Written by Feba Maryann 

“You are what you eat,” and as the saying suggests, the way to a healthy lifestyle is marked by eating well. The habit of eating the right food is picked up from childhood. Once a toddler knows the taste of fries and sodas, there is no way that they will prefer carrot sticks and grapes unless the parent or caregiver tries hard to bring a change. 

However, don’t be disheartened. It is never late to turn over a new leaf. In order to nurture healthy eating in your family, here are a few suggestions for changes in your routine. Like picking up any other skill, learning to eat healthily also involves trial and error.   

Be The Change You Wish to See

The first step in encouraging healthy eating in your family is by becoming a role model that others can look up to. If you preach about the virtues of fresh fruits and whole grains while eating processed foods, you will not see any desirable change.  

Ensure that you set the children and teens on the path to healthy eating by showing them how exciting eating healthy can be. When one sees the options available and the effects of eating well, they are bound to want to try it themselves.  

Breakfast As ‘Brain Food’ 

While your schedule might not allow for an elaborate meal in the morning, skipping breakfast is a big mistake many people make. Making sure that you have a nutritious start to the day means that the rest of the day is bound to go that way. Consuming proper foods like a cup of yoghurt or a breakfast burrito in the morning gives your body a chance to kick start the metabolic processes, improves cognitive functioning, and keeps you from snacking as well.  

Another way to make sure the family consumes their breakfast is by getting everyone to sit down and share the meal. In fact, having a meal together as a family has many positive effects on building healthy eating habits, especially in teens and toddlers.  

Food As Reward and Punishment  

While modifying behaviour in children, it is tempting to use food as reinforcement. A promise of dessert for eating the greens or a packet of potato chips for finishing homework are effective ways to get children to behave in a certain way but using food as a reward means that they start to associate dessert as better than vegetables or potato chips as a valuable food. This can influence how they view food in their adult lives also.  

Some parents also take to sending their children to bed without dinner as a punishment. This method can breed unhealthy eating habits in children by promoting overeating during mealtimes in fear of not knowing when the next meal will be. In summary, keep food out of your disciplining methods to avoid unprecedented impacts on your children.  

Tracking Screen time 

When it comes to promoting a healthy lifestyle, limiting your children’s screen time is imperative, especially when it comes to preventing snacking. Eating meals in front of the screen is another habit that you need to avoid in your household. While eating in front of a screen, your child cannot focus on the feelings of hunger and satisfaction, leading them to overeat or under-eat in the process.  

Apart from eating habits, screen time also exerts an influence on the sleep pattern. Limit your child’s screen time to less than two hours and put the gadgets away at least three hours before bedtime to have a good night’s sleep. Plentiful and quality sleep makes a big difference in the health of an individual.   

Persistence And Perseverance 

Finally, implementing healthy changes to diets overnight may not always work. However, do not admit defeat easily. Try variations of the healthy options while preparing meals. Get your children involved in grocery shopping and meal preparation to get them to try new things. Most importantly, removing all the unhealthy foods from the house can avoid the temptation to go back to unhealthy ways of eating.   

Final Thoughts   

Inculcating healthy eating habits in children is all about getting them to think of healthy foods in positive ways. If you teach your child that nutritious foods are not as bad as everyone else makes it out to be from a very young age, they will have no trouble picking the healthier options on their own. Preventing your family from getting used to the taste of junk food is the best way to promote healthy eating. Also, ensure that everyone in the pack gets an adequate amount of physical activity and the concept of ‘healthy living’ may not be as far-fetched as it seems.