As an adult, it can be hard to take on the habits of healthy eating. This is especially true for those who grew-up eating fast food, snacking, and with very little physical activity. For many, unhealthy eating habits started in childhood making them hard to break them and start eating healthy.
It is therefore important to teach children good nutrition from an early age. So many individuals wish they could start eating healthy but don’t know how. They become victims of endless dieting, perpetual stress, and poor health.
Why Start Early?
The hardest habits to break are those from childhood, so why not make them good? If we set a foundation of healthy eating from the start we are less likely to become overweight or obese. This can be done by emphasizing the importance of water, fruits, and vegetables in childhood and avoiding convenience foods.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control Prevention), 1 out of every 5 children ages 6 to 19 was obese between 2015 and 2016 (1). These numbers and those for type 2 diabetes are only rising. Unhealthy eating is predisposing children for a number of chronic health problems and a lower quality of life.
The Problem of Environment
Our environment is becoming more convenient with each passing year. While convenience foods and gadgets make life easier they also make unhealthy lifestyle habits more likely. This is especially true for lower-income communities where fast food is at every corner and health food stores are scarce.
Social media plays a role in this adverse environment too. With constant fast food advertisement and endless dieting advice. If one does not learn healthy eating early the adverse environment is bound to have an effect on eating habits. It is important to learn to navigate through this sea of unhealthy dietary choices.
Strategies for Teaching Children
Getting children involved in cooking and gardening is a great way for parents and caretakers to communicate the importance of food. These are fun and active processes that can be shared with a child while getting them excited about healthy eating. Parents are the greatest role models in early development, and seeing them get involved in food preparation will have a positive effect on the child.
Using lots of colors in food (with fruits and vegetables) is a very attractive way of learning. This helps teach about the variety of food types, their uniqueness, and their role in nutrition.
Exploring new foods together with a child is also a great way to get them involved. It teaches them to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy food choice. Even if unhealthy foods are filled with sugar and attractive colors for children, a parent’s rejection of these foods will help get the message across.
- “Overweight & Obesity.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 Aug. 2018, www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html.