Kids and teenagers have very different lifestyle and dietary needs compared to adults. If you’re an adult and have kids of your own, I am sure you would have experienced your kid’s seemingly endless amounts of energy and unhealthy desire for fast foods and sweets. If you yourself are a kid or a teenager, I am sure you are tired of your parent’s nagging and complaints of “stop eating McDonalds!”, “eat your veggies!”, “have some fruit”, “chips again?!” and various other eating objections.
The truth is; if kids or teenagers don’t eat well, they will not develop properly, they will be more likely to be overweight, they will be more susceptible to various illnesses, cardiovascular diseases and acne, and they are more likely to have erratic moods, experience depression and basically, experience a lower level of enjoyment of life.
Now, the million dollar question is; “If I am a parent, how am I going to get my kids to eat healthily, or, if I’m a teenager or a kid, how do I start eating healthily?”.
For parents: The first important advice I can give you is: Kids imitate people they feel are good role models. Hence, trying to get your kids to eat healthily has to start from yourself. Once you are having a healthy diet and enjoying a healthy lifestyle, your kids will naturally start to develop healthy eating and living habits themselves. I have further listed below other advice and tips that I recommend to help promote healthy eating and living to your kids:
Eat together: When the entire family is sitting at the table eating breakfast or dinner, your children will observe what you have cooked or eating. Furthermore, meal times are the best way of maintaining and developing closer relationships with your kids as families naturally tend to have conversations over meals. Besides the health benefits of a nutritious balanced meal, studies have shown that kids who have stable family relationships have higher self-esteem and tend to do better in school.
Get them involved: Whether you’re shopping for groceries or cooking your meals, get your kids involved. Learn to read nutritional labels and teach them to your kids when you’re shopping. Compare and contrast the difference in nutritional content between products (ie. Potato chips and noodles) and help them select the healthiest meals and snacks for their lunch boxes. The key is to also give them a bit of freedom for them to choose which food products they want. If they select something that is unhealthy, gently remind them of the nutritional content and advise them that they should only eat them occasionally as a treat. When cooking, show them what really goes into the foods they eat and let them help up by ‘decorating’ and garnishing the food, stirring the soup or setting the table, etc. This encourages kids to be proactive at home, understand about nutritious foods and promote family togetherness.
Have healthy snacks within reach, put unhealthy snacks out of reach: Place fruits in a fruit bowl on the kitchen bench where it is most convenient and where everyone can see. Or have pre-cut fruits such as watermelon and place them in a Tupperware in the fridge for optimal taste and ease if your kids are craving a quick snack. Nuts and low fat pretzels make great snacks too, so open a packet and pour them into a bowl for easy access. Snacks like chocolate, high calorie muesli bars and sweets should be stored in the top cabinet out of sight. The less your child sees it, the less likely he/she will eat it!
Use Supplements: If your kids are not touching their veggies or your teenager is having erratic eating habits due to peer group and social activities, supplements are a great way of compensating the lack of nutrients arising from an unbalanced diet. For kids, look for supplements that have ‘fun’ flavors and shapes to make them enticing but ensure that it is free from any artificial flavors and sweeteners. Nutrients that are important to kids around 5-12 years of age include calcium for growing bones and zinc for improved and sharper memory. Vitamins A, C, D, E, K, folate, biotin and niacin are also important in providing your kids sufficient antioxidants for optimum protection against illnesses and optimal immune function. For teenagers, look for a supplement that covers and provides a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals for optimum body support as this is the stage where their body is undergoing the most growth and development. Essential nutrients include Vitamin A, B6, B12, C, D, E, K, Biotin, Calcium, Folate, Iodine, Lutein, Lycopene, Magnesium, Niacin, Riboflavin, Rutin, Selenium, Thiamin, Tumeric extract and Zinc. Ensure that the supplement you’re purchasing have these vitamins and minerals as a minimum in order to ensure healthy immune functionality and optimum health for their growing adolescent bodies. Gurkensandwich