Family & Wellness Links


Getting kids to love healthy eating

How children can quit worrying about the "yuck" factor of what's good for them--and love it, too.

By Denise Roco

APRIL 2012

As a parent who was once a picky eater, karma slapped me when I had my son, as it was a literal chase to feed my toddler. He would hide or spit out his fish and veggies in the toilet when I thought he was in the bathroom to pee. One time, I thought leaving him alone at the table until he finished his Hawaiian pizza would do the trick. Two months later, we found rubberized pineapple chunks hidden in the sala!

Setting an example

Mealtime battles are won when discipline is reinforced. A little compromise works, such as letting the child choose between two options for a meal, or letting the child choose breakfast but having the child agree to eat whatever is served for the rest of the day. This helps in making them more flexible about eating new things.

Chef and educator Mona Lisa Neuboeck elaborates, “It’s normal for your child to have cravings for certain foods. Cravings can be categorized into two types: 'emotional' and 'physical.' The most common foods that kids crave are either sweet or salty. Since only humans along with some apes are the only beings able to physically taste the flavor ‘sweet,' it is safe to say that our sweet tooth was put there by nature for us to enjoy a large variety of sweet fruits.”

“Cravings for bad foods are symptoms of nutritional deficiencies. But since the body doesn't know any better in terms of superior food sources [for] specific nutrients, it will crave the closest thing to what it thinks it needs—chocolate bars or potato chips! However, some cravings may be due to unmet emotional needs. A craving for chocolate could indicate a need for stimulation to overcome boredom or distract from the feeling of love- or attention-deprivation. Anger is another emotion that can trigger food cravings in children and adults. Some psychologists say that anger can result in cravings for salty and crunchy foods,” says Neuboeck, a certified raw food chef and vegan raw food expert.

Starting right

Dr. Cotoco-Chu continues, “Good eating habits start at the time semi-solids are first introduced at around four to six months of age. First foods to be introduced should be plain rice cereals and vegetables that are steamed or boiled with no added condiments.

Anything sweet should be avoided during this stage.” She recommends the following:

• Encourage young children to eat with the entire family sitting down at the table.

• Discourage running around, watching TV and playing during meal times.

• If a child refuses to try a new kind of dish, it should be re-introduced at another time, or paired with their favorite foods to pique their interest.

• Never force children to eat.

• Avoid scolding during meal times so that they won't lose their appetite. Meal times should be a pleasant experience.

Nowadays, kids are eating too much of the wrong food and too little of the right food. Healthy eating should start as early as the child’s first meal. Food is not just for physical sustenance. For better or for worse, every bite makes a difference in a child’s well being.

For more on teaching your kids to eat right, grab a copy of the April issue of HealthToday from major bookstores and newsstands.

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