10 Tips to Develop Healthy Eating Food Habits in Kids

healthy eating food

Do you find your little ones always munching or snacking something like chips or cookies? Are they really fond of junk foods that make you worried about their health? Do you have a hard time making your children eat nutritious foods like fruits and veggies? Most frequently, unhealthy eating or binge-eating patterns begin in childhood. If not addressed early, these patterns can persist and occasionally result in difficulties down the road and end up resulting in eating disorders like anorexia, binge eating or obesity in the future. Keep reading to find out how to help kids break bad eating habits and develop healthy eating food habits in kids.

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Why do kids go for Junk food?

According to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, 92% of kids consume more saturated fat than is recommended, 86% eat too much sugar, 72% eat too much salt, and 96% don’t consume enough fruits and vegetables. Nowadays, Kids are considerably more aware of the options available on the market that suit their tastes than they were a few years ago. While playing games on their parent’s phones or watching TV, kids notice advertisements for new foods being offered at their favourite fast-food places. The benefits of their three healthy meals will be compromised if they snack on unhealthy foods, thus this habit needs to be broken as soon as possible.

Also, Check: Eating disorders in children 

tips to DEVELOP healthy eating FOOD routine

Here are some tips you can take to get your kid back on the right track if they indulge in more unhealthy food than is necessary.

1. Healthy Snacks option:

Start with opting for a healthy snack instead of junk food. Give your little one a bowl full of fruits topped with some honey and dry fruits. You can also add some whipped cream and strawberries to make it tastier and more colourful.

Also check, Gut healthy Foods

2. Follow the schedule for snacks too:

When meals and even snacks have a regular, time and plan, a healthy routine is established. If your kids eat whenever they feel like it, they can overeat since they won’t be hungry when it’s time for a meal.

3. Positive Environment:

Having family meals together creates a positive environment and allows kids to pick up healthy eating habits by observing others in the family.

Also check, Healthy eating for children

4. Be a role model:

By observing the people and environment around them, children can learn a lot. Therefore, if they observe you eating unhealthy meals, this will set a bad example. Maintain a healthy eating food diet as much as you can and set a better example for your children. Teach them of the advantages of a healthy diet. 

Also check, Brain development foods for children

5. Restrict screen time:

Children who watch television often consume more than they actually need, which raises the possibility that they may grow up to be obese and make poor eating choices.

Also check, Screen time and eye health concern

6. Stop using junk as a bribe:

Stop using junk food as a bribe, if you want your kid to do some chores. This will inculcate a mindset where the kid will think that he needs to act good to get what he wanted and will have a very unhealthy relationship with the food. Kids shouldn’t associate good behaviour with eating calorie-dense, unhealthy meals.

7. Keep your kids hydrated:

Your toddler may occasionally be motivated to get a snack solely out of boredom rather than actual hunger. Many times, giving them a glass of water during snack time will be sufficient to satisfy their appetite.

8. Go on shopping together:

Taking your children shopping and teaching them how to read labels and choose nutritious and healthy eating food helps to introduce healthy eating food habits in them at a young age. They will be able to discriminate between what is healthy and what is bad for their health, and these children will grow up to be mindful eaters.

Also check, Foods for healthy body and hair

9. Become creative:

Limiting or cutting down on junk can initially upset the kids. Therefore, to make up for it, be creative in how you give wholesome snacks and meals. Give them fruits and veggies cut in different shapes or make a cartoon out of it. Decorate it with some honey, dry fruits, cream or cheese to make it look more appetizing.

10. Start practising a healthy lifestyle

Just as much as they require a balanced diet, growing children also require the recommended amounts of sleep. Poor sleep directly influences food choices because it disrupts the rhythm of the hormones ghrelin and leptin, which can decrease appetite. Similarly, sitting idle can cause them to develop food cravings. Therefore, instead of allowing your children to play video games, set out some time in your schedule to take them outside to play.

