Children form habits that will last a lifetime. Encourage them to form good eating habits, because poor eating habits can lead to obesity and may result in impaired health. The following bad eating habits contribute to weight problems and can lead to chronic health problems.
Healthy eating does not become habit overnight. It takes time and effort to make it a part of a daily routine. Parents play a big role in shaping children’s eating habits. When parents eat a variety of foods that are low in fat and sugar and high in fiber, children learn to like these foods as well. It may take 10 or more tries before a child accepts a new food, so do not give up if your child does not like a new food right away.
Create interest in the food for the children. For instance, when vegetables are mixed with meat and other ingredients they are more acceptable to kids and tastier. But cut vegetables small or dice them so they are easier to eat and less noticeable to junior gormets. Shredding and grating vegetables, like onions and carrots is another way of making them more acceptable, especially in items like sandwiches, meat balls, soups and stews.
Good or bad habits can be formed in anything, including eating. No thought is given to where, when, and what is eaten. Don’t reward bad behavior with bribes or promises of food, and don’t punish poor behavior by withdrawal of food. Insist on the “No Thank You Bite,” and make everything else more flexible. Dessert should be a special item. Making it a regular part of dinner might cause the child to eat less dinner in expectation of getting dessert. Dessert also should be contingent on the consumption of a well-balanced meal.
Eating while doing certain activities can become a habit. For example, it becomes automatic to grab a candy bar to eat while watching TV or reading a book. Don’t turn the dinner table into a power struggle. Discipline should be kept separate from food. If the child is hungry, the child should eat. If the child is full, he or she should stop eating. If the child misbehaves at the table, discipline the child briefly (a short stay in the corner without toys or entertainment was always effective for us), and then bring the child back to the table to finish the meal.
Vegetables for Our Future Leaders
Plain boiled or steamed vegetables can be boring and quite tasteless. Add a touch of excitement by tossing them in just a little oil or butter. Toss in some spices, like black pepper, or a dash of the appropriate herbs. A spoonful of sugar often helps, or a dash of soy sauce. Try stir fries and other dishes you can mix vegetables in – like noodle and rice recipes. Fried rice is popular with most kids. Many kids who would not normally eat vegetables really tuck into fried rice, not realizing they are eating heaps of veggies.