Healthy Eating Habits for Kids – Starting Early Has Many Benefits When I sit back and watch my toddler grow, I am really surprised as to how times have changed. There is so much exposure available to my kid which was not accessible to me when I was young. For us, cake and cookies were occasional or say birthday treat. In stark contrast, my toddler gets it every now and then – and at times, almost every day. Treats aside, there is one thing that I am glad I know that my mother probably didn’t – nutrition. While our parents made sure that we get adequate nourishment, they were not aware of specific nutrition every food has. So, what they fed us was random planning. And what I feed my toddler is very much planned. For instance, I make sure that she gets her daily dose of protein, calcium, carbohydrates, dietary fibers, iron and even starch. Changing Times The change that I am observing over the years is that many common foods have lost their sheen when it comes to nutrition. For instance, milk was the superfood in my childhood but many parents nowadays make milk an option rather than a compulsion. I am glad that thanks to the internet, I am aware of substitute foods. Suppose, if my daughter refuses to have milk, then I can give her a yogurt smoothie. If she doesn’t like fruits, I bake a fruit cake (which is not as healthy as raw foods, but it does the work to an extent). Times might have changed, but one thing that has not changed for sure is love – love and care of parents towards their tiny tots, which is expressed through foods most of the time. Tap Them Early We live in an age where lifestyle diseases are quite common, even among youngsters. While some take pride in being a slave to lifestyle, it is sorry news after all. Instead of altering diets and lifestyle at a later stage in life or after getting affected by certain ailment (God forbids), it is necessary that the problem is nipped in the bud itself. What I mean is that instead of asking adults to change their lifestyle, why not teach kids to eat right and stay active. This might seem somewhat difficult; however, it is much easier. Lifestyle and environment are primary influencers that shape the health of the kids. However, they realize it much later when they reach adulthood. Hence, it is necessary that kids are taught early about health and food. Right from infancy, healthy eating has a positive effect on the kid. And by the time the kid starts going to school, their microbiome present in their system is pretty much defined and it even stays with them for several years or even lifetime. This makes it necessary to design healthy meal plans even for infants. This might sound quite complicated to you but it is quite simple and easy. Begin with a Good Diet So, you might be wondering what is new in this. Every parent makes sure that the kid/s gets good food and a healthy diet. However, some things miss out on the diet. The reason for this might be a lack of knowledge. For instance, it is necessary that your kids get a daily dose of good bacteria to maintain their gut health. Good bacteria present in the stomach survive on dietary fibers. If the diet your child is fed does not have enough fibers, then good bacteria start eating the mucus lining the intestinal walls. This might result in ailments like inflammatory bowels, asthma and several allergies. For this, a diet rich in dietary fiber is a must. Dietary fibers refer to complex carbohydrates that are present in plant-based diets. Make sure that your child gets a diet enriched with vegetables and fruits, whole grains and nuts, legumes and other varieties that help keep the gut healthy. If your kids are not fond of foods that are enriched with dietary fibers, it is your onus to make these appealing to them. Make soups out of the veggies or add them to their pasta, serve them raw with interesting healthy dips or cut and serve them in style. Prepare it Fresh You might think that you are eating everything fresh. However, there are certain points that you might miss. For instance, preparing instant noodles fresh for your kid does not count as preparing a ‘fresh meal’. Feeding flavored yogurts to your kid are described as an ‘instant unhealthy meal’ rather than a fresh one. You might have checked the date of manufacturing of each of the products you purchase from the superstore. What you might not have noticed is the section that has ingredients. The first ingredient that is mentioned is the one that is highest in quantity and the second constitutes a major part too. Instant flavored yogurts are high in sugar. If you want to feed good bacteria to your kid through yogurt, then make sure to prepare it at home or at least flavor it using natural ingredients – like fruits, dry fruits or interesting things like maple syrup or even honey. Make healthy foods appealing to your kids by adding artificial substances only in the beginning – keep reducing the amount day by day and gradually just add a hint of it. This might help them cut back on such sweeteners. I promised myself to keep my kid away from instant foods – the easier it is to prepare this meal, the worse it is for the body. There are many other things that can be done to make our kids bloom like healthy flowers – who are not slaving to technology or convenience when it comes to preparing nourishing meals. Cut Back on Over-sanitizing Using sanitizers is good, without any doubt. Sanitizers help us, parents, in preventing our kids from bacteria and illness. However, some kids might end up over-sanitizing, which might prove to be harmful later. While you sterilize everything, you might be keeping your kids