Raising Healthy Kids
The right dietary habits as well as regular physical activity can help your children achieve a healthy weight. Try these tips to help your kids develop healthy habits from a young age.
Start With Eating Healthily
Have regular meals
It is important that children do not skip meals. When they know when their next meal is coming, they are also less likely to ask for snacks. When they do snack, provide healthier options such as low-fat yoghurt, fresh fruit or plain biscuits.
Monitor food portions
Control the amount of food your children eat. Although your children are growing, they should not overeat. Children should follow the recommended servings of food groups appropriate for their age.
Cut down on salt, fat and sugar
Reduce your children’s intake of food that is high in fat, salt or sugar, such as deep-fried food, fries, potato chips, cakes, sweets and sweetened drinks. Here are some ways to reduce fat and salt intakes when preparing meals:
- Use less oil
Try healthier cooking methods like steaming, boiling or grilling instead of deep-frying.
- Use lean cuts of meat and poultry
Remove visible fat and skin from meat and poultry.
- Use less salt
Choose fresh food over preserved food. Most fresh food contains glutamate, a natural flavour that reduces the need to add salt and sauces.
Offer a variety of healthy foods
Keep offering your children healthy food even if they refuse them initially. Experiment with different healthy foods to shape their food preferences from a young age.
Eat slowly and allow time to “feel full”
Give your children time to chew their food and avoid rushing them to finish their meals. This encourages your children to better appreciate feelings of hunger and fullness and avoid overeating.
Show your children how it’s done
Involve your children when it comes to planning and preparing meals. Bring them to the supermarket and show them how to make healthier food choices by reading food labels or choosing products with the Healthier Choice Symbol.
Make mealtimes fun
Get creative with shapes, colours and textures. For example, add colour to your children’s meals with tomatoes, carrots and mushrooms, and present these vegetables in different shapes.
Rethink food as a treat
Avoid using food as reward, as this reinforces eating as a “feel good” emotion and your children may develop a habit of eating whenever they feel down. Instead, reward good behaviour with appropriate gifts.
Set a good example
Be a role model for your children. They learn a lot more from what you do than from what you say. So practise healthy eating habits with your children (e.g. eat fruit as dessert after meals).
Make Physical Activity Part of Their Daily Routine
Make play fun
Every child is unique. Let your children experiment with different activities until they find something that they enjoy doing. This way, they will stick with it longer.
Limit sedentary pastimes
Limit “non-active” or sedentary time, which includes watching TV and playing computer or handheld games, to no more than 2 hours a day. Motivate your children to play outdoors and whenever possible, set aside an hour each day for physical activity. When your children are engaging in physical activity, they will reap the benefits of an active lifestyle.
Get active together
Physical activity can be fun! For starters, why not explore the great outdoors as a family? Cycling in Pulau Ubin, hiking at the MacRitchie Nature Trail or trekking at the Sungei Buloh Wetland are great ways to get the whole family active.
Encourage and praise
Physical activity helps to improve co-ordination skills in children, giving them a sense of achievement and help them gain confidence. Provide encouragement and praise when they make an effort to engage in active lifestyles. This will motivate them to stay active even as they grow older.
Select gifts that promote physical activity
Gifts like skipping ropes, hula hoops, footballs and inline skates can provide your children with a pleasant surprise and endless hours of fun physical activity.
The text of this article was originally published on the website of the Health Promotion Board. Reproduced with some modifications with permission from HPB.