Childhood obesity is on the rise globally and the solution isn’t as simple as eating less and exercising more. As our lives become more sedentary and access to junk food becomes easier, developing good habits is necessary to steer our psychological connection with food in the right direction. Here are some expert suggestions
Now, new research has found that it may not just be what a child is eating but also how they are being fed that determines their likelihood of developing obesity. The study looked at how a mother’s BMI (body mass index), ethnicity and personal eating habits could have an impact on how she feeds her child.
Ihuoma Eneli,medical director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, told ScienceDaily, “The feeding dynamic between caregivers and their toddlers as a factor in childhood obesity is truly underestimated. We’re finding that if mealtime becomes a battleground or filled with tension, it could establish a relationship with food that leads kids to unhealthy eating behaviors later.”
Here are 5 ways you can foster healthy eating habits in your children and help prevent obesity.
- Take a step back: Eneli suggests not being overly restrictive and forceful when feeding your children. Setting guidelines for your children on what, how, when and where to eat are needed but you should also let your child be the judge of how much and what they can eat so that they are more in tune with their bodies.
“When parents are excessively restrictive about eating, two things happen. One, kids learn to eat when they are not hungry. Two, the struggle gives food more power than it should really have — and kids are very intuitive about how they can use that as leverage. The long term result could be dysfunctional thinking about the role that food has in a person’s life,” said Eneli.
- Don’t make sweets a reward: Eneli suggests parents not to try to persuade their children into eating everything off their plates with a dessert or other sweet being a reward. Keep dessert as a small part of the meal and not as a prize. She added, “Take the crown off the cookie, and make it less sparkly. Yes, your child will eat the dessert first for a week or so, but then it will lose its luster. She’ll learn she can savor it after she’s eaten her meal.”
- Small portions, more helpings: Let your child learn to decide whether they are full for themselves by serving them smaller portions and allowing them to take seconds if they want. Eneli said, “The child is learning about feeling full while having her opinion respected, and that grows trust – a very positive emotion to have in relation to feeding.”
- Make conversation: Don’t let food be the focus of your conversation all the time. If you are constantly talking about nutrition and meal times it could stress your child out. Treat eating as a functional task that’s not always associated with rewards, having a good time or to emotions.
- Give them what they want: If your child is a fussy eater, try to keep at least one item he is sure to eat on the dinner table. “Once your child realizes that feeding time isn’t going to be a battle of wills, they will eventually start eating what you give them. Stay positive and firm, and remember that children have the ability to learn healthy eating if you will just let them.
Getting a good perspective on food and setting a good example for your kids can encourage a healthy relationship with food.
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