We often hear that the first three years of a child’s life are the most important. Besides psychological development and creating foundations for future personality, those years are also most important when it comes to acquiring eating habits.
In order to ensure the energy needed for a child’s development and daily activities, three daily meals are required and some light snacks between them. At the earliest age most children are fed with ready prepared foods in jars, but a far better option is to make those meals at home, without additives and preservatives. As children grow their eating habits change, so it is necessary to slowly start to familiarise them with different healthy foods from the age of two onwards. In doing so one should keep in mind the physical difference between children and adults. As children’s stomachs are of smaller volume, they need smaller amounts of food. However, in order to ensure all necessary nutritional value, we should choose foods that include various nutrients, such as fruit, which usually contains many different vitamins,or dairy products which are a source of calcium and protein.Carbohydrates are also a source of nutrients, but not just any. Whilst white flour offers only empty calories which can be of no use to a child, whole wheat flour provides minerals, fibre and vitamins.
It is best if, as parents, we can be a model for the child, and in that way our own health can also benefit. It can be confusing for a child to see a difference in their diet and those of their parents and the rest of the family. If we want our child to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, and we ourselves do not practice what we preach, the child can decide to turn that to their (dis)advantage and start avoiding a healthy diet as they see their parents doing the same.
Sweets are hard to resist, but a good solution is to prepare homemade confectionery and pastries where you can have control over the ingredients. Instead of using milk chocolate for cooking, we can slowly get the child used to dark chocolate, by changing the cocoa content. The child will also get more interested in healthier sweets if we include them in their preparation.
It is very important to pay attention to the origin of the food-stuffs that we give to our children. Research by many renowned experts, amongst them the widely known Dr.Mehmet Oz,have shown that organic food favourably influences children’s development. Recently, Dr. Oz presented in his show the results of his research which has shownthat the presence of pesticides infood can even influence the occurrence of ADHD in children. Of course, organic food is somewhat more expensive, but we can also start growing our own fruit and vegetables, even in cities, on our balconies. Let your child pick their favourite fruit or vegetable and then start growing it with them, if conditions allow you to.
Developing healthy eating habits and the best possible diet for an individual does not necessarily have to be a complicated and expensive process. The habits that we instil in our children are the best contribution we can make to theirgood health and the quality of their lives.