Children’s Healthy eating habits for life
Why it’s important to establish positive and healthy eating habits in early life
A report was issued in December 2016 by The Children’s Food Trust based on interviews with parents of four to sixteen-year olds. It revealed how poorly children in the UK are eating and how children were consuming too much sugar, which is harder to lower as they grow older. Figures revealed that in 2014/15, 12 per cent of children were obese by the age of three and 15 per cent considered overweight. These shocking statistics prove how important it is to establish healthy eating habits in young children and develop positive eating patterns.
As parents and nursery staff, we need to take healthy eating seriously and set positive patterns and examples for children and their later life. You should consider the foods you feed your children carefully and look out for foods with added sugars and large amounts of salt. We need to provide them with a healthy and balanced diet, offering them a wide variety of foods to taste.
Healthy eating for babies
The Institute of Health Visiting advocate exclusively breast-feeding babies for the first five months. This is for many reasons; breastfed babies are able to regulate their milk intake better than with formula, so are more in control of their eating and the lower protein content can protect against raised insulin levels. When a baby is breastfed, they are exposed to a wide variety of flavours, which can impact their food preferences as they develop and grow.
Once babies are 6 months old, they are able to digest a wider range of foods and need them to balance their nutritional needs. Iron is a nutrient that begins to run low at this stage in a baby’s life, so it needs to be supplemented.
At first, babies are introduced to pureed fruit and vegetables as part of the weaning process. Babies need to learn to become accustomed to different textures and tastes, as well as how to swallow foods of different consistencies. Your baby should be in a relaxed setting when trying these new foods, making it a pleasurable experience that will set the tone for future eating experiences.
For the next six months, it’s important to introduce new flavours and textures into your baby’s diet such as meat, dairy and pulses. Over this time, their food should move from smooth puree to a more lumpy and bitty texture. It is also time to give your children the opportunity to feed themselves to promote physical development and independence. By giving them finger food such as a baton of cooked carrot or broccoli, they can feed themselves and gain self-confidence. Food must always be cut up into manageable sizes and there should always be an adult present to watch the child.
As your childs’s food intake increases, their milk intake will reduce. When they become thirsty, water is best as fruit juices regularly have added sugar. It’s important to ensure your child has a balanced diet of proteins, fruits, vegetables, dairy and starchy foods to promote healthy brain development and their overall growth.
By the age of one, children will be having three meals per day and eating food that is cut into small pieces. It’s important to include your child in family mealtimes and let them taste your food (if it’s not too high in added sugars and salt).
Most importantly, enjoy mealtimes with your little one and relax. Offer them a wide variety of foods that are naturally flavoured and be creative when you cook or serve their food.