With so much in the news about the rise in childhood obesity and the prevalence of food related behavioral problems, it is important for parents to have some basic understanding of how to look after the health of their children. Most health related issues encountered in children are mainly due to the ignorance of parents rather than a lack of care and concern.
It is important to remember that children learn good eating habits by example. It is no use parents imposing rules on their children that they blatantly are not prepared to adhere to themselves.
As a general rule of thumb the ideal diet for a child should consist of mainly natural wholefoods such as fruit, vegetables, fish and whole grains. It is always best to start as you mean to continue, so the earlier in the child’s life that these habits are formed the easier it will be.
Try to make the food interesting and appealing. Cutting up fruit and veg into small pieces and serving with dips such as yoghurt and hummus is worth a try. You can also put the fruit into smoothies and make soup with the vegetables.
Sweet foods are always a problem with young children. they seem to have a naturally sweet tooth. But remember this doesn’t have to be satisfied with sweets and chocolates and sticky puddings. Many children will enjoy nuts and raisins as a snack or maybe a piece of toast with a nut butter spread. Honey is always a better alternative to sugar and can be used when making homemade cakes and biscuits.
All children need foods that contain omega 3 essential fatty acids, as these are key factors in the development of optimal brain function. 3 servings a week of oily fish such as salmon, sardines or herring. In addition avocados and olive oil are worth considering.
Meal times should be made enjoyable for children and should preferably be a family affair where everyone sits at the table and eats together. Eating while watching the TV doesn’t encourage a healthy attitude towards food and meal times and should be seen as an occasional treat rather than the norm.
If your child has already got into bad eating habits then it would probably be best to take a gentle approach and make small changes over a period of time