Here’s how to encourage healthy dietary habits in children

Eating disorders are growing in numbers, especially in early adolescence and yes, there are obvious reasons to worry and stay concerned. Let’s stay practical and discuss what we can do maximum at a very primary level, yet deal with them most effectively in a preventive manner before your child’s dietary practice turns into a health issue

Here’s how to encourage healthy dietary habits in children
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Here we are in 2018, mostly with nuclear families, where both parents are busy with their job and career, rarely meeting their child during the day, who is even busier with his/her school, play, tuitions, swimming, music class and few more. You worry about your child, and worry maximum about his/health and diet off course, but at the same time you have very less control on his behaviour or eating practices.

Here is what parents can keep in mind to improve and encourage healthy eating practices in children.

For parents:

  • Discuss about various food and qualities of them. Discuss both taste and nutritional value and also non-nutritional/hazardous effect of junk foods/artificial food additives.
  • For older children, listen to their opinion and perception about foods and discuss in a friendly manner.
  • Never turn punitive, please. Punishment increases fear, rage and anxiety in children.
  • Keep a balance between over concern about eating habit/pattern and allowing the child to eat anything they want.
  • Help and teach the child to love him/herself, love the self he/she is. Acceptance of own self and work towards further betterment of health is always a positive approach.
  • Be aware about body image distortion. Is your child remaining over cautious about his/her weight, how he/she looks, and whether others perceive him/her as fat despite the clear evidence towards other side?
  • Most of the eating disorders circle around the prominent theme of ‘body image distortion’ and remember all of them are very secretive about their thoughts and hardly accept it on their own.
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For children:

Love the food, but love yourself too. Remember the old adage, ‘health is wealth’, and believe me, it’s the best wealth you can ever have. We often forget in our teenage and early adulthood years that we all will reach 40’s and 50’s one day, and health is more of a reserve which need to be built up and keep stored for future.

  • We encourage you to treat your taste buds, but keep a balance, maintain a not-so-strict regime where along with your tongue; your soul gains a good health too.
  • Thinness or bumpy biceps are not the real targets; rather aim for fitness and wellness. Both are more attractive at any point of time.

For school:

Educate and encourage good health and positive healthy practices. Educate children about the calorie and nutritional value of foods, especially of vegetables.

You can consider audios, videos, role plays or dramas to communicate in a better and effective manner.

Regular height weight and BMI monitoring, yearly blood tests especially the basic hormonal profile can work as a good check on the child’s overall health.

For children with difficult eating pattern and persistent poor health, kindly be supportive rather than strict or punitive. Collaborate with the patient and consult with the respective professionals. A child’s health is far more important than any mere stigma.

The author is a Psychiatrist at Christian Medical College and Hospital in Vellore, Tamil Nadu

  • sayani mahapatra

    Along with parents school plays a really important role as mentioned here. Really precise and helpful article.