Part 5: How to Create Healthy Eaters from the Start
Creating Healthy Eaters Starts Early.
This isn’t to say that if you didn’t start early, there is no hope, but that’s a different story for a different blog. Check it out here.
Why is it important for children to eat healthy?
Besides supporting healthy growth and development, it can help stabilize their energy levels, maintain a healthy weight and avoid certain health problems. It’s also widely known to have a profound effect on mental well-being, which is significant in the prevention and management of conditions such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder.
Kids aren’t born with the desire to eat pizza and chicken nuggets or an aversion to green foods. I believe it is because they become conditioned over time as they are exposed to unhealthy and/or processed food choices. The sooner you introduce nutritious foods into their diets, the quicker you’ll be able to teach them healthy eating habits they can continue for a lifetime.
Here are some tips to help get you started.
- Baby Led Weaning-In the US, we tend to associate the term “weaning” with discontinuing breast milk or formula. However, in the rest of the world, this simply means to start weaning them onto solids. Instead of purees and weird combos that seem gross even to adults, parents are now trying to introduce solids, by simply offering baby some food and he eats what he wants. Here is a good place to start for more info on BLW.
- Model Healthy Eating Habits-Children learn by imitation, so don’t make them eat their veggies as you woof down a box of cookies. Eat healthy things together.
- Limit their exposure to and processed foods-focus on foods as close to their natural state as possible and avoid pre-packaged foods. Give specific instructions to grandparents and babysitters and make sure that they understand your long-term goals for healthy eating habits.
- Limit sugar-added sugars (outside of fruits) means a lot of empty calories that can increase the risk of diabetes, hyperactivity, and mood disorders. Don’t eliminate it altogether, but definitely give recipes a makeover by reducing the sugar content. Reducing the amount of fruit juices, soft drinks, or other sweet drinks is vital. Sweeten some water with a splash of juice, but avoid serving it straight.
- Be wary of Fat-free, Low-calorie labeled food-We think we are doing better by offering lower fat foods to our kids, but when the fat content is removed, it’s usually replaced with more sugar to make up for the loss of taste.
For me personally, I’ve always offered my babies a little taste of what I was having. I let them smell it, touch it. Early on, they’ve been exposed to various textures and flavors and very limited sugar and added seasonings. Babies don’t need added oils or salt. They should be offered bland foods to begin with. In my last blog, I mentioned how babies have more tastebuds than we do, and we are all predisposed to like sweeter tasting foods. They will develop a taste for healthy foods with no additives if they are exposed to real, fresh foods.
One of the things that has helped me so much in developing healthy habits for my children is the introduction of superfoods in our diets. This can be from whole foods, but I personally use a nutrient dense shake. No, I don’t give my kids shakes as meals. I’m an RN and I believe in healthy, whole foods, but I also believe in adding superfoods that I can’t find locally through my nutritious shake. The children usually start off with a little taste on a spoon here and there. Sort of like drinking your vitamins in a delicious shake form. (always make sure you check with your pediatrician before offering supplements)
I’ve noticed a big difference in the eating habits of my teenagers when they consistently drink their shake as well. My oldest child has a tendency to crave junkier foods than the other 3, but after a day or two of drinking her shakes, she eats more fruits and veggies, and I notice that she is less anxious and more focused. I’m not making any claims, but there are several studies that show that good nutrition can improve anxiety and conditions like ADHD.
If you have more questions about this, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.