Kick Starting a Healthy Lifestyle
Positive attitudes regarding food and nutrition within children are essential in the prevention of health complications in later life. Chronic diseases or eating disorders can arise within a range of individuals, commonly as a result of poor dietary choices over an extended period of time. Preparing children with the mindset they require to combat these lifestyle complications will largely influence and improve future quality of life. Although, for a child to be able to adopt a positive mentality on food, common behavioural practices such as utilising the concept of food as a bribe, reward, or punishment must first be shunned.
Harmful food and nutrition ideologies can be established whilst food is being used as a reward or punishment. This is due to the adverse behavioural effects, such as skipping meals or eating when not hungry, that can arise due to these parenting tactics. For example, if a guardian were to reward a child with food for good behaviour, irregular eating patterns may result over time. The child can adopt a behaviour where they consume food when they are not hungry. This attitude over an extended period of time can contribute to the onset of eating disorders and chronic diseases. Instead of offering food as a reward for good behaviour, offer family outings and engaging activities.
Developing a healthy perception of food and nutrition within a child typically starts at an early age. Infants naturally begin to show an interest in feeding themselves between seven to eight months. Although this process can be quite chaotic, this task allows infants to develop the fine motor skills required for eating. These motor skills, whether it’s learning how to use a spoon or picking up food, are crucial life skills. As children grow, their exposure to different types of food will expand through parental influences and the media. It is important to continue emphasising and supporting healthy eating habits and choices during this impressionable phase. Exposing and engaging children in a variety of simple daily activities, such as meal preparation, will allow this perception to flourish. Learning how to read the recipe, measure ingredients or chop the vegetables are simple tasks that can launch a child towards a healthy nutrition.
Actively exposing infants and children to good nutrition can allow a positive attitude towards healthy eating to develop. This positive view on healthy eating can be attained through simple tasks such as self-feeding and meal preparation. Regularly undergoing these small, simple tasks can positively influence a child’s future health and wellbeing in a huge way.