Instilling Good Eating Habits In Children From Birth To Teen Years

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Teaching and encouraging a child to eat well has become more of a challenge as distractions are keeping kids from eating the right way. According to a new research involving more than 50,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18, it was found that teens who spent five or more hours on their phones or tablets are more likely to consume unhealthy food than those who spent less than two hours a day on their gadgets. The study also revealed that those who spent a lot of time on their devices ate fewer veggies and fruits than their peers who spend less time on their phones.

Though too much screen time has been linked to unhealthy behavior such as bingeing and distracted eating, some children also learn bad eating habits from parents or guardians at an early age. This is why parents should make it a point to instill good eating habits in their children from birth, and continue to do so until they're in their teen years. Here's how to guide your child to eat the right way for their health and wellbeing.

Eat together

Most babies are ready to eat solid food at 6 months, so once your child hits this milestone, make sure to include them at meals, and make it a habit to eat together at the dining table. Mealtimes can give young kids an opportunity to develop good eating behavior and learn about food variety. While they can't contribute much to the conversation, babies can certainly learn about social interaction by observing family members at the table. Also, have a set time for meals since routine can help children know what to expect and what to do when it's time for meals and snacks. 

Increase positive exposure to healthy food

From the preschool years and onwards, most children will have strong opinions about the foods they like, and this creates challenges for parents when planning healthy meals for everyone. According to research, picky eating is a consistent trait throughout ages 4 to 9, and this may result in malnutrition in kids. Forcing your child to take a bite isn't the best way for them to try new food since the pressure to try new things may cause them distress, and later on, they may have a negative association with certain foods. Instead of pressuring them, you can increase positive exposure by letting them tag along when you're shopping for food at the grocery or market, or letting them pick fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden.

Consider allowing them to help with meal planning and preparation so they'll feel like they're in control of the food that they consume. You can also let them decide what food to pack for lunch at school. Make their packed lunch look interesting by artfully arranging their food in pretty bento boxes, and include healthy eats one at a time.

Enforce a no gadget rule during mealtimes

Preteens and teenagers are more likely to be distracted by their phones and gadgets than their younger siblings while they're eating, so enforce a no gadget rule during mealtimes. Adults should abide by this rule too, so parents, guardians, and relatives should also put their phones away before heading to the table. Resist the urge to turn on the TV, and initiate positive and cheerful conversation at the table to strengthen your bonds as a family, and to prevent distractions from messing with your teen or preteen's eating habits.

Having good eating habits can lead to a healthy mind and body. Teach your children to eat the right way as early as possible, and continue guiding them throughout their teens to ensure their overall wellbeing.

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