By Shishir Rao
A child’s health is of paramount importance to any parent for obvious reasons; a healthy child is a happy child, irrespective of age. The focus then, is on providing proper nutrition to a child, which becomes difficult in this day and age where a myriad of advertisements are trying to lure them towards various kinds of junk foods. However, as parents we realize that a healthy diet is important for the child to have the right amount of energy for daily tasks (in fact we don’t even mind a little excess energy). Besides, a healthy diet also ensures that a child has a sharp mind and a strong body. With this in mind, here are a few health and nutrition tips so that your child remains in the peak of good health:
• Eat at home: Dining out has become a fad in recent times and, though we are well aware of its harms, we continue to do so. However, the impact of outside food, which contains a higher amount of fats, cholesterol, salts and lesser essential nutrients, is doubly harmful for children, since their internal organs are still young and developing. The biggest advantage of eating at home, (by which we automatically mean cooking at home), is that you can cook healthy food recipes that encompass all nutritional components like vitamins, minerals, fibers, proteins and carbohydrates. This is not only beneficial for a child’s health, but for the entire family’s health as well. Besides, it’s also a handy way to inculcate a good habit in your child.
• Limit packaged foods: While discussing cooking at home, it perhaps also makes sense to point out that packaged foods tend to have a higher amount of sodium, which is basically in the form of extra salts and preservatives. Sodium is known to have many detrimental effects on the health, due to which it is considered wise to limit its use. Fresh foods, on the other hand, have a higher proportion of nutrients (since nutrients have been shown to degrade with time); thus, try using fresh products as often as possible in your meals.
• Take your child shopping: Taking a child shopping is a good idea since most children love to take trips to the grocery store. However, it also proves a good way to help the child differentiate one product from another based on its nutritional attributes, rather than the price tag attached to it. Inculcating this practice in a child is going to prove beneficial in the long run as well, since he or she will now be empowered to make the right choices while shopping for groceries in the future.
• Substitute unhealthy foods while eating out: Though we chide junk food, we need to accept that a child is bound to crave for it every now and again, and a complete ban on it will only serve to frustrate your child to an extent that he’ll end up finding other ways to get it. They key then is to try and substitute unhealthy parts of a meal with those that are slightly more nutritious. For example, you could replace deep fried French fries with baked fries, or creamy pastries with muffins and bagels.
• Slide in the veggies innocuously: We know for a fact that most children don’t like eating vegetables, but we still need to somehow make them eat the vitamin and mineral rich greens. The solution is to disguise the vegetables with other foods like salads that incorporate meat and/or cheese and other dairy products. Alternatively, veggies can be served as decorated snacks, like a whole grain cereal topped with veggies in certain designs and shapes. They key is to make the process of eating vegetables fun; eventually, the child will automatically start enjoying eating greens.
• Limit fizzy drinks: Fizzy drinks like sodas contain a lot of sugar, which are essentially empty calories that contain very little nutritional value. Besides, recent researches have also shown that sodas may be responsible for bringing about depression in children. Though we scarcely ever consider depression to be a serious problem in kids, this brings about many social and emotional issues for them, which interferes with the growing up process.
• Regular meal timings: Having regular meal timings, such that the entire family sits together and eats, is another good practice you must develop. This is because regular timings help a child’s body get accustomed to a timetable, which improves metabolic functioning and consequently increases the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Furthermore, meals with the family results in time being spent over the food, which is another requirement for good digestion of food.
• Introduce new foods one at a time: While children quite enjoy trying out new things, this somehow doesn’t seem to stand true for food. Children often show a dogged resistance to any new food that is introduced to them. To dodge this little issue, you should introduce only one food at a time, and in such a way that the other items on the child’s palette are the ones he likes. It’s worth noting that this is important to do, since if a child does not try out new foods while growing up, he may end up having an aversion to them even in his adult years.
• Give children unsalted nuts: Salt is a major source of sodium, while nuts provide children with numerous essential vitamins, minerals, proteins and omega-3 fatty acids, thus presenting parents with a dilemma whether or not to give their children nuts. However, unsalted roasted nuts too are available in the market and should be considered as alternatives. Similarly, potato chips and pretzels too contain a high amount of salt, due to which it’s best to try and make your child limit his intake of them.
Bear in mind that these are just a few tips to help maintain your child’s health, and while these will go a long way in helping you achieve it, they are not to be counted as a substitute for healthy food recipes or regular physical activity. However, a combination of these three factors will definitely ensure better physical and mental health for your child, and consequently raise the level of your family’s overall happiness.
– Shishir Rao is a web writer who writes on a variety of topics ranging from health to technology. He uses the web as his preferred tool of information dissemination owing to its reach and easy to confirm credibility.