Battling limited eating habits in kids

Last year, the Australian Medical Association President said more children were visiting GPs with food-related anxiety due to a narrow focus on eating nothing but healthy foods rather than approaching food with moderation. On the other hand, studies show that 1 in 4 kids in our country are overweight or obese, and a lot of them don’t get enough daily exercise.

What gives?

Although parents’ intentions are good, there is a lot of confusion and bad practices when it comes to their children’s healthy eating habits. For example, parents might want their kids to exercise and stay healthy and active, but practices such as rewarding them with treats after exercising means not only bribing them with food but unintentionally encouraging them to throw their exercising out the window.

Food should not be used as a system of punishment and reward.

This is not to say we don’t understand the struggles parents have when trying to get their kids to eat better and keep a healthier weight. But it is important that children are taught moderation and not adopt an all-or-nothing attitude, which is detrimental to their mental wellbeing. In addition, they should not experience the burden of excessive social pressure to conform to the notion of perfect eating habits. This is dangerous because it can lead to the development of eating disorders later. The truth is many children are frequently shamed for what they eat, and parents are confused and misinformed about healthy eating practices.

What can we do as parents and mentors, then?

The following approach is a much better way to get our children to be healthy and develop a moderated mentality towards food:

1. Involve your kid in picking and preparing foods. This gives your kid a chance to develop an appreciation of healthy food and decide what he/she likes better.
2. Portion control is important. Don’t just serve the food but explain why serving a plate of food in moderation is better.
3. Don’t obsess over calories but try to eat healthily. By setting an example, you act as a role model. Children look up to their parents, and that influences a lot the way they think.
4. Let your child have sweets occasionally but make it a special occasion instead of adding it to the regular meals, which can easily lead to overindulging in it.
5. Make foods interesting! Telling a kid to eat broccoli because it’s healthy will not engage them and encourage them to become interested in eating healthy foods. Instead, fill your kid in on some interesting facts and info about what they are about to eat.

 

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