away from good bacteria as well. It is funny that some parents do not wash the toys of their kids often. However, it is required that do this. By not washing regularly, they are exposing their kids to bacteria. This helps build the immune system of their kids. But a note of caution here is that you are aware of times when washing is required and when it is not. Further, it is good that you have taught your kid to wash hands regularly. But it should not happen, as it did in my toddler’s case, wherein the child wants to wash hands every hour, irrespective of the fact whether it is required or not. Also, make sure that you use natural and herbal cleaning products at least for the child. This will help the kids away from harsh chemicals that irritate the skin. Do Not Make them Eat Forcefully Kids are not aware of hunger. We make them eat at regular intervals. Many parents even complain that their children do not ask for food – they keep on playing non-stop. However, it is the onus of the parents to make their kids understand the internal signs of hunger and even fullness. If you cultivate a habit of making them eat more, in spite of kids denying eating, you might end up making them suppress the signs of fullness. In such cases, kids never understand whether they are hungry or satiated. They look for parental approval to know this. Conversely, kids deny eating when they are playing. Being a parent, you might be worried about their depleting energy levels. However, there is no other way out to make them learn. Learn About Your Kids’ Taste I will tell you something about my experience with my toddler. She is a picky eater at times. She doesn’t like fruits, juices or anything related to them. My health provider advised me to make fruits interesting to her. So, I tried giving her banana ice creams, fruit pancakes and such things. Still, she guessed the ingredient and refrained from eating it. However, making it interesting does not mean that make it healthily interesting. It means making it interesting on in their way. For instance, adding spices on the fruit or adding vanilla ice cream to the fruit or such things. Often, being parents we make foods appealing in a healthy way. Conversely, we should think from the kids’ point of view. When the kids get hooked on to the specific food, we should gradually lessen the appeal of the food and give them the original taste. This might help. Also Read: How to Create a Healthy, Happy and Creative Environment for Your Family Refrain from Needless Antibiotics I am not a doctor. However, I have come to understand from bitter experiences that too many antibiotics do not help. Yes, they are considered to be lifesavers. But they do have their dark side. An overdose of anything can be toxic. You might be surprised to know that antibiotics do not differentiate between good bacteria and bad bacteria. They carry out a ruthless killing drive. While you might not get to know the results immediately, the long term health of your kids might be affected due to this. Try not giving antibiotics for ailments that can be treated through other means. For instance, I begin with home remedies for treating cough and cold. A single sneeze of my toddler is enough to get started with home-remedies. They are quite effective but yes, administering them requires patience. Teach Them Tasting New Foods I still remember a tea advertisement from my childhood. A man enters a room with several cups of tea in a line. He tastes them one by one and then chooses the best. I think the same happens with the kid. They need to taste food several times before finalizing it for their belly. Make food tasting fun for the kid. Before asking them to eat, request them to taste it. For instance, give them a pea-sized amount of something and take reviews – whether it is sweet, crispy, salty, crunchy, hot, cold or just bland. This way, they will not only understand different tastes but also agree to accept your food-tasting invite. They might ask for more if they really like it. For my kiddo, I keep two options, not more, at least for dinner. When we try a new recipe, there’s also the regular for my kid. I make her taste the new first. If she likes, she can have it. If not, we have the regular one as a backup option. However, one thing that is required in this whole activity is patience. But the result will be quite good as your child might start eating a variety of foods. Also Read: 7 Successful Ways to Make Your Children Eat More Fruits Happily Expose Them to Different Play Areas As parents, we are protective and always have an umbrella ready for sudden rains. However, we should let our kids enjoy the sudden rains and run for protection on their own. By this, I mean that we should expose our kids to different kinds of play area. Like over sanitizing is not good, in the same way making them play only at home is also not good for their health. When kids play in the mud, grass and other such areas, they come in contact with several types of bacteria – both good and bad. This will help their body learn to fight them and prevent sickness. Conclusion It is quite tough to bring up a healthy kid. While there is no yardstick to measure as to whether you are doing well or your friend in matters of motherhood; there is something that makes you feel good when your kid eats a healthy meal. I smile from ear to ear when she finishes up a freshly prepared glass of juice rather than the sugar-laden tetra packs. You might not realize this now, but when your kids grow up they might thank you as they will not have to take a single sick leave from office. Happy and healthy parenting to you!