As parents, we hope our children obtain the right nutrition for their growing bodies and overall health and well-being.
Instilling healthy eating habits in kids sets the foundation to eating well from the start.
How can parents help children develop healthy eating habits?
#1: Be a role model
Leading by example makes a difference. Afterall, children are our best imitators.
If we hope for our kids to embrace healthy eating habits, we would definitely have to first inculcate that within us.
How often does the family reach out to Fast Food for meals? Is your snack cabinet filled with high sodium, calorie-laden snacks? Do you and the children guzzle sugary drinks more than water?
If these sound like your family’s eating habits, it’s time to do a reality check by revisiting food choices. This would allow parents to have a better idea on the home setting to take the first step towards growing healthy eating habits.
Healthy eating habit tip: Walking the talk is important. Instead of Fast Food, go for healthier meals at the food court or hawker centre. Ask for more vegetables and go easy on the gravy, as the latter is usually laden with saturated fats and sodium.
#2: Choose healthier food
Now that you’ve assessed your diet and family meals, it’s time to take charge by making wiser choices towards healthy eating.
Children below one year old are typically offered meals sans salt or seasoning. Many parents offer Quaker Oats to their bubs as it cooks easily, is full of nutrients and there are multiple ways to have it, making it a very versatile ingredient.
Apart from fresh food, some parents opt for organic produce to reduce the potential buildup of pesticides and chemicals in their systems.
In Singapore, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) have in place the Healthier Choice Symbol (HSC) Program which distinguishes healthier packaged food from others. Products with the HSC are generally lower in total fat, saturated fat, sodium and sugar. Some of these food are also higher in dietary fibre and calcium.
Homecooked meals with fresh ingredients help enhance taste and nutritional value naturally. When eating out, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), pork lard and salt are commonly used to create a lip-smacking dish, but these offer neither nutrition nor health benefits, and sends our kidneys on an overdrive.
Healthy eating habit tip: Taking on a proactive approach towards food choices teaches your child how to make a healthier choice too. Food with the HSC such as Quaker Oats help improve diet quality and contribute to healthy eating habits in kids too.
#3: Read nutrition labels
Besides looking out for the HSC label, parents can also compare nutrition labels.
When doing your groceries, it’s a good habit to run through the nutrition labels to understand what you’re feeding your kids.
The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has put together a comprehensive guide on how to read and understand food and nutrition labels, which is helpful for families who wish to nurture healthy eating habits with their children.
Healthy eating habit tip: Parents would be happy to know that Quaker Oats has a short and simple nutrition label. That means, each mouthful is loaded with fibre, iron, zinc, magnesium and zero cholesterol to support your child’s health and heart!
#4: Involve the kids
Sharing discussions and conversations on healthy eating habits allows children to understand the importance of eating healthily and how they can benefit.
When grocery-shopping, teach your children how to read and understand nutrition labels, and explain why one food is “healthier” than others.
At the snacks section, start an educational sharing that an occasional treat is alright, but not a regular habit. Introduce healthier snack options such as vegetable chips, fresh fruit, nuts, all of which taste awesome with Quaker Oats too!
Planning to cook a oat-ful dish? Involve the kids when making healthy treats such as these Crunchy Baked Chicken Cheese Balls where they can scoop, roll and help mummy at the same time!
Healthy eating habit tip: Eating a variety of food from the four main food groups (Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Fruit) and different food from each group helps ensure your growing child gets the nutrients needed. Show your child the My Healthy Plate tool to help them understand what the food groups are, and what the recommended portions are. They can also learn to categorise different food while grocery shopping or at home. E.g. Oats belongs to Grains, and Avocado is a Fruit. Developing healthy eating habits in children can be a fun game too!
#5: Eat together
Whether you are eating at home or out at a restaurant, choosing healthy dishes and dining together makes a difference.
Healthy eating habits can be better established when done together, and children would not feel that they are being singled out for eating unhealthily, while parents are eating unhealthy food in front of them.
Healthy eating habit tip: Enjoying a meal together allows the family bond and communicate too. Strengthening the family relationship over food is a great idea, and what better way to share healthy meals too!
#6: Learn easy, healthy recipes
Working parents often find it difficult to cook on weekdays, or have very little time to put together a homecooked meal for their kids.
Using the right ingredients and cooking techniques can help you put together a quick satisfying meal.
Grains such as oatmeal makes a hearty and nourishing meal any time of the day. Here are 12 quick and easy ways to include fast-cooking oats in your meals. Quaker Oats can fill you up with 6 times more fibre than white rice; try cooking oats together with rice to increase your family’s fibre intake?
Fish, meat and chicken are versatile alongside various cooking methods. A quick, mess-free way is to use your built-in oven (if you have one), and simply season the meat and pop it in the oven. Sliced meat cooks quicker than a whole, so skip roasting a whole chicken (unless you have time to wait) and go with cut chicken parts. These baked dishes can be a hit with kids too!
Salads are a quick way to eat your greens without cooking, and they can be turned into a one-dish meal too for children! Most vegetables generally cook fairly quickly over the stove. Stir-fry vegetables can be done in under 10 minutes for most vegetables.
If you’re looking at one-pot dishes, a slow cooker/crockpot comes in handy. Prepare the ingredients the night before, put them in the slow cooker in the morning and turn it on for the slow cooker to work its magic. When you’re home in the evening, a delicious, wholesome meal awaits! Here are 77 tantalising slow cooker recipes you could whip up!
Healthy eating habit tip: Healthy eating habits start with homecooked meals which can be quick and easy too. Have your kids get involved in food preparation or even cooking (for older kids) to put together healthy dishes for the family.
#7: Drink more water
If your children are drinking more sugary or fizzy drinks than plain water, it’s time to arrest this.
Sugar in our body increases the glucose level which gives a boost of energy, but a large amount overworks the liver and leads to metabolic dysfunction.
Water is the best fluid to hydrate and replenish lost ions, and definitely essential for working towards healthy eating habits.
Healthy eating habit tip: Instead of offering canned, bottled drinks or flavoured drinks to the kids, go with plain water. Don’t forget to remind the children to drink up in school and at play too!
#8: Avoid using food as a reward or punishment
It’s tempting to use food as a carrot and stick when it comes to children, but we will only be fueling their emotional association with certain food. This encourages emotional eating and may lead to kids eating because they feel stressed or bored.
Healthy eating habit tip: Most of the time, grandparents or the older generation tend to do that. As parents, it’s important to keep an open communication if this happens within your family.
#9: Keep going to develop healthy eating habits
Developing healthy eating habits does not happen overnight.
Don’t forget to be consistent, patient and keep going! Afterall, your children’s health are building blocks that grow with them.
Healthy eating habit tip: Embrace the process of improving your children’s eating habits, and every incremental step makes a difference towards their health.
Take charge of your children’s eating habits by ensuring they eat healthily. Parents can do the same too, and the family can look forward to welcome better health and wellness together.
This post is brought to you by Quaker Singapore.