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Updated: April 25, 2014 19:11 IST

Born with a healthy spoon

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Heart disease and some cancers are caused by wrong eating habits. Photo: K. Murali Kumar
The Hindu Heart disease and some cancers are caused by wrong eating habits. Photo: K. Murali Kumar

Introduce your child to healthy food habits

Eating habits — preferences, aversion to certain foods, quantities, types of foods etc —are a result of acquired taste, parental and peer eating influences and genetics. What parents feed the child is what he / she acquires a taste for.

Teach your child good eating habits by setting an example. Serving children fatty or sweet foods is letting them unconsciously into a lifetime trap of battle against the bulge.

As we learn more about the development of diseases in adulthood, we realise that a bad heart, obesity and some cancers do not develop overnight.

They build up over years of mismanaged eating . It has been established that eating fatty foods from childhood leads to high blood cholesterol increases the risk of heart attacks later in life. Therefore let’s start inculcating good eating habits from the very beginning, as early as when they are toddlers.

- Children acquire habits by imitating elders. their parents (or whoever it is who is feeding them.) Thus unwittingly their own likes and dislikes, combinations of foods and what to eat when, gets passed onto the child. This is the biggest factor that influences eating habits in a child. If fruits and veggies are served at meals, and the child grows up watching this then there is a better chance that as an adult he/she will follow the same.

- Just because they are young and active does not allow them to have junk foods, fried foods or unhealthy snacks daily. That would be giving them the message that healthy eating is only for adults.

- Because a child refuses to eat a newly introduced food, don’t just give up on it concluding that the child does not like it. Just let him be and after a few days serve that again. Studies show that most children accept new foods only after a trial of 10 or 15 times. So keep trying. Serve colourful fruits and veggies and keep varying them.

- Salt and sugars are developed tastes. Don’t add sugar to milk, curds, juices, fruits or porridges. Giving your child sugar free drinks accustoms them to the natural taste of beverages and prevents a sweet tooth. Allow them to experience the taste perceptions of sour and bitter. Overfeeding with milk can make the child less hungry for other foods. Space out milk throughout the day at specified times, preferably between meals so that the child is hungry for other foods too. Choosing water when thirsty is very important.

- Talk to the child about foods. As they grow up tell them in simple ways how food benefits the body thus cultivating an interest in healthy foods. Don’t underestimate a child’s grasp over ’s intelligence. Simple reasoning sometimes works.

- Finally, never offer chocolates and junk foods as treat for good behaviour.

(The writer is a nutritionist)

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