Also check, Food recipes for 1 year old

Healthy fOODS that Provide daily nutrition for KIDS

1.Bitter gourd:

Bitter gourd is a rich source of vitamins and minerals. It contains iron, magnesium, potassium and vitamins like A and C. It contains twice the calcium of spinach and beta-carotene of broccoli. Various antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds are present in bitter gourd.

2.Sprouted black chana:

Sprouts are low in calories and rich in fiber, enzymes, protein and other micronutrients. Black Chana contains a wide range of phytochemicals including carbohydrates, amino acids, proteins, flavonoids, iron, phosphate, chloride etc

3.Beetroot:

Beetroots are rich in B vitamins, iron, manganese, copper, magnesium, potassium and also contain betalains (a class of antioxidants), that helps in reducing free radicals and inflammation in the body. It helps in proper digestion, boosts immunity and improves blood circulation.

4.Giloy:

It is a shrub and an essential herb in ayurvedic medicines. Giloy is used to treat a wide range of health conditions. It contains important plant compounds like terpenoids, alkaloids, lignans, and steroids. Research shows that these compounds have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antidiabetic properties which not only helps in boosting immunity, but Giloy stem can also help improve digestion, reduce constipation, acidity, gas and bloating. It works well for people with a weak digestive system.

5.Shallaki:

Shallaki is rich in carbohydrates and calcium, thus helping in bone growth and improves appetite. It also has strong anti-inflammatory properties which help to fight against inflammatory disorders of the digestive tract. Shallaki has cooling, healing, rejuvenating properties and blood purifying properties.

6.Sendha namak:

Sendha namak is higher in minerals than table salt. Also known as rock salt, it is unrefined salt. The magnesium and potassium present in rock salt help balance the sodium levels to maintain the body’s natural mineral proportion. Rock salt also contains iodine naturally

7.Sprouted moth bean:

It has highly nutritional content.  Rich source of protein, carbohydrates, calcium, Iron, potassium, Magnesium and B vitamins; it should be a part of your daily diet plan. Soaked and sprouted increases its nutritional value and makes it more digestible.

8.Black pepper:

Black pepper is an outstanding source of vitamin K and manganese. Studies show that it is also rich in calcium, Iron, zinc, Copper, Chromium and dietary fiber. Apart from this it contains many health promoting components such as flavonoids, terpenes, tannins and alkaloids.

9.Rice protein:

Rice protein is protein that has been taken from rice. Provides the body with nutrients called amino acids. It helps in muscle strength and muscle soreness and is good for skin and hairs too.

10.Tapioca starch:

Tapioca is a delicious starch extract derived from the cassava plant. High in dietary fiber tapioca helps in digestion and constipation. Fiber bulks up the stool, which may help move it through the digestive tract, thereby eliminating constipation, bloating, and intestinal pain. It is also rich in protein, calcium iron and vitamin K, all of these supports the overall growth of kids.

11.FOS:

Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) are composed of short fructose chains. They are a type of carbohydrate called oligosaccharides. FOS occurs naturally in many plants. They are prebiotic fibers that support the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. FOS is a good source of soluble dietary fiber and has been shown to reduce, or eliminate constipation.


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Eating Disorders in children

eating disorders

Is your kid a picky eater who consumes only specific foods? Or, have you noticed that they are eating less portions of food every day? Then there is a chance that this problem could progress into a severe eating disorder. Many times, eating disorders go undiagnosed by parents because they believe that their child’s eating habits can be changed as they grow. However, they are unaware of the growing concern about eating disorders in children and teens, which can lead to both physical and mental illnesses. 

Therefore, it is crucial for parents who deal with young children to recognise the indicators of eating disorders because the prevalence of these diseases among young girls and boys under the age of 12 has been rising recently. Continue reading to know simple yet effective tips to overcome eating disorders in children.

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What is an Eating Disorder?

It is a condition caused due to unhealthy eating habits of children which gets manifested into a serious problem and affects the health, mind and body of the child. Eating disorders are more emotional and mental problems than physical ones. There are several types of eating disorder which includes Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge eating, AFRID (avoidant restrictive food intake disorder), pica etc.

