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It is a well-known fact that eating a healthy and nutritious diet is one of the essential aspects of improved health and overall well-being. For children, it lays down the foundation for a brighter future that involves not only their appropriate physical development (height and weight) but also impacts their mental, emotional and social development as well.

Despite this knowledge, India is lagging behind in developing healthy eating habits in children.

 Here are some alarming statistics:

  • A 2016 NFHS-4 survey conducted among children under 5 years old revealed that 38% of children experienced stunted growth, 21% were suffering from wasting and 58% of children (aged 6–59 months) were suffering from anemia.
  • The prevalence of childhood obesity is also rising in India. A recent study involving 186,901 Indian children confirmed that 8.4% of children were obese, while 12.4% were overweight.

These statistics are alarming and call for immediate attention from parents and caregivers to teach kids the importance of healthy eating from a young age.

If you are a parent or caregiver of young kids and looking for some suggestions to encourage healthy eating habits in your children, then you might find this post useful.

Before moving ahead, first, let’s discuss some prominent reasons why India is lagging behind in developing healthy eating habits in children.

Reasons India is Lagging Behind in Developing Healthy Eating Habits in Children

  • Poor Dietary Habits: A diet high in carbohydrates and low in other essential nutrients is common in many Indian households. This dietary pattern is a major cause of anemia and other micronutrient deficiency in India. We seem to be ignoring diet diversity.
  • Lack of Awareness: In India, there is a lack of awareness about healthy eating habits and nutritional needs, especially in rural areas.
  • Economic Barriers: Economic barriers like poverty and food insecurity prevent many families from accessing nutritious food. This leads to a reliance on cheaper but nutrient-poor options, contributing to malnutrition and obesity.
  • Urbanization and easy availability of junk food:  Increased consumption of processed and junk foods have become a routine part of modern lifestyle, leading to childhood obesity and other lifestyle diseases.
  • Poor Knowledge of Nutrition among parents: Even parents aren’t aware about the nutrition requirements of a child and the importance of clean label foods.

Actionable Tips for Parents to Encourage Healthy Eating Habits in Kids!

Involve Your Kids

Involving your children in the kitchen is one of the most effective ways to instill healthy eating habits in children. You can engage your kids at various stages, starting from grocery shopping to involving in food preparation. Through active participation, children learn valuable culinary skills and gain a deeper understanding of the importance of eating balanced meals.

 Make Family Dinners a Priority

Family dinners provide an excellent opportunity to bond and model healthy eating habits. It helps children to consume more nutritious foods and try new dishes. Thus, focus on making mealtime a pleasant experience. Keep it free from distractions like TV and smartphones and encourage mindful eating and conversation while eating together as a family.

Focus on Developing Healthy Relationships with Food Rather than Only Restricting Junk Food

As the next step, It is important to promote a positive relationship with food rather than just restricting junk food.  Thus, as a parent, it is essential to avoid excessive control and instead focus on balanced eating. To maintain consistency,  include a diverse range of foods in your kid’s diet and allow occasional treats. This approach teaches moderation and helps children develop a healthier relationship with food gradually.

Be a Role Model

Children learn by observing their parents and caregivers. If you demonstrate healthy eating habits, your children are more likely to follow suit. Therefore, focus on enjoying healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, diverse grains etc. and let your children see your enthusiasm for these options. Your behavior can significantly influence your child’s attitudes towards food and will encourage them to adopt healthy eating habits.

Incorporate local fruits, vegetables and grains in daily meals

For want of time or convenience, many times urban parents give in to the demands of their children’s unhealthy habits. Instead of restricting them, try making popular snacks with healthier options or choose the healthiest versions from packaged products to improve nutritional impact. Instead of regular flakes, opt for ragi or jowar flakes or replace chocolates with health bars. Make your pasta with jowar flour instead of maida and opt for millet chiwda instead of poha. Steps like these will automatically ingrain healthy eating habits in the children.

Teach Children How to Read Nutritional Labels

Understanding nutritional labels can empower children to make healthier food choices. With this knowledge, they learn to recognize the ingredients and nutritional value of different food products and develop the skills to make informed decisions about what they eat.  Make choosing clean label food products a habit.

Conclusion

In conclusion, encouraging healthy eating in kids requires a blend of creativity, patience, and persistence. By incorporating these tips into your daily routine, you can help your children develop a positive relationship with food and lay the groundwork for a healthier future.