During the recently ended holiday season, I went to a party and curiously watched as these two little girls pointedly avoided the high sugar and high fat snack table that most of us were making a beeline for. Instead, they headed for their mother’s salad plate, whenever they needed to snack. It was loaded with slices of apple, cucumber and carrots, and sipped on water and fresh juice instead of soda.
One in 24 Kenyan children is diabetic. In an article on allafrica.com, obesity and physical inactivity has increased type 2 diabetes prevalence in Kenyan children, pediatricians say. “The majority of diabetes cases are a result of mothers leading unhealthy lifestyles during pregnancy and passing the same habits to their children after birth,” says Dr. Paul Laigong of Gertrude’s Garden Children’s Hospital.
By the time, your child is a toddler they have shaped their eating likes and dislikes, which they will carry to adulthood.
We all wish our children would gobble up their vegetables with as much relish as they wolf down that pizza and ice cream.
Here are five easy steps you can follow to teach your children to eat healthy early.
Healthy eating begins with you
The saying goes; you are what you eat. I say, your children are what you eat. Children learn from example and that example is mom and dad. What and how you eat is what your children will model. Your bad eating habits, will be taken up by your children. So start by changing your eating habits, before you can teach your children.
Stock your home with healthy food
Children are constantly hungry and always need a quick snack fix. You will be wise to constantly stock your home with healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts, muesli bars, sweet vegetables like carrots and white meat for sandwiches, among others. Your children will tend to eat what is available and with time, they will love these healthy snacks.
Get your children involved
Young children love to do things with their parents. You may want to take your children with you to the local vegetable grocery store and let them select the vegetables they like. Involve them in planning the meals and where possible in preparing the meal.
Make food fun
Just because your children have to eat five servings of food and vegetables a day does not mean it must be dull. Toddlers especially require a lot of protein, so make them smoothies. Jazz up fresh juices by making fruit cocktails. Cut up the fruit in interesting shapes and serve it. Make a vegetarian or white meat pizza at home. Make a cucumber and carrot salad and add some lemon or vinegar. Children love that sweet and sour taste. Try adding dried fruit such as figs and raisins to rice.
Meet their specific diet needs
Toddlers have different dietary needs from young children and teens. Attend a nutrition class or buy a nutrition books to ensure you are meeting your child’s specific dietary needs.
Learn to cook
There is nothing more wholesome than a home cooked meal. Take a cooking class if you must. Remember you will also save money, as eating out is much more expensive, than eating at home.
Every journey begins with a first step. Remember that healthful meals are healthy children.