Instill healthy eating habits in your child


By Amal Al-Sibai
Saudi Gazette Young children who have healthy eating habits have a healthier lifestyle when they become adults. Instilling healthy eating habits in children is becoming difficult for mothers, and for working mothers it is becoming all the more challenging.
A recent study in Jeddah revealed that mothers are facing difficulty in providing their children with adequate nutrition as they have minimal control over what and how much their children are eating.
Most children are extremely skilled at convincing their nanny or baby-sitter to serve them food they like when their mother is away, regardless of its nutritional value.
Factors that have led to the deterioration of children’s nutrition in the Kingdom are prolonged absence of the mother from home, influence of older siblings or peers, and lack of care and attention from the baby-sitter.
The sight of those tasty, tempting fast food advertisements on TV and bill boards also lure children toward them.
A hungry child will always opt for a bag of chips, a packet of wafers or chocolates, instead of a juicy, nutritious apple or a home-made healthy snack, and mothers or nannies easily oblige to their demands to get them off their back if they are disturbing them. These unhealthy eating habits lead to weight gain and dental problems.
Most of us generally adore chubby babies with pink, round cheeks and assume they are healthy, which is a misconception according to Dr. Saad Al-Sa’di, pediatrician at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Jeddah. He said, “The most important factor in childhood nutrition is the quality of food consumed, and not the quantity.
“Babies and toddlers who are chubby and weigh more are not necessarily healthier than thin babies of equal age who weigh less. I have examined many young children who look healthy, have adequate weights, yet laboratory tests show that they have nutritional deficiencies. It is highly common for children in the Kingdom to have low levels of vitamin D, vitamin A, iodine, and zinc. Mothers should closely watch their children’s nutrition to make sure they are getting enough of those important vitamins and minerals.”
The best source of vitamin D is sunshine, so young children should be exposed to direct sunlight for about 20 minutes a day. Good sources of vitamin A include carrots, leafy greens, yellow fruits and vegetables, eggs, milk, and dairy products. Iodine is found in kelp, seafood, onions, and iodized salt, and zinc is found in meat, seafood, pumpkin seeds, whole grains, and eggs.
“When a young child has more than one caregiver, he/she may become confused over healthy eating practices and lifestyle patterns. The mother can help by setting some ground rules and explicitly explaining the nanny which foods are to be avoided or minimized. With persistence and starting from a very young age, children will gradually develop good eating and lifestyle habits (such as drinking milk instead of soda and exercising). Parents should keep in mind that obesity in childhood is directly related to obesity in adulthood which increases the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and painful joints,” said Dr. Sa’di.
Mothers should strictly follow their children’s diet plan regardless of the fact they are working or not because once these unhealthy eating habits become a part of a person’s lifestyle, it becomes very difficult to overcome them and move toward a nutritious diet. To encourage children to eat healthy a few good options are – Make a wide variety of healthful foods available in the house.

n Encourage your children to eat slowly. A child can detect hunger and fullness better when eating slowly.

n Eat meals together as a family as often as possible and try to make mealtimes beautiful with pleasant conversations.

n Involve your children in food shopping and preparing meals. These activities will give you hints about your children’s food preferences, an opportunity to teach your children about nutrition, and provide your kids with a feeling of accomplishment. In addition, children may be more willing to eat foods that they help prepare.

n Avoid excessive intake of food which have fats in them.

n Reward them with their favorite chocolate or beverage if they finish their vegetables and clean their plate.

n Give them a healthy lunch, of their choice, as it will stop them from going to the school canteen.


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