How to make your child eat healthy foods

Why Nutrition is important for a child ?

Let’s discuss about how to make a child love eating healthy options. How can I make my child healthy, that’s often a question I see most of the mums asking each other. There is no perfect answer to it, as everything gets customized from one child to another child. The necessity of healthy foods and healthy lifestyle for children is aimed at :

  • A much better gut health and digestive system
  • Better Brain development
  • Physical activity
  • Appropriate body weight (ditching obesity)
  • Better bone and muscle strength
  • Enhanced Immunity

With these goals in mind, at times we focus too much on the vegetable part without running through the basics, which derails our strategies. Kids need the same nutrients as what we adults need, just the quantum of nutrients varies with age.

Being a first time mum, even I made a lots of mistakes. It was me, who resorted to videos to make my child finish his food. And I felt won when the plate was empty. I hardly heard his hunger cues and went by the fixed schedule.

No, It was allowing kids to understand their hunger intuition, having healthy foods around and family lunches and dinners. When all sit together to have the same food, the outcome is really different. My so conceived “Parenting win” was actually a big fail, but I rectified it soon!

What are the nutritional needs of a child?

There are 5 basic food groups that a child needs to incorporate in their daily diet which are Proteins, Carbohydrates, Vegetables, Dairy Products and Fruits. Yes, that’s all what children needs to fulfil their dietary requirements. And when we come to nutrients, then here is what we need to help kids with :

  • Calcium : For strong bones and teeth, for blood clotting : Milk, Cheese, Yogurts, Tofu, Almonds, mixed seeds (Sesame, Chia, Flax seeds) , Quinoa, Beans, Spinach
  • Iron : Must for Healthy Blood : Iron fortified cereals, Whole grains, Beans, Nuts, Beetroot, Spinach, broccoli, Brown Rice
  • Vitamin A & C : For skin, eyes, immunity : Carrots, Spinach, All Vegetables, Citrus fruits, Tomatoes, Papaya
  • Vitamin B (including Folates) : Must for overall growth and development of a child : whole grain cereals, beans (Kidney, Soya, black), Lentils, Green leafy vegetables, Broccoli, beetroot, citrus fruits (oranges, lemons), Nuts, seeds , avocados, Banana
  • Vitamin D : Must to absorb calcium and for bone strength and growth : Vitamin D is naturally found in very less foods, the best way is to promote kids to play in sunshine to help them have that daily dose(Prevent excessive heat). Opt for Vitamin D fortified foods, Mushrooms, Cheese being a vegetarian. 
  • Fats : A great source of energy for kids (never rule out healthy fats) : Olives, Nuts, avocados, Olive oil (Extra Virgin) and Coconut oil, Chia seeds (have Omega -3 for cognitive development), Coconuts, Yogurt.
  • Dietary Fibre : For maintaining bowel health, healthy weight, and controlled cholesterol : Nuts and seeds, Whole grains, Beans, Legumes, more of raw fruits, berries (compared to juices) and Vegetables, Oatmeal.
  • Zinc : For development of brain, immune system : Legumes, Nuts, beans, seeds, Whole grains, Dairy products

How to make child love healthy foods?

Knowing this there are many reservations when it comes to kids eating healthy . As in, 

*Be whatsoever, my child doesn’t eats vegetables

*My child loves his french fries, biscuits and there remains no space left for fruits and vegetables

*My child loves his milk and intakes 4-5 glasses a day, which leaves less scope for other things

These are all very common questions and most of the mums have been struggling, but what we need to focus here is “back to basics”. Some days kids will love eating more and really less on other days, and honestly that is Okay! Kids are intuitive eaters and this is what I have learnt from my mom.

1. Right snacking :

Keep fresh cut fruits, curd, yogurts, baked tortilla chips, various salads (beans, sprouts) handy for the snacks time. You can also go for whole wheat pasta’s with lots of vegetables for a perfect snack. Don’t give milk all the time, as it is really filling and doesn’t leaves space for other nutrients. 2 glasses milk, a day is enough for kids post 2 years.

2. Store healthy stuff’s :

Kids usually look out for things stored in the house. Ensure that you have no chips, packed juices, extra sugary/salty things stored. Instead keep nuts, dry fruits, peanut butter, hummus dip, fruits (or dried fruits), yogurts ready for that snacking time.

3. Involve kids in grocery shopping, meal planning and preparations :

Involving kids in choosing vegetables, deciding for dinner, gives you ample options to make them aware of good nutrition. Kids really get excited when they are involved and Master A loves to open up his refrigerator and decide upon the vegetable for the dinner.

4. Don’t always say “No” to sweets :

Saying “No” to things provokes them more out of curiosity. If your child wants sweets, go for some frozen fruits dipped in chocolate sauce or home made custard with nuts and fruits for them. Try using brown sugar instead of the white processed ones. This way kids will have their own form of sweets which are healthy.

5. Lots of outdoor fun daily :

The more physical activity kids do, more will be their appetite and they will tend to have healthy foods you offer.

6. Keep food portions fixed & have family dinner :

Keep food portions fixed for their meals. Try to have family dinners on the dining table and ensure “No Video’s or TV” while eating. Kids do not understand the taste or servings as their mind is fully into the online videos they are watching.

This is a personal experience, when I myself resorted to vides when he was 2 as stated above. But within 3-4 months I realised that he was just gobbling down what I gave and never knew the real taste of the food and never demanded on his own. I stopped all videos and I started focussing on the food I served him. Around 2 months, things were difficult, but after that till today, I’m a happy mum. He loves his vegetables, pulses and asks me to cook them. He established his taste, which was most important to me.

7. Try not to use food as rewards or punishments :

Never use food options as rewards pr punishments, as kids tend to overeat the rewarding food losing their appetite for healthy substitutes. Rather take your child for some fun activities.

8. Let them know the importance of healthy food wrt activities they love :

This is what I have been doing. Master A is amazed at the strength of his Optimus prime and he loves sports.

And Hola! My work became much easier. Most of the time I try to explain him the benefits (in simpler terms) of healthy foods and he is all into a big “Yes” as he wants to be strong for his loved activities.

9. Practise healthy eating habits yourself :

Kids imitate your lifestyle and none can deny that. So first practise yourself. If you’ll go for samosa’s instead of a sweet corn, kids will for sure pounce on samosa’s only. Try opting for healthier choices in your food plate and kids will slowly own that taste.

10. Offer interesting variations :

Many a times, kids don’t like basic flavour of the veggies prepared. Its natural. Make granola bars as energy bars at home. Offer variations, make a vegetable soup with lots of veggies, or roast them or use them in their favourite snacks as pasta, fried rice, vegetable sevaiyaan, whole wheat sandwiches and more. 

And yes be patient! Motherhood is all about being patient and tricky, lol. You cannot expect a child to love all servings in first go. Be consistent in your offerings, keep doing small variations, kids will slowly start eating the food you want them to. And believe me, this is what I have learnt and practised with Master A. All these tips have helped me in one phase or the other to ensure that I’m working on the right path for his growth and development.

Hope this post helps you as a mum, throw in questions , your experiences in the comment section!

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