good eating habits in your kids, • Make mealtimes your priority, no disturbance or distractions.• Limit the consumption of salt, maida and sugar (mind it limit, not ban).• Play with recipes, modify to invent new healthy ones to encourage healthy eating.• Seasonal Fruits should be on a priority list.• Read story books related to health and wellness.• Don’t force feed, take one step at a time, introduce healthy food gradually.• Monitor their eating habits but don’t keep complaining or whining, handle wisely.• Set an example for your child, they learn more by seeing.• Set snack boundaries.• Consider their food choices too, don’t forget you also have cheat meals.

Since the world has been gripped by the Covidpandemic, health has become the utmost priority. Even kids are motivated to follow a holistic wellness in their daily routines. Children are credulous and gullible so right counseling and parenting would help them lead a healthy life altogether, teach them to practice gratitude and love, maintain good hygiene, exercise regularly, avoid unnecessary stress, take proper rest and above all eat well.

It’s rightly said, ‘To wish to be healthy, is part of being healthy’.

Akanksha Datta

FB Page – Akanksha’s Book Club

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