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As children grow, they learn to communicate and control some parts of their lives. Eating is generally one of the first things they start to control. Inculcating healthy eating habits for kids ensures that their growing bodies get all the necessary nutrients to function correctly and for growth. Healthy eating habits for kids also lay the foundation for a healthy lifestyle in children, which will be carried into adulthood.
Before your kid learns to talk, he/she will use sounds or movements to indicate hunger or fullness.
Your child may be hungry when he/she:
Your child may be full if he/she:
Newborns have an innate preference for sweets and an aversion to other tastes. As their sense of taste develops, babies learn to appreciate different tastes and flavours. Most kids are picky eaters at some point during their childhood. They may want to eat the same food every time until they get tired.
It is up to parents to serve a variety of healthy foods so that their little ones can be more flexible in their food choices.
Some parents are concerned that their child overeats, while some feel that their child is not eating enough or will not eat unless parents spoon-feed them. There are also times when children do not feel too hungry, which is also acceptable as they will make up for it at the next meal or the next day.
Every child's appetite will differ. Their growth pattern is also dependent on their genes. Parents should focus on offering nutritious food and planning meals. Good eating habits for kids are maintained when the children are allowed to respond to the signs of hunger and feed themselves.
A child's eating habits and food preferences depend on the foods offered to them. Young children (those under the age of two) are more open to trying new foods than older children. Here are some tips for encouraging healthy eating habits for kids:
1. Introduce food groups with different colours, shapes, textures, and tastes.
You can try making your child's plate colourful with various foods:
2. Let children feed themselves.
Once your kid gets the hang of eating, let them feed themselves. Encourage your child to eat without force-feeding them. Allow your child to choose what's on the plate and how much to eat. This independence helps kids recognize their internal cues of hunger and fullness.
3. Set a good example.
To build healthy eating habits for kids, parents need to model good eating habits themselves. Let your child watch you try different healthy foods. Then, offer it to your child. Involve your kids in food shopping and meal preparation whenever possible.
4. Have family meals.
Watching the family eat healthy foods and enjoy their mealtimes together encourages children to eat better. Provide nutritious home-cooked meals rather than take-out or fast food. Screen time during meals should be a strict no.
5. Do not overfeed.
Serve small portions. If they finish, you can always offer more.
6. Set regular meal and snack times.
Knowing when to expect meals helps children learn to manage their hunger. Avoid frequent snacking and excessive intake of milk or juices that can disrupt their appetite.
7. Don't use food as a reward.
Avoid giving sweets as "rewards" to your kids as it can increase your child's preference for unhealthy foods in later years. However, don't forbid desserts either. Instead, try to balance it out by serving healthier treats and offering small portions of sweets occasionally.
8. Keep trying new foods.
Present one new food at a time with other foods that your child already likes. You may need to offer the same food 10 or more times before your child decides to accept it.
Be patient and give your little one time to adapt to healthy eating habits for kids. Your efforts will undoubtedly pay off!
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