This is the month we celebrate the New Year’s. Celebrations call for all the good and the fun stuff, including a variety of things that you and your kids love to eat! And you have every right to celebrate and enjoy the food that you want to, on occasions like these.
In all fairness, it is totally fine that you let yourself go and eat to your heart’s content because these moments are special indeed. But we also need to consider this – how often do we have these small parties? How often do you go out and ‘enjoy’ a day off with the kids, or celebrate a good test score, or simply take off for a long weekend? And how many of these ‘mini celebrations’ involve some form of comfort/junk food like pizzas, fries, milkshakes, ice creams, or fizzy drinks? Has partying and binge eating become a part of our lifestyle?
Dear parents, know that the kids will only follow in your wake. If you party, and if you indulge in junk, it is obvious they would want to as well. Kids want the food they see you eat, it’s how they are. And also, in your heart you know that you just can’t say a no to them! So, if partying hard and celebrating every small occasion is a part of your lifestyle, in most cases it becomes the lifestyle for your children too.
So how do even out the scales here? How do you strike a balance between following a proper nutrition on the one hand, and also eating all the yummy, tasty but potentially unhealthy stuff? In this article I’ll write about creating that perfect balance, by urging you to eat right and also encouraging your children to do so. Let us start with going over the basics.
A balanced diet:
You’re made of what you eat. It’s as simple as that. What you put into your body will eventually show up and have a great impact on your physical and mental countenance. It’s crucial, therefore, to maintain a balanced diet for adults and kids alike in order to have an optimum health and an active lifestyle. So what should the balanced diet mainly consist of ?
Proteins: The building blocks of muscles and tissues.
Carbohydrates: The primary source of fuel for the body.
Fats: Another source of energy, and they play a vital role in hormone production and stability.
Vitamins and Minerals: Required for most of the cognitive functions of the body.
Fibers: Essential for a good and a healthy digestion.
Now those are the fundamentals, but on a practical level, how do you go about making your kids eat the above nutrients in a balanced proportion, on an everyday basis in a hassle free way? This is where most parents get stuck because dietary preferences of kids often tend to weigh heavy on one or two of these food groups and ignore the others (read: love pasta/rice, run away from veggies!)
Inculcate the habits:
A diet should be such that it becomes a part of your everyday lifestyle. As parents, we have to make an effort to make sure we eat right and teach our children to do so along with us.
Eating right is a habit. It should be ingrained in your system so that it seems effortless after a while. Let me give you an example here.
Will a person who doesn’t consume alcohol feel proud if he goes to a bar and orders fruit juice? No, that’s because he just doesn’t drink! It’s just who he is. Similarly, we should know that if we are on a proper diet, it should feel effortless. Nothing special there.
These habits will fall in line if we make a conscious effort in the start itself, for us as parents and also for our children. Trust me, it works! Your children will imitate your habits.
Kids and reward points:
A reward system can be implemented for your children to follow, so they are further encouraged to eat right and finish their food without tantrums. Set a reward point system for an entire week, and the kids can redeem their points for the food they want on a Sunday!
For example, you can assign a ‘+1’ reward point per day for your kid if he or she finishes her diet for the entire day. If they cheat, make it a ‘-1’. So let’s say that your child follows a healthy week and has 6 points, maybe the 4 points go for a pizza and 2 for a pastry on a fine Sunday evening…happy parents and happy children! It’s a win-win for all.
Kids love sugar. There’s no other way around it. Given the choice, they’d happily binge on candies, pastries, donuts, colas – ‘sugar, spice and everything nice’ – all through the day! But while a single donut here, or a handful of candies there may seem harmless, the reality is that our negligent and indulgent parenting poses the worst health risks for our children! Improper food intake and binging on sugar and processed carbohydrates are the main reasons for obesity and other lifestyle related diseases in children today. It’s a serious health concern for not just kids, but even adults alike. You can give them fruits instead.
So how do we ensure healthy eating, and also keep a tab on those wicked sugar cravings in kids? Here are a few points.
- Eat whole protein. White meat like chicken, fish, eggs etc., have a very high satiety index and will stop your kids from getting those cravings.
- Eat complex carbohydrates. Rice, oats, sweet or white potatoes, other whole grains etc. are an excellent of complex carbs which have a low glycemic index. They will not cause a sudden spike in insulin levels and also stabilize the blood glucose levels in the long run. Net net, they keep the little tummies feeling full for longer, so their minds do not go down the ‘feed me’ track every half an hour.
- Eat fresh and dried fruit and nuts. If your kid craves for something sweet, give him or her an apple or dates to munch on, instead of any other processed sugar products. Fruits have dietary sugars which will not cause harm to the extent that processed sugars do. It will keep that sugar tooth in check most of the time. Nuts like almonds are an excellent source of vitamins. Dried fruit like figs and raisins are enriched with vitamins and fiber alike. So, while they provide that little ‘sweet’ kick that your child needs, they are the healthier options if you must get that kick. And not just for the kids, for you parents as well!
Kids love the taste. They don’t really care about what goes in the food. You can be innovative by coming up with good recipes like home made granola bars, or a healthy low calorie chocolate cake by using almond flour, or baking whole grain cookies! Alternative to sodas can be fresh home made fruit or lemon juice, or a kokum sherbet! This will keep the kids happy, and also the junk content in check.
Staying active :
Leading an active life along with a good exercise regime is what complements nutrition, and takes health to another level. Encourage your kids to stay active by exercising regularly. And by exercise, I mean anything from playing their favourite sport like basketball or cricket or swimming. A good workout regime or sports will promote a good muscle growth, maintain hormone stability and burn the extra calories.
Occasional diet breaks:
Why do we even diet? Agreed that it is to maintain our health. But it also gives us a guilt free pass to eat all the junk and sugar we want to on the really special days. Diet breaks are really important to break the monotony of eating healthy stuff all the time. Also, remember that consciously upsetting your diet cycles (by taking a calculated diet break) if you are on a calorie deficit diet and trying to lose some fat – that will only reset your leptin hormone levels, thus actually increasing your fat loss. Now, put that in action for your kids’ diet pattern too, and you’ll have a good reason to take a well-planned break every now and then.
As we have discussed above, these are just a few pointers to help you inculcate early and healthy habits in your children to keep them away from lifestyle related diseases that are a major concern for most of the world population today. So decide today, go all in, and help yourself and your children cherish the best years of their lives! Children are the future, and we as parents are the only ones who can help them secure their future in terms of healthy living!
Stay strong and let nothing alter your health!
Article Credits – Vedang Deshmukh