Don’t wait until it’s too late to introduce your children to healthy eating habits. GCC-based health coach Daniela Rosu tells us how easy and important it can be to get them to eat that yuck green stuff.
Nutrition is the most controversial science in the world. And when we talk about kids’ nutrition, the subject becomes even more controversial and confusing. Teaching children and teens about health and wellness is more important than ever. With the rates of obesity and chronic disease on the rise, it’s vital that we help young people make smart choices early on in their lives.
We want kids to know how food, in its most natural state, really tastes, where food comes from, and give kids the experience of eating what children in other cultures enjoy.
But how will we make a difference to the health of our children?
Optimal nutrition starts at home and healthy eating can be reached in an easy, non-stressful and fun way without turning the meal times into a battle zone. The good news is that parents don’t need a degree in nutrition to raise healthy kids – they can follow a few simple and very basic guidelines to encourage kids to eat right and maintain a healthy weight. For example:
• Have regular family meals, as it’s comforting and enhances appetite. Breakfast is another great time for a family meal, especially since kids who eat breakfast tend to do better in school.
• Cook more meals at home. Eating home-cooked meals is healthier for the whole family and sets a great example for kids about the importance of food. Limit processed food and save dining out for special occasions. When eating out, let your kids try new foods and they might surprise you with their willingness to experiment. You can start by letting them try a little of whatever you ordered or try ordering an appetiser for them to taste.
• Very important – get kids involved. Children enjoy helping adults to shop for groceries, selecting what goes in their lunch box, and preparing dinner. It’s also a chance for parents to teach them about whole foods, their nutritional values and, for older children, how to read food labels.
• Make a variety of healthy snacks available instead of empty calorie snacks. Keep plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grain snacks and healthy beverages (water, milk, pure fruit juice) around and easily accessible so kids become used to reaching for healthy snacks. These include fruits as a source of sugar or home-baked snacks and sweets where you can control the type of ingredients used, instead of empty calorie snacks like soda, chips or cookies.
• Limit portion sizes. Don’t insist your child cleans the plate. Let kids stop eating when they feel they’ve had enough and never use food as a reward or bribe.
• Encourage physical exercise and limit TV and computer time. By doing this, you’ll avoid mindless snacking and encourage activity. Research has shown that kids who cut down on TV watching also reduced their percentage of body fat. When TV and computer time are limited, they’ll find more active things to do and you’ll have more time to be active together.
Remember, kids do as you do. Be a role model and eat healthily yourself. When trying to teach good eating habits, try to set the best example possible. Choose nutritious snacks, eat at the table, and don’t skip meals.
In a nutshell, go for big, bold flavours. Surprise them with new flavours, combinations, textures and spices, tastes from different cultures, control portions and, last but not least, get the kids involved. Make meal times playful and creative, cook with them, get children connected to what they are eating. Encouraging healthy eating habits now is one of the best gifts you can give your children. Make a huge impact on your child’s lifelong relationship with food and give them the best opportunity to grow into healthy, confident adults.
The bottom line is, it’s not just about feeding kids, it’s about health, nutrition and well being. It’s about understanding food as a life skill, treating food with respect, how to cook meals and how to eat.
Mostly, it’s about the discovery and love for the process and it’s about understanding the profound impact of food on the community.
Daniela Rosu is a holistic health coach based in the GCC who received comprehensive training from America’s Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Contact her on email@example.com, www.danielarosu.com ( +973 3957 1422).
Kid’s fitness options
Pair a good diet with a healthy bout of regular exercise and set your kids up for life. Here are some suggestions.
Classes with this group encourage fitness at a young age, with classes tailored for little ones, priced from QR500 per month.
Al Jazi Gardens, West Bay & Al Wabb (3000 8974).
Khalifa Tennis & Squash Complex
Classes for little ones and family-friendly classes to get children taking up tennis.
Open daily 8am-11pm. Majlis Al Taawon Street, West Bay area (4440 9666).
Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Sports Academy (SFQ)
Numerous options available for children, including learning the fundamentals in the basics of sports such as football, basketball, baseball, martial arts, swimming, tennis and much more.
Open 9am-8pm. Al Jazi Village II, Al Gharafa (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For slightly older children, aged 10-14, there are lessons for beginners and advanced under numerous umbrellas of the martial arts range.
Open Thu 3.30pm-4.30pm, Sat 3.30-4.30pm. Radisson Blu Hotel, Intersection of Salwa Road and C-Ring Road (4441 7417).
The International Centre for Music
Get your children fit through dance. There are ballet classes, as well as hip-hop and other classes for all levels.
39 Ahmed bin Hanbal Street, Old Airport (4467 1354).