Vacations are synonymous with celebrating the freedom from school and a disciplined routine. Children look forward to holiday travels, visiting relatives and generally having a good time. It can thus be a challenge to ensure that they are eating healthy at the same time.
A few options can ensure that your children inculcate healthy eating habits during the holidays.
1. Involve your children in buying and prepping
Children love playing adults and respond well when given certain duties and responsibilities. Take them along and let them choose groceries with you. Let them participate in meal planning and then meal prepping or cooking, depending on age appropriateness. Children will automatically want to eat a dish that they have been involved in; it’s the simplest way to teach them to eat healthy.
2. Mealtimes should be friendly and calm
Whenever trying to introduce anything new to children, remember to never create a sense of urgency to it. children adapt better when they know that the parent will not get upset with them, there is no retribution involved, and that they can express their true feelings be it likes or dislikes. They need to feel that you trust and respect their feelings and do not make light of them.
Mealtimes should also not be about lecturing them or teaching them life lessons or reprimanding them. It should be a time that is stress free and a time to bond as a family.
3. Avoid strict restrictions on favourite foods
Holidays are a special time for everyone, including the children. They look forward to having a leisurely time, indulging in their favourite activities and foods, and generally expecting that they will be allowed forbidden foods once in a while. It is very important to think about their mental health and the feel good factor that some so called junk or unhealthy foods bring with them. Once in a while it is alright for them to eat these foods. This is especially true of birthday parties and other get-togethers that they will attend.
4. Stick to the same routine
As far as possible try not to change their routine too drastically during the holidays. Children are happier and more secure when they follow a routine over a long period of time.
5. Plate up food in a fun way
For younger children and toddlers, plating up their less favourite fruit or vegetable in a fun way can encourage them to try it. Do not pressurize them into finishing it if they don’t like it, trying is a great start. Offer it to them again at a later day without creating too much fuss or giving it too much importance. You can also add their favourite food to the same plate in a creative way so it becomes a part of the food that you want your child to eat. For eg: if your child loves carrot but does not like broccoli, then make a carrot and hummus dip in which they can dip their broccoli cutlets. Remember to be calm and friendly at all times.
6. Be a role model
It is rightfully said that kids are a reflection of their parents. Kids always look upto their parents when young and imitate them. Make sure that you follow the basic rules of healthy eating yourself before you try to teach your children:
- Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc. and stay away from fast foods
- Eat at regular intervals
- Eat slowly
- While eating be happy and calm
- Take small portions. Once you finish them, take extra helpings I needed
- Do not leave unfinished food on your plate
I hope the above helps you and your children in having a fun filled holiday. To know more or if you need further help with recipe suggestions, etc., get in touch with me, Kanupriya Khanna, one of the best Dietitians and Nutritionists in Delhi.