Healthy children’s eating habits can reduce the risk of obesity and heart disease in adulthood. Want some evidence? Let’s check the study by the American Heart Association.
Problem Behind Children’s Eating Habits
“How children are fed may be just as important as what they are fed,” according to a new American Heart Association study, The Impact of Caregivers on Eating Behavior in Young Children, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
This announcement is the Association’s first announcement dedicated to developing evidence-based strategies for parents and caregivers. These strategies aim to create healthy eating habits in children that promote healthy eating behaviors and maintain a healthy weight in childhood. All of this reduces the risk of overweight, obesity, and cardiovascular disease in adulthood.
Many children have the innate ability to stop eating when they feel full. The problem is that they are often influenced by the general emotional atmosphere – for example, the desires and requirements of educators during meals. If children feel pressure to eat, if they are forced to eat when they no longer want to, it can become more difficult for them to listen to their internal signals of hunger and satiety.
How to Develop Healthy Children’s Eating Habits
Giving children the opportunity to choose what and how much to eat encourages children to develop and eventually take responsibility for their food decisions.
This could help children develop eating patterns associated with a healthy weight for life, the authors of the study say.
“Parents and caregivers should think about creating a positive eating environment that focuses on healthy eating habits rather than focusing on hard and fast rules about what and how a child should eat,” says Alexis K. Wood, chair of the research team and assistant professor of Science USDA Child Nutrition Research Center; and the Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
The statement says that parents and caregivers should be positive role models. They need to create an environment that is NOT about controlling children’s choices or focusing on body weight, but one that demonstrates and supports healthy food choices.
Encourage Children to Eat Healthy Food
Parents and caregivers should encourage children to eat healthy food through a series of guidelines:
- create a meal plan;
- allow children to choose the foods they want to eat from a variety of healthy foods;
- serve new or “unpalatable” foods for children along with those that children already like;
- regularly introduce new healthy products, while eating with your child and demonstrating your personal attitude to food;
- pay attention to the child’s verbal or non-verbal signals of hunger and satiety;
- avoid pressure on children to eat more than they want.
Wood noted that it can be difficult for some parents and caregivers to let children make their own decisions about food, especially if children are reluctant to try new foods or become finicky. This behavior is considered normal in early childhood, between the ages of 1 and 5. During this period, children are introduced to the taste and texture of solid foods.
No Authoritarian Rules
Imposing rigid, authoritarian rules about food intake and using tactics such as rewards or punishments may seem like a successful tactic in the short term. However, research does not support this approach. On the contrary, it can have long-term negative consequences.
An authoritarian eating environment prevents a child from developing decision-making skills and can damage their sense of control.
In addition, the authoritarian approach is associated with the fact that children eat more often when they are not hungry, and also eat less healthy foods that are likely to have more calories, which increases the risk of being overweight and obese.
Balance in Every Aspect
On the other hand, an overly condoning approach can also be harmful. For example, if the child is allowed to eat whatever they want and when they want. In this case, the adult does not provide sufficient boundaries for the development of healthy eating habits in children, and boundaries are also necessary. This “permissive” approach, scientists also associated with an increased risk of children becoming overweight or obese.
Some Healthy Eating Habits for Kids
- Supplement porridge with chopped fruits: apples, berries, bananas. The fiber contained in them helps the proper functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. And fruits contain natural sugars that do not harm the body like refined sugar. So the need to sweeten the porridge will disappear.
- The best side dish for fish, chicken, or meat is stewed or fresh vegetables. But it is better to give buckwheat, mashed potatoes or rice in another meal, but also with vegetables.
- Cook meals together. If the child is already old enough to help in the kitchen, give them this opportunity. Let them arrange the plates and spoons, wash the vegetables for the salad. This way they will be more interested in trying what you have cooked together.
The right relationship with food is laid from childhood, do not miss this time – this is how you will make a great gift for your baby for life.
Over to You
Research shows that giving children a wide variety of healthy foods makes them more likely to consume them, especially if they are served alongside foods they love to eat. In addition, caregivers or parents who are enthusiastic about certain foods can also help the child by leading by example.
“Children’s eating habits are influenced by many people in their lives, so it’s good for the whole family to demonstrate healthy eating habits,” says Wood.
But it’s important to note that not all strategies work for all children, and parents and caregivers should not blame themselves for their children’s eating habits.
“It is clear that every child is different and different in their tendency to make healthy food decisions as they grow. That’s why it’s important to focus on creating an environment that encourages decision-making skills and introduces a variety of healthy and nutritious foods throughout childhood, rather than focusing too much on a child’s individual decisions,” Wood concluded.
Want more related content? Check out these pieces:
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