How To Encourage Healthy Eating In Young Children

A healthy and balanced diet is essential for the health and wellbeing of our minds and bodies, and this is no truer than in the case of young children. The foods young children consume don’t just have a direct effect on the heath of their bodies, but also on their developmental growth. With access to the right types of food – and an education about food groups and the importance of nutrition – a child will have increased cognitive function and perform better academically.

To encourage a child to not only eat healthy foods but to appreciate them, too, you must first understand the importance of good nutrition and how it aids physical and emotional wellbeing. Then, by relaying this information to your child as he or she grows up, you can be sure that they will continue to make good choices around nutrition as they grow up, and in turn will fulfill their best potential.

Give your child the best start in life by teaching them about good nutrition.

child with a bowl of raspberries

Why is nutrition is so important in early child care?

  • Aids cognitive function

When children are young they are incredibly influenced by the world around them. It is in a human’s earliest years when their brain development is at its most rapid, and so is a time when it is vital that humans are fed the right nutrients that will aid their cognitive development.

“Brain boosting” foods are so named because they can increase brain function such as concentration and memory. They include: wholegrains, salmon, colourful vegetables, oats, berries, eggs, beans and milk. Children should be served a portion of vegetables, protein, dairy and grain in every meal to promote developmental growth.

  • Aids physical and emotional wellbeing

There are certain foods that a child should be fed from the moment they are born to keep them strong and healthy. For babies, this involves special formulated food that is packed full of nutrients to develop their growth, and for toddlers this involves foods to promote keep them strong and healthy, and aid the their emotional wellbeing and physical ability.

  • Aids academic performance

When a child is fed good, nutritious foods, they are more able to concentrate, retain information and perform better in academic situations. This is crucial when a child goes to school, because if they are fed hearty and nutritious meals they will stay fuller for longer and be more alert during classes, meaning they will get the most out of their education (and less likely to get distracted and cause trouble).

How to promote healthy eating in young children: 5 top tips

  1. Educate them

The key to promoting healthy eating in young children is to educate them about food groups; what foods are good for their bodies and what foods aren’t; and where foods come from.

To really engage your child about the source of the foods they eat, skip the trip to the local supermarket and take them to a farmer’s market where they can learn about fresh produce and interact with the place where it is grown.

It is also a good idea to enroll them in an early years day care centre that has a child care food program where they can learn how to grow their own foods and how to prep it for their meals.

2. Encourage healthy eating habits

Children don’t miss what they never had, so from the moment they start to understand about taste and flavours, you should endeavour to only feed them healthy and nutritious foods.

If your child is hungry and you only have healthy foods and snacks in your cupboards, they won’t turn them down. Good snacks options include whole grain crackers, carrot sticks, sliced apple and raisins.

3. Get them involved in meal planning and prepping

To really spark an interest and and awareness in different foods and how they can be cooked together to create new flavours, involve them in the kitchen. You can sit down with them before you go food shopping and talk them through the different foods you are going to buy, and why. Then, when have all of your ingredients you could ask them to help you meal prep. (This is dependent on age, as some things aren’t appropriate for very small children, but you can get them to help you measure out ingredients and mix things together in a bowl.) By understanding how cooking works they will become more invested in the foods they are eating and more likely to adopt better eating habits.

4. Get creative

To keep children interested in anything for long periods of time, you need to come up with inventive ways of doing things. For example, if your child is bored of eating sliced apple or banana and is wanting something else to eat, you could get them to help you blend together their apple and banana – or whatever fruits and vegetables they like – to make a smoothie drink. This will keep them engaged and excited to eat their fruits and vegetables.

5. Be a role model

The key to ensuring your child adopts healthy eating habits that aids their developmental growth is to practise what you preach. If your child sees you tucking into a large cheese pizza, or order burger and chips in a restaurant, they will think that it’s acceptable, and will want to do the same. Children are more perceptive than you think, and if you are doing something, they will think they can too.

Instead, you should lead by example and eat what your child eats – or a more adult version of it. This way, you and your children can lead healthier lives together.

Conclusion

Not only will a diet full of colourful foods and hearty proteins benefit a child’s physical growth, it will also aid their emotional wellbeing and cognitive function. In order to give your child the best start in life, be sure to educate them about different foods and where they come from, expose them to healthy snacks and lead by example.

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