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Good eating habits help children grow into healthy adults – Four parents explain how they overcame ‘little challenges’

Research says that a diet high in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, lessen the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some forms of cancer, lower the risk of eye and digestive issues, and have a good influence on blood sugar, which can help control hunger. (Photo: NPR)

We are all aware of how important veggies and fruits are in both children’s and adults’ daily diets. However, convincing children to eat them, especially picky eaters, can be tough. Evidence shows that dietary habits are developed as early as childhood.

There is a general realisation that children’s eating habits are influenced by their family setting. Parents, in particular, model food consumption practices, choose the sorts of food accessible at home and communicate about food by teaching and setting rules. Recognising how families impact their children’s food choices is crucial since these preferences established early in life, can affect children’s physical well-being throughout their lives.

Contextual Approach

Parenting style provides the contextual approach to a child’s behaviour.

Poornima Ekamban, a Software Test Engineer, and a mother of two children (aged 12 and 7) said that her children eat most fruits and vegetables since she began introducing them when they were one year old.

Poornima Ekamban with her daughters Dhakshithaa and Samyukthaa (Photo Supplied)

“I ensure that they eat the same food as adults. We are strict in that way. My husband and I give them what they need instead of what they ask for. It is pertinent that they understand the importance of eating healthy,” she said. Poornima said that she prepares ‘ABC Juice’ with ginger and honey once a week for breakfast. ABC juice, deemed “A miracle drink” by many, is made up of three important ingredients: apple, beetroot, and carrot. Health enthusiasts consider it to be an excellent detox juice. It is high in zinc, potassium, manganese, and numerous vitamins such as A, B6, and C.

Experts suggest that, instead of relenting to their children’s fancies, parents should explore ways to get their children to take vegetables.

Real Estate Agent Karthick KC said that his five-year-old son is choosy with vegetables. “My wife and I formulated a strategy to get him to eat his vegetables. We make smoothies out of them and, if necessary, add a little sugar,” he said.

Karthik KC with his five-year-old son Vikram (Photo Supplied)

Psychological Control

Some parents use psychological control over their children who are fussy eaters through withdrawal of affection, personal assaults and humiliation, and manipulation of the parent-child relationship. When a youngster opposes good eating habits, a psychologically controlling parent who wishes to manage and improve their child’s eating habits may deny attention and instil guilt in the child. Behavioural control, on the other hand, refers to requests to obey rules and regulations.

According to research, a positive emotional climate is required for parental guidance in accomplishing socialisation goals.

An understanding mother

Advertising Executive Athulya Shreejit Nair is constantly challenged by her 12-year-old daughter.

Athulya Shreejit Nair with her daughter, Sana (Photo Supplied)

“It is really hard to make her eat veggies and fruits sometimes. I don’t force feed her but let her choose what she likes to include in her lunch and dinner. Every day I pack fruits in her lunchbox and if she finishes it, she gets rewarded- perhaps lunch from the school Tuckshop once a week. She likes stir-fried vegetables to curries. So, I prepare veggies stir-fried for dinner. If she finishes her food, I make sure to acknowledge and praise her. That way, we are both happy,” she said.

Family dinners matter

Experts recommend that families should eat together to establish good eating habits. Product Development Engineer Aravindkumar Harinarayanan believes that he ‘spoiled’ their first son Viyan, who is now eight years old. “When he was a baby, we fed him cut vegetables mixed in rice. We used to cook broccoli cream spaghetti as an ‘incentive’. He has been eating on his own since the age of four, and we are now attempting to sit and eat together and insist that he finishes his food,” he said. Aravindkumar is attempting to make his second son Valan (15 months old) an independent eater. ”We place the food on a plate and place it on his highchair, and he grabs and eats. He eats oranges, apples, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, broccoli, carrots, chicken, egg, capsicum, potatoes, and tomatoes. We let Viyan pass the fruits to Valan one by one, so they can eat together,” he said.

Aravindkumar Harinarayanan with his sons Viyan and Valan. (Photo Supplied)

Researchers have said that parents encourage their children to try new foods and provide a range of healthy items on a regular basis. They urge families to provide their children low-fat, sugar-free, and salt-free snacks.

Dietary Requirements

The Health Ed website recommends that pre-schoolers should have two servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit per day, while school-aged children should consume three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit per day. It also indicates that youngsters should consume bread, rice, and/or cereal on a daily basis because they are the best source of energy for the body. Protein aids in their growth. Milk and milk products provide protein and essential vitamins and minerals It is also important that youngsters consume lots of water to keep their bodies hydrated, especially in summer.

For information about nutritious food for your 2 – 12 year-olds, please visit HealthEd.

Malini Yugendran is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Auckland.

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