Often, children get addicted to junk food which is readily available – such as sugar sweetened beverages, processed food, caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee a well as nutritionally inappropriate restaurant food like pizzas and burgers
Canned or preserved fruit juices are not to be encouraged – it may be safer to introduce fruits as it is. Young children below the age of 2 years must not be given fruit juices as far as possible. Children more than 2 years may be given upto 120-150 ml of fruit juices as it is without adding sugars
Likewise caffeinated drinks alike coffee and tea are strictly to be avoided in children below the age of 5 years. Studies have shown that long term use of coffee and tea can lead to sleeplessness, depression and even poor memory and activity.
The best way to avoid the habit is to not introduce such foods in the first place.
When children do get addicted to junk food, do remember the following:
- Stay calm, do not get angry or shout- remember that you are the adult and also the role model for the child
- Do not try force feeding. It may create more anguish and may make feeding healthy food difficult
- Keep healthy food around; do not get junk food at home. Making junk food unavailable is one of the easiest strategies to overcome the habit
- Be a role model. Children are silent observers; they will follow what you do. Make amends in your own eating routine and lifestyle
- Start with introduction of just one healthy food at one time. For example, if you introduce dry fruits today, you may introduce a new vegetable on the following day
- Introduce in a cheerful way. Let feeding time not become a cat and mouse chase
- Make taste and appearance modifications in healthy foods.
- Avoid intermittent snacking. Eating time must be spent with family and without television or other screens playing
- Involve child in preparing and serving healthy food. For e.g., you may involve the child in decorating or garnishing cooked healthy food and complement him or her for the same
Remember healthy eating habits go a long way in shaping the child’s optimal future!