Healthy can be tasty! What is the best nutrition for children?

Updated: Apr 30, 2020 1:25 PM

The primary concern for most parents revolves around the junk snacks that children consume in between meals. As per a study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment in 2016, 93% of children between the age group of 9-17 eat packaged food.

A parent’s first responsibility in cultivating good eating habits is to walk the talk.

By Aswani Chaitanya

Ever wondered why it’s so difficult to convince your little one to eat a bowl of fruits or vegetables? Give them a pack of chips and they devour it in minutes whereas a plate of fresh food requires some bit of pushing and nagging. As the saying ‘Old Habits Die Hard’, the food habits or an eating routine that a child cultivates can carry over to adulthood. Therefore, it’s important for children to develop nutrient rich eating habits right from a very young age.

The immediate next question that arises is how do children develop eating habits? As a parent, how can you play a role in this? It’s a no brainer that children learn from what they observe, hear and experience. A parent’s first responsibility in cultivating good eating habits is to walk the talk. Be a healthy eating role model for your little one. If you want your kid to eat broccoli, make sure you are eating them too. If you want them to stop munching on chips, make sure you don’t get them or replace it with something nutritious and equally tasty. Let’s be honest here and accept that children don’t care whether something is healthy or not. They will eat food that’s tasty, may be colourful or packaged in an exciting manner. As a parent, you have to take that extra step to ensure that healthy food can be tasty, colourful and exciting.

The primary concern for most parents revolves around the junk snacks that children consume in between meals. As per a study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment in 2016, 93% of children between the age group of 9-17 eat packaged food. The study also showed that 56% of the children consume packaged sweet products like chocolates and ice-creams more than twice a week and 53% consume packaged salty food like chips.  Children today end up consuming snacks that are not suitable for their age and in quantities that are not ideal for a snack. There’s no doubt that all parents want their children to eat healthy food. However, with busy lifestyles and increasing double income households, it’s difficult for parents to ensure balanced meals and healthy snacks every time. This is where healthy and nutrition rich snacks can help ease the burden on parents.

Buying snacks for children? Two important pointers!

Parents have to keep two key things in mind while buying snacks for children

  • Age appropriate packaged food:  A quick stop at the supermarket can result in a number of snack packs that are mostly unhealthy. Most of these are typically meant for grownups, are highly processed, contain high levels of salt and sugar. Growing children have different nutrition requirements. All packaged snacks are not bad or unhealthy. Choose snacks that are appropriate for their age, are made with natural ingredients, contain optimum levels of sugar and salt. In short, be sure you understand everything that’s written on the nutrition label.
  • Quantity of snacks: A snack should never replace a meal. Therefore, the quantity of a snack should be such that it gives them the required nutrients in between meals.

It’s unfortunate that we have to categorize our food as healthy and unhealthy. Healthy diet must be a given. Food that’s low in nutrition not only impacts children physically but it does mentally as well. Children develop taste preferences early on.  Introduce them to vegetables, fruits and balanced meals right from the start. Never force them or punish them for not wanting to eat. Play the long term game, slowly and steadily introduce them to healthy food in a fun way. If you want your child to have healthy food, make sure you are eating healthy too.

 

The columnist is CEO and Co-Founder, Timios. Views expressed are the author’s own. 

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