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Nutritional Health|11 March 2022

30 Smart hacks to get your child to adopt a balanced diet

Written by Rasika Thakur Parab
H.O.D. The Nutrition Therapy Department at Fortis Mulund with more than 11 years of experience in dietetics and clinical nutrition | Post Graduate in Dietetics, Healthcare Operations Management.

“She is a fussy eater”, “He just doesn’t eat vegetables, and I’m really worried”, “How do I make my kids eat healthy?” – A few common complaints that prove parenting’s a tough job. Everyone has their hacks, and there’s no right or wrong way when it comes to ensuring that we only provide the best nutrition to our kids. Moreover, children learn and develop eating habits and social behaviour from their immediate family or caregivers. So, the home environment, community and school are crucial sources of education that shape what, how much, when and how children eat from the time they are born until adolescence. 

If you’re dealing with fussy eaters, turn to these tips and tricks:

Adopt good habits

  1. Feeding practices such schedules for mealtimes
  2. Eating together with families/peers at least once a day
  3. Having meals at the same time every day
  4. Use mealtime conversation to discuss healthy foods
  5. Go easy on snacks and desserts
  6. Discuss the benefits of a healthy diet without mentioning weight or body shapes
  7. Ensure nutritious foods are readily available
  8. Positive comments that encourage children to eat well 
  9. Use recipes or cooking techniques that children enjoy
  10. Enable enjoyable, sociable mealtimes so they can see and hear other people enjoying healthy foods.
  11. Expose kids to various healthy tastes and encourage them to learn to like wholesome foods through repeated exposure
  12. Set an example by eating healthy food yourself
  13. Involve kids while creating menus
  14. Seek kids’ help in prepping, stirring or mixing to give them a sense of pride while eating
  15. Disguise their favourite food with healthy alternatives, like sweet potatoes for potatoes, wheat flour for maida, ghee instead of butter
  16. Make food fun and colourful, like red-green-yellow capsicum, broccoli, carrot, green peas, etc.
  17. While introducing new foods, pair them with kids’ favourite foods
  18. Add a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables to their daily diet
  19. Ensure that kids are well-hydrated and drink water at regular intervals
  20. Encourage them to chew their food well instead of just gulping down

Avoid these at all costs:

  1. Harmful practices like pressuring to eat specific foods
  2. Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and junk foods
  3. Screen-time (cell phones or tabs) during meals
  4. Serving foods rich in trans-fat, like Dalda, Margarine, etc
  5. Reheating of oil
  6. Emphasising the pleasure of consuming unhealthy foods
  7. Rewarding them with sweets, candies or junk food for a good job
  8. Negative interactions like nagging about what or how much to eat
  9. Ordering in frequently 
  10. Exposure to ads that promote unhealthy foods

References:

  • Bauer et al., 2012
  • K.W. Bauer, M.O. Hearst, K. Escoto, J.M. Berge, D. Neumark-Sztainer
  • Parental employment and work-family stress: Associations with family food environments
  • Social Science & Medicine, 75 (2012), pp. 496-504
  • Marty et al., 2018
  • L. Marty, S. Chambaron, S. Nicklaus, S. Monnery-Patris
  • Learned pleasure from eating: An opportunity to promote healthy eating in children?
  • Appetite, 120 (2018), pp. 265-274
  • Hughes et al., 2011
  • S.O. Hughes, T.G. Power, M.A. Papaioannou, M.B. Cross, T.A. Nicklas, S.K. Hall, et al.
  • Emotional climate, feeding practices, and feeding styles: An observational analysis of the dinner meal in head start families
  • International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 8 (2011), pp. 60-71
  • Borzekowski and Robinson, 2001
  • D.L. Borzekowski, T.N. Robinson
  • The 30-second effect: An experiment revealing the impact of television commercials on food preferences of preschoolers
  • Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 101 (2001), pp. 42-46
  • Briefel et al., 2009
  • R.R. Briefel, A. Wilson, P.M. Gleason
  • Consumption of low-nutrient, energy-dense foods and beverages at school, home, and other locations among school lunch participants and nonparticipants
  • Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109 (2009), pp. S79-S90

The views expressed are that of the expert alone.

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