Types of Eating disorders:

Anorexia Nervosa:

Children with this condition are more prone to malnutrition as they avoid intake of calorie-rich or nutritious food. They consume only a small quantity which won’t even be sufficient to meet the daily requirement. These kids mostly avoid food because of their consciousness about their body image and other weight-related problems.

Also, check Foods that provide Daily Nutrition for Kids

Bulimia Nervosa:

It is the condition wherein the children will consume a larger portion of food in one sitting or overeat and then purge through vomiting, laxatives or other means because of the fear of weight gain. This is mainly due to the negative perception of their bodies feeling guilty about eating more and gaining weight.

Also, check Foods for healthy weight gain in kids

Binge eating:

This condition is the opposite of anorexia where the children intake more calories than required or indulge in overeating. It occurs more commonly with kids who are more distracted while eating so that they don’t know how much or how fast they eat leading to binging or overeating food which can eventually lead to obesity and other ailments like heart problems, hypertension, diabetes etc when they grow up.

AFRID (avoidant restrictive food intake disorder):

As the name suggests, it is the condition wherein children have avoidant or restrictive behaviour towards eating. They will be pickier toward certain kinds of food based on their flavour, texture, taste or other sensory properties.

Pica:

It is a type of eating disorder where the children used to chew items that are not non- food or don’t have any nutritive value like chalk, hair, clay, soil etc. This habit then develops into a coping mechanism both emotionally and psychologically.

Also, check Iron Rich foods for kids

Eating Disorders: causes

Most eating disorders are concerned with body image, and emotional and psychological problems. Usually, pre-teens and teenagers have these conditions due to the influence of society, peer pressure, and media standards that make them think that being skinny is more attractive than being healthy. Children suffering from emotional and mental issues usually use these as a coping mechanism for their problems and to keep everything under control and perfect.

The other spectrum of the line shows that there is an increase in the obesity rate from 5 to 18 per cent among children and teenagers as per IOTF (International Obesity Taskforce). Both eating disorders and obesity go hand in hand as obesity can lead to various lifestyle disorders or metabolic disorders like hypertension, Cardiovascular disorder (CVD), diabetes etc.

This is due to unhealthy lifestyles:

Symptoms:

These children have both physical and mental conditions:

Physical Symptoms include:

  • Weight gain/ Weight Loss
  •  Hair loss
  •  Change in blood pressure
  •  Dropping of heart rate
  •  Heart-related ailments
  •  Loss of stamina
  •  Feeling tired and Fatigued
  • Extreme Dieting or Extreme Exercising
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Lack of oxygen leads to bluish discolouration
  • Dizziness and Insomnia
  • Delay in puberty
  • Irregular Menstrual cycle

Mental health symptoms include:

  • Anxiety disorder
  • Mood Disorder/ mood Swings
  • Unable to cope with emotions / Perfectionism/ Wanting to have everything under their control
  • Low self-esteem
  • Depressions
  • Withdrawal from social situations
Certain tips to prevent eating disorders:
  • Encourage eating wholesome food and include all varieties of food in the diet.
  • Eating healthy and nutritious meals helps the children to have a sound mind and body.
  • Since most of the time eating disorder is related to emotional well-being, it is good to have an open discussion about the child’s feelings and emotions and the home is a better place to voice out their opinions. This prevents them from suppressing their emotions.
  • Have a body-positive attitude and avoid comparing kids with others in terms of their body, grades or anything and teach them to accept that every shape and every size is beautiful.
  • Create awareness among children and teens about the importance of a healthy and nutritious diet as this is the age where their physical and mental ability develops.
  •  Have a healthy lifestyle and avoid junk foods.
  • These eating disorders can hinder the puberty and menstruation cycle of girls. So, care should be taken in the food intake and nutrition of Pre-teen and teenage girls.
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HEALTHY EATING FOR CHILDREN

Kid’s meal in a day

Which are the good foods for children’s health? How much calories are needed per day for a child? How can parents ensure healthy eating for children? These are questions that every parent faces in day to day life. Providing all the basic nutrients to their kids in the right quantity is what every parent is thriving for. With a rising childhood obesity rate, parents are often worried that they are over feeding their kid. On the other hand, being underweight is also a major concern for parents.(Nutritious foods for weight gain) Kids of different ages need different amounts of calories in a day depending on their existing weight and activity levels. 

