So how can I influence kindergarten children`s eating habits?
Children are more likely to do as you do. If you give a good role model for your nursery kid it encourages good habits. If children see you enjoy eating healthy foods and taking regular exercise, they are likely to do the same. It`s important to realise that attitudes towards food, weight and exercise are established early on. Most eating behaviour is learned.
Television and advertising
Television advertising encourages children eating a poor diet. Surveys have found that 95% of the food advertisements on children`s prime time television is for foods with high levels of fat, sugar and /or salt. (e.g. chocolate, crisps, sweetened breakfast cereals, fast food restaurants), with only very few adverts for healthy foods. This creates a conflict between the types of food promoted and national dietary recommendations. Moreover, it increases children’s “pester power” as children nag their parents to buy particular products! As there are no controls on the types of food and drinks featured in children`s TV, the best action you can take is to set sensible limits on your own children’s TV viewing.
TIPS ON CHANGING YOUR FAMILY`S EATING BEHAVIOUR
- Explain the benefits of eating more healthily. This should be in terms that your children can understand and directly relate to, e.g. having more energy to play football; feeling more refreshed in the morning.
- Put children in control of some of their food choices, e.g. allow them to choose which vegetables to eat; let them suggest a new meal.
- Make some realistic goals (e.g. to eat two pieces of fruit a day; to try a new vegetable; to replace crisps with an apple of a handful of nuts.
- Set up a reward system, e.g. award a star or sticker for each healthy eating behaviour.
- Increase the range of foods in your family`s repertoire – try new recipes and offer new snacks
- Set a good example yourself – don`t show reservation in trying new foods.
- Praise children for trying a new food. Even if they don`t like it, encourage them to explain why. Try the motto: `taste before you judge` – it always works with my children who end up eating the lot!
- If a new food or dish is rejected initially, leave if for a while then reintroduce it a week or so later. Children will eventually like healthy foods if they are continually exposed to them.
Looking after children`s teeth… Follows…