Feeding kids as they grow up can indeed be a challenging task, primarily because of their changing food habits and distractions that modern technology brings. It’s not uncommon to find children having their meals while watching TV, using a tablet, or playing with a mobile phone. While this might seem like an effective way to get kids to eat, there are significant downsides to this habit, as supported by various studies and research.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle on World Sight Day, Susmita N, Clinical Nutritionist at Cloudnine Group of Hospitals in Bangalore, Bellandur and Jayanagar, recommended, “As kids grow, we should let them serve and feed themselves. This helps to know the body cues. Watching screen while eating keeps them distracted and they will not pay attention to what food is in the plate, food texture and quantity of food been consumed. It is also observed that there is an increased consumption of unhealthy junk food between meals as they are not able to remember the quantity of foods eaten for meal. Poor intake of vegetables and fruits are also seen in these children.”
Revealing that children who have an increased screen time have more exposure to junk food due to the advertisements that targets the young population, the nutrition expert stated, “Kids get attracted to these junk food commercials and crave to eat them leading to alternation of their food habits. Making the children play outside builds up their appetite and they tend to what food is served. This can be taken as an advantage by parents by serving them healthy food options. Avoid junk food as snacks and serve fruits, milkshakes/smoothies, roasted nuts mix, makhana etc that have nutritional value. Keep healthy snacks options ready at home.”
She attached, “Family plays an important role during meal time. Parents have to be a role models to children. Having a family meal time away from all distractions help in better eating habits, improve communication skills and help in better bonding. Studies have shown that children who eat together with family have better intake of vegetables, fruits and end up having healthy eating pattern. There is a positive correlation between eating together as a family and better cognitive skills in children leading to improved academic performances.”
Susmita N has provided some valuable tips to make mealtime with children as relaxing and enjoyable as possible. These tips focus on promoting healthy eating habits, fostering a positive mealtime environment, and minimizing distractions. Here’s a summary of the tips:
- Provide Wholesome Foods: Offer nutritious and acceptable foods to your child to ensure they have a balanced diet.
- Respect Child’s Capability: Respect your child’s appetite and don’t force them to finish all the food on their plate if they say they’re full.
- Offer Healthy Choices: Allow children to choose from two or more healthy food options, giving them some control over their meal.
- Avoid Nagging or Bribing: Do not nag, bribe, or force a child to eat. Forcing children to eat can lead to aversions to certain foods.
- No Electronic Devices: Remove electronic screens from the dining area to prevent distractions during mealtime.
- Engage in Age-Appropriate Conversation: Initiate age-appropriate conversations with your kids. Ask about their day, friends, and topics of interest to create a positive mealtime atmosphere.
- Plan Meals with Child’s Preferences: Plan meals with your child’s food interests in mind, ensuring a variety of grains, colorful vegetables, seasonal fruits, and protein sources.
- Lead by Example: Be a role model and follow the same eating habits you want your children to adopt. Avoid distractions while feeding your kids.
- Preplan Meals: Plan meals a day in advance, including three major meals and two nutritious snacks. Make sure they include a variety of food groups.
- Limit Screen Time After Meals: After mealtime, limit the amount of screen time your child has. Encourage other activities or relaxation to promote digestion and family interaction.
These tips aim to create a positive and healthy mealtime environment that encourages children to develop good eating habits and enjoy their meals without distractions.
She ended, “Poor psycho-social skills, lower cognitive development are also observed in kids with increased screen time. Reduced physical activity leads to poor metabolism and causes obesity in children. Over a period of time these children grow up to become adults with eating disorders and are relatively obese.”
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a health advice. We would ask you to consult a qualified professional or medical expert to gain additional knowledge before you choose to consume any product or perform any exercise.