Promoting Healthy Eating Habits in Children and Teenagers

Healthy eating habits will help in stabilizing the energy in children; sharpen their mind and mood as well. While the TV commercials promoting junk food and the peer pressure makes it impossible for the child to eat healthy, parents can adopt healthier ways for the children to eat rather than creating a mealtime battle. When you encourage the child to eat healthy at the right age, it can lay a huge impact on his or her relationship with food. It will also give them the opportunity to grow into confident and healthy individuals.

Promoting Healthy Eating Habits in Children and Teenagers

Children and teenagers develop a natