Don’t wait until it’s too late to introduce your children to healthy eating habits. Bahrain-based health coach Daniela Rosu tells us how easy and important it can be to get them to eat veg.
Nutrition is the most controversial science in the world. And when we talk about kids nutrition the subject becomes even more controversial and confusing. Teaching children and teens about health and wellness is more important than ever. With the rates of obesity and chronic disease on the rise, it’s vital that we help young people make smart choices early on their lives.
We want kids to know how food, in it’s most natural state, really tastes, where food comes from, and give kids the experience of eating what children in other cultures enjoy.
But how will we make a difference in the health of our children?
Optimal nutrition starts at home and healthy eating can be reached in an easy, non-stressful and fun way without turning the mealtimes into a battle zone. The good news is that parents don’t need a degree in nutrition to raise healthy kids – they can follow a few simple and very basic guidelines to encourage kids to eat right and maintain a healthy weight. For example:
• Have regular family meals, as it’s comforting and enhances appetite. Breakfast is another great time for a family meal, especially since kids who eat breakfast tend to do better in school.
• Cook more meals at home. Eating home-cooked meals is healthier for the whole family and sets a great example for kids about the importance of food. Limit processed food and save dining out for special occasions. When eating out, let your kids try new foods and they might surprise you with their willingness to experiment. You can start by letting them try a little of whatever you ordered or try ordering an appetiser for them to taste.
• Very important – get kids involved. Children enjoy helping adults to shop for groceries, selecting what goes in their lunch box, and preparing dinner. It’s also a chance for parents to teach them about whole foods, their nutritional values and, for older children, how to read food labels.
• Make a variety of healthy snacks available instead of empty calorie snacks. Keep plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grain snacks, and healthy beverages (water, milk, pure fruit juice) around and easily accessible so kids become used to reaching for healthy snacks. These include fruits as a source of sugar or home-baked snacks and sweets where you can control the type of ingredients used, instead of empty calorie snacks like soda, chips or cookies.
• Limit portion sizes. Don’t insist your child cleans the plate. Let kids stop eating when they feel they’ve had enough and never use food as a reward or bribe.
• Encourage physical exercise and limit TV and computer time. In this way, you’ll avoid mindless snacking and encourage activity. Research has shown that kids who cut down on TV watching also reduced their percentage of body fat. When TV and computer time are limited, they’ll find more active things to do and you’ll have more time to be active together.
Remember, kids do as you do. Be a role model and eat healthy yourself. When trying to teach good eating habits, try to set the best example possible. Choose nutritious snacks, eat at the table, and don’t skip meals.
In a nutshell, skip the ‘kid food’ and go for big, bold flavours. Surprise them with new flavours, combinations, textures and spices, tastes from different cultures, control portions and at last but not at least, get the kids involved. Make meal times playful and creative, cook with them, get children connected to what they are eating. Encouraging healthy eating habits now is one of the best gifts you can give your children. Make a huge impact on your child’s lifelong relationship with food and give them the best opportunity to grow into healthy, confident adults.
The bottom line is, it’s not just about feeding kids, it’s about health, nutrition and well being. It’s about understanding food as a life skill, treating food with respect, how to cook meals and how to eat.
Mostly, it’s about the discovery and love for the process and it’s about understanding the profound impact of food on the community.
Daniela Rosu is a holistic health coach based in Bahrain who received comprehensive training from America’s Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org, www.danielarosu.com (3957 1422).
Kid’s fitness options
Pair a good diet with a healthy bout of regular exercise and set your kids up for life.
A fun gym for little people aged six weeks to 13 years, My Gym is structured into age-appropriate classes incorporating music and dance.
Al Victory Suites, Seef, www.mygym.com (1756 6566).
An exciting indoor adventure playground for children zero to 12 years old where they host soft play, toddler toys, snacks and songs, as well as ‘Moms and Tots’ sessions.
Saar Mall, Saar, www.facebook.com/yellowsubmarinebahrain (1700 0037).
This fitness facility focuses on natural movement and healthy eating on a regular basis, and sets up activities such as the Junior Desert and Sea Survival Programmes which teach practical survival techniques for kids aged six to 15.
Budaiya Highway, next to Harley Davidson, www.tribalfitness.com (3947 3710).
Offers gymnastic classes for children aged one to six years, as well as a fun-filled soft play area and coffee shop for adults.
Zawia 1, Amwaj Islands, www.aminalsbh.com (1603 0103).
The Children Health Academy of Specialised Sports (CHAOSS) offers a variety of interesting services such as gymnastics, dance, theatre, taekwondo and swimming for kids of all ages.
Manama, www.chaossbahrain.com (1759 2096).