Helping create healthy habits in kids

Healthy eating habits begin at home, and at a young age. Teaching your children healthy eating habits can go a long way to help them live a healthy life. 

Habits learnt at a young age can help children become healthy adults . By spending time with your child teaching them about the benefits of eating balanced, nutritious food, your child is more likely to continue a healthy attitude well in to adulthood. 

Why it's important to be healthy from a young age

Reports from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that around one in four children (aged between 5 and 17 years) is overweight or obese.  

Long-term, this means a growing number of children becoming adults with increased risks of developing long-term health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disorders.  

How to instill good habits

Teaching your child how to make healthy food choices from a very young age is a good way to help them build life-lasting habits . At a young age, one of the biggest influences on your child's eating habits is you , so it's important to lead by example. 
 
Dietitian Caitlin Rabel suggests the following tips to instilling positive attitudes and behaviours towards healthy food: 
 
  • Try, try again: "When introducing new foods, try them multiple times," says Rabel. "It can take kids many exposures to new foods before they will try them. Allow your kids to play and touch the food as much as they like. Make sure you are eating the new food too, so your child can see you lead by example." 
mother and daughter cooking together
Ban "good" or "bad" from the dinner table: "To [help] prevent feared foods and disordered eating in the future, avoid using positive or negative foods when describing food," she advises. "There is no food that is intrinsically 'good' or 'bad', it is about the whole lifestyle. Growing up with no foods being restricted (except for necessary medical reasons) will [help] create a healthy relationship with all foods."
  • Eat together: "Sitting down to eat as a family helps build positive habits in your children, and helps parents lead by example," she says. "It will help create healthy relationships with food, and allow family time at the table. Not eating in front of the TV also helps the focus stay on the food and the action of eating, allowing children to remain aware of their hunger and satiety cues."
  • Watch your language: "Be aware of the language you use to describe your body: use words such as strong, confident, active etc to describe your body, rather than words that describe its physical appearance," she advises. "If you describe your body as fat, flabby, chubby, ugly etc your children [may] absorb this. They are then more likely to grow up thinking their self-worth is connected to their appearance. Instead, use body-neutral words that describe your non-physical attributes." 
  • Make a mess: "Get your kids involved in food preparation: kids can help with preparing food from as soon as they can feed themselves," she says. "Yes it will be messy, yes it won't be particularly time-efficient and effective, but they will [probably] love it. Getting them involved in stirring, chopping (with adult supervision and plastic knives), baking, or growing herbs will help foster positive relationships with food, and they will have a greater understanding of where their food comes from."
The lessons your child needs to learn to live a healthy life begin at home. Lead by example by leading a healthy life yourself, and your children will hopefully follow. 
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