How much calories are needed per day for a BOY?
AgeNot ActiveSomewhat ActiveVery Active
2-3 years1,000-1,200 calories1,000-1,400 calories1,000-1,400 calories
4-8 years1,200-1,400 calories1,400-1,600 calories1,600-2,000 calories
9-13 years1,600-2,000 calories1,800-2,200 calories2,000-2,600 calories
14-18 years2,000-2,400 calories2,400-2,800 calories2,800-3,200 calories
Daily calorie requirement for boys
How much calories are needed per day for a GIRL?
AgeNot ActiveSomewhat ActiveVery Active
2-3 years1,000 calories1,000-1,200 calories1,000-1,400 calories
4-8 years1,200-1,400 calories1,400-1,600 calories1,400-1,800 calories
9-13 years1,400-1,600 calories1,600-2,000 calories1,800-2,200 calories
14-18 years1,800 calories2,000 calories2,400 calories
Daily calorie requirement for girls

Source: Parent Tips: Calories Needed Each Day (nih.gov)

What comprises nutritious food for children?

Choosing the right amount of calories, fulfilling children’s daily nutritional requirements and planning their meals to make it tasty yet healthy is a herculean task for parents. A healthy or balanced meal is one comprising all the three food groups: proteins, carbohydrates and fats along with micro nutrients such as vitamins (vitamin A, B, C, D, E,K), minerals (calcium, zinc, iodine), fiber and water in the right quantity. Studies suggest that children who eat a balanced diet are healthy, lead an active lifestyle and have lower chances of developing any health issues at a later age. (Why is balanced diet important for kids?)

Importance of Nutritious Food for Children

It is the parent’s responsibility to provide nutritious food for children according to the kid’s age, gender and activity levels. Nutrients that we obtain from food have significant effects on our kid’s physical and mental growth and development, maintenance of normal body function, physical activity and overall health. Requirements of essential nutrients vary with age, gender, physiological status and activity. Carbohydrates, fats and proteins are macro-nutrients which are needed in larger quantities whereas vitamins and minerals are needed in smaller amounts. Children, in particular, need healthy meals to complement their growing bodies and that is why it is essential to promote healthy eating for children. (Nutrition for kids)

What problems the kid might face due to lack of proper nutrition in their diet?

Nutritional deficiency is a major factor contributing to various diseases like obesity, iron deficiency, weak vision, hair fall, dry skin etc. In school-children, proper nutrition becomes more important to prevent them from falling sick regularly which affects their learning capabilities. Few nutritional problems faced by school going children are obesity, eating disorders, low immunity, dental problems and anemia.

Healthy eating for children:

With all the information about the importance of a balanced and healthy diet, the next question that comes to a parent’s mind is what are the good food for children’s health, how can they provide all these nutrients to their children, how many meals should they have and what all to include in their meal so that it is appealing to kids and healthy at the same time. (How can you provide nutrition to kids in their preferred food formats?) A child’s daily calorie intake depends on the kid’s age, current weight & activity levels. Four meals a day with a gap of three hours is advisable for kids as well as adults.

Planning the meals:

Depending on their recommended daily calorie intake, parents can plan each meal with a proper amount of nutrients and calories. For example, if a kid’s daily calorie need is fifteen hundred calories, then he/she can have four meals, each meal approximately comprising three hundred calories. Some important points to remember while preparing your kid’s meal are: choose a variety of foods depending on their age, gender, physiological status and physical activities combining whole grains, beans/ lentils and greens in appropriate amounts, prefer fresh & locally available fruits and vegetables and encourage mindful eating for kids, which means that they understand what they are eating and for which purpose. This understanding in kids at a young age goes a long way in making better food choices for themselves thereby ensuring healthy eating for children.

