5 ways to get children to eat healthy

By Lynn Wee   — November 09, 2016
  • Childhood obesity expected to increase
    1 / 6 Childhood obesity expected to increase

    Obesity in Singaporean schoolchildren has risen – from 11 per cent in 2013 to 12 per cent in 2014, said the Education Ministry. In 2000, it was 10 per cent.

    A Health Promotion Board spokesman has even said that childhood obesity is an international public health concern as it increases the risk of adult obesity.

    In fact, the World Health Organisation released the final report from its Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity. The report expects the number of fat children to balloon from 42 million in 2013 to 70 million by 2025.

    It warns: “Obese infants and children are likely to continue being obese during adulthood and are more likely to develop a variety of health problems as adults.”

    These include diabetes, heart disease, stroke, joint problems and a higher risk of getting endometrial, breast and colon cancers.

    With child obesity at record levels, it can be hard to feed your kids healthily but we’ve got some tricks up our sleeves to help you cultivate good eating habits for your children with the help of food authors Poppy Stamateris and Marika Gouveros. 

    (Click on arrows in photos for tips)

    Related: 5 food myths that hurt your child’s development 

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  • Don’t wait for your children to get hungry
    2 / 6 Don’t wait for your children to get hungry

    Hunger is the enemy of a healthy child.

    When children come back from a full day of school, their tummies are usually starting to grumble, so having either an early dinner or a healthy snack prepared as soon as they get through the door will fill them up on nutrition instead of sugar.

    Experts recommend carrot sticks and hummus, fruit, and other vegetable-based snacks. 

    Related: Battle of the snacks

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  • Satisfy taste rather than age
    3 / 6 Satisfy taste rather than age

    Children’s palates are more complex than we assume, and if we expose them at a young age to all sorts of flavours, we can easily tackle the idea of a fussy eater before it develops.

    Incorporate a whole host of vegetables, herbs and spices into your meals, and it will teach your kids to appreciate natural, wholesome flavours. 

    Related: Why does my child only eat certain foods?

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  • Don't use food as a reward
    4 / 6 Don't use food as a reward

    It’s easy to play by the ‘if you eat all of your dinner, you can have a treat,’ line but all this does is encourage bad habits.

    When the treats are chocolates, biscuits or ice cream, kids hear: “I’ll reward you for the struggle of getting through dinner by giving you something that’s yummy”.

    This creates a negative image of what’s on their plate and makes them even less likely to like it. 

    Related: How to get my child off junk food

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  • Make sure your children are getting enough sleep
    5 / 6 Make sure your children are getting enough sleep

    If children do not get enough sleep they seek out high sugar, high fat foods to recharge those batteries.

    Every parent knows how difficult it is to redirect a tired, frustrated and hungry child who has seen a shiny, colourful packet of something they shouldn’t eat.

    Instead, make consistent sleep patterns, which allows for both growth, a balance routine and a healthy attitude towards food. 

    Related: Creating a bedtime routine

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  • Cut down on sugary food
    6 / 6 Cut down on sugary food

    The most effective classrooms for healthy eating are the dinner table, fridge and the pantry.

    Remember, adult eating habits are shaped in childhood so fill your fridge with healthy, fresh produce rather than processed products as kids will only bear the hunger for so long until they reach for whatever’s available. 

    How to control your child’s sweet tooth?
    More Singapore kids have eating disorders, some just 9 years old

    This story first appeared in The Singapore Women’s Weekly

    (Photos: 123RF.com)

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