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Parents’ role in instilling healthy eating on children



I  ONCE asked a child of seven years what her favourite food is and she said “ice cream and pop corn”. When I told her to mention five examples of food she knows, she listed  “biscuits, pop corn, ice cream, mineral and pawpaw” . I wondered why she would categorise them as food. I repeated the question to make it clearer. She guessed for about five to seven minutes before she could add indomie as one of the foods she also eats.

  This has been a serious problem in most homes and families. Some young women today don’t give their children good food to eat but usually engage them in taking junk food as nutritional food.

  Felicia Ozommadu, a mother of four said she liked junk food more than solid or cooked food. When engaged to give details of what she meant, she said, ” honestly speaking, I am not all that good in cooking all the time. In fact, I don’t have such kind of strength. What I normally do is to prepare lots of juice and stock them in my freezer. I usually bake enough snacks like meat pie, fish pie, biscuits, chin-chin, to mention just a few.

It serves them as foods since their father don’t usually stay at home with us. It makes things easier for me anyway. I do things the way it will suit me and not to satisfy others or people around me. I have cartons of indomie in case they want something cooked.

I have enough beverages for those who want to drink tea. Then, at least once in two weeks, I prepare soup to augment their meals. Sometimes on  special occasions, i prepare fried rice for them, particularly on Sundays, but they don’t enjoy it because they are not used to it. So, why will you still expect me to continue wasting my time preparing other solid food for them? If  the matter comes to worst, I take them out to where they will enjoy other meals they wish to. So, that is it,” she narrated.

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  Meanwhile, children live their lives as their parents do both in dressing, talking, and smiling. They mimic their parents, repeating what they say and imitating mannerisms. Their feeding and eating habits is no different, and the way parents talk about food, cook meals and eat are the most important influence of developing healthy eating habits of any child. Children watch and imitate adults and look to them to learn everything they do.

  In other words, as a parent, you play an important role in shaping your child’s eating habits. You have a big influence over the family environment where meals take place and the types of foods your children eat. Positive experiences about food early on may help your children develop healthy eating habits later in life. When parents teach their wards healthy eating habits and modeling them yourself can help them maintain a healthy weight and normal growth. Thus, the eating habits your child pick up when they are young will help them maintain a healthy lifestyle when they are adults.

A research carried out indicate that family mealtimes have a big impact on how children eat as they grow into adulthood and start making food choices of their own. One study also showed that children who eat meals with their parents tend to eat more fruits, vegetables and dairy products than children who don’t share meals with their families. Mind you, family meals take place in the home and such environment can have a positive or negative impact on the child’s eating habits.

  Moreover, eating meals as a family is key to raising high-achieving, healthy and well-adjusted children. Such eating habits have proven to improve academic achievement and self-esteem. Eating together also leads to more interest in nutrition.

 Furthermore, majority of person’s explained that making a wide variety of healthful foods available in the house help children learn how to make healthy food choices and ignore the unhealthy choices like chips, ice cream, soda, snacks, and juice at the grocery store. According to an expert on food and nutrition, “the notion that if your child eat certain foods may actually cause them to eat less, does not really sound okay because as a parent, they are responsible for providing healthy food choices for their children.

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  I have also discovered that some parents abuse eating habits, using it as a tool of punishment or deprivation whenever a particular child does something unpleasant. Remember that eating is a way of nourishing the body. Using food as a reward or punishment may lead to unhealthy eating habits”. 

Suggesting that “it is worthy of every parents to offer variety of healthy foods to their wards and allow them serve themselves without any pressure. They should try to make mealtimes pleasant with conversation and sharing, not a time for scolding or arguing. If mealtimes are unpleasant, children may try to eat faster to leave the table as soon as possible. They may as a result associate eating with stress.

  It is as well necessary that parents should endeavour to eat only in designated areas of their home, where their wards will be conversant with such as the dining room or kitchen becoming a role model to their children because obviously, they will do as they see.

  Try to avoid eating while watching the television or eating in front of the television because it can be a distraction to focusing on their meal to feelings of fullness, and may lead to overeating. 

You as a parent should always engage in the habit of buying healthy foods at all time that tomorrow they will follow your foot step. The foods available in your fridge, freezer, cupboards and pantry are what your children will get used to eating.

  Always have it at the back of your mind that over consumption of sweetened drinks and sodas has been linked to increased rates of obesity in children. Therefore, avoid engaging them in such habits.

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  Children will continue picking up your (parents) eating habits as they become teenagers, and will use the skills you teach them throughout their lives. Therefore, try to avoid restricting foods or labeling them “good” or “bad” as doing so may actually increase your child’s desire for these foods when you’re not there to restrict them, always maintain a healthy attitude toward food, and enjoy what you eat and let your kids know it’s okay to eat all foods in moderation. While it’s unrealistic to expect any parent to be a perfect role model, try your best to demonstrate good eating habits and it will positively impact your child.

  Finally, foods that are high in calories, fat, sugar and salt like cakes, chocolate, ice cream, puff-puff, doughnuts, flour pie(meat or fish pie), potato chips, pop, sports and energy drinks, and sweetened hot or cold drinks should be eaten less often. When you limit these foods yourself as a parent, your children will be less likely to eat them as well. It is important not to label these foods as “bad”. They are simply foods or snacks meant to be eaten occasionally, and in moderation. But rather form the habit of engaging your children in more of eating vegetables, fruits, proteinous food, dairy and grains”.

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