What are the food sources for various food groups?

Carbohydrates: 

Carbohydrates are also known as energy giving foods. It means, they are one of the three main ways from which the body obtains energy or calories. Foods rich in carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet. It provides glucose, which is converted to energy and further used in body functioning and physical activities. Carbohydrates are found as both simple and complex carbs. Food sources such as fruits, milk and milk products are quick sources of energy called simple carbs. This can also include refined or processed sugar or syrups or soft drinks or other processed and packed foods. Vegetables, whole grains are types of complex carbs which take longer to digest and breakdown into energy. And thus support healthy weight by keeping the body full for longer due to high fiber content (What are some healthy weight gain foods?)

Proteins: 

Protein acts as building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood and ensures healthy eating for children. It is made up of a chemical called amino acids. Amino acids are necessary to make protein in the body. Consuming a variety of food results in higher chances of eating all 20 amino acids required to build proteins. If there is a shortage of amino acids required, the body stops making protein. The bulk of food consumed is then stored as fat in the body causing weight gain. Proteins are necessary to build and repair muscles and bones and to make hormones and enzymes. Protein group includes all meat, poultry, seafood, beans, peas, eggs, soy products, nuts and seeds. (What are some easy protein sources?)

Fats: 

Fats are a concentrated source of energy and are made of fatty acids in different proportions. It also promote the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E, K. Nuts & seeds, vegetable and nut oils, ghee, butter are sources of fats. Liver helps to breakdown fat in the body. Excess fat intake can put extra pressure on the liver resulting in likely damage. Also, any additional fat not used in the body is stored in the cells for later use at specific fat reserves (hips, thighs, upper arms, and tummy) in the body. Body needs fat for energy, producing hormones, keeping the body warm and protecting it against infection. Moreover, Fat is extremely important for the brain also.

There are two types of Fats- saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and found mostly in dairy products, animal products and processed/ packaged foods in high quantities. Whereas unsaturated fat is the good fat found in plant sources (except also in fish) like avocado, olive, nuts & seeds, fish (sardines, salmon). This fat is mostly liquid at room temp. While choosing a food, keep the saturated fat as low as possible. (Which fat is good for the body?)

Vitamins and minerals: 

Also known as  protective foods, Vitamins and minerals help to remove deficiencies, build bones, heal wounds, fight diseases and support strong immune systems.

Therefore, vitamins are important for various processes and maintenance of the structure of skin, bone, nerves, eye, brain, blood. And there are water-soluble or fat-soluble vitamins. Leafy vegetables, animal products, nuts & seeds, vegetable oils, dairy foods are rich in fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, E and K ). Whereas nuts & seeds, fruits, vegetables, grains, milk and dairy foods are high in water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C, the B vitamins). (What foods have which vitamins?)

Minerals include calcium, iron, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, chloride and sulphur are found in nuts, seeds, shellfish, chicken, eggs, beans, cocoa, avocados, berries, yogurt and cheese. (What are some vitamins and minerals for bones?)


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oats cake
  • 1 cup oats flour (grind oats to make flour)
  • ½ cup milk (or nut milk)
  • 2 tbsp Iyurved’s 7 nuts and 5 herbs savoury spread (order here) or 2 tbsp Ghee
  • 2 eggs beaten or flax-egg (2 tbsp flax seed powder mixed with 12 tbsp warm water. Leave for 5 minutes to make lumpy paste)
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup jaggery or coconut sugar (as per taste)
  • ½ tsp vanila essence (optional)
  • ¼ tsp salt (epsom salt preferred)

Mix all with hand and pour in a lined pan. Preheat at 200 celsius for 5 min. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Let it cool outside. Serve.


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