Improving children’s eating patterns
Children’s eating habits develop early in life, and research has shown eating patterns can continue into adolescence and adulthood. Therefore, it is imperative to establish healthy eating patterns early on.
A recent study has also shown a strong relationship between what mum is eating while children are toddlers, more so than what mum eats during pregnancy. Dads don’t get off easy either! Eating habits of fathers are related to primary school-aged children, and helping dads improve their lifestyle habits and become healthy role models for their children has been associated with a reduction in the intakes of total sugars, salt and energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods (junk food) and higher intakes of nutrient-dense foods.
Children need the nutrients from food and drinks for growth and brain development. Better dietary patterns are associated with better school performance. In a study including over 4000 Australian children, it was found more frequent consumption of vegetables was associated with higher test scores for spelling and writing.
So what can parents do to encourage healthier eating patterns for their kids?
- Increase the variety of healthy foods - Include a range of different healthy foods at every meal to increase the variety of nutrients your kids are eating.
- Introduce new foods - Give your children some options for new foods to try and then pair new foods with favourites. Make sweet potato or pumpkin and potato mash, try apples with peanut butter or honey, or slow cook veggies in a stew.
- Have set meal and snack times and eat as a family - Share meals as often as possible and encourage a meal and snack routine to get your kids into healthy eating habits.
- Be a healthy eating role model - Monkey see, monkey do! Kids mirror their parents, and everyone wins when eating a healthier diet.
So when parents eat better, kids eat better. Be a healthy role model by showing your children how to eat healthily, without force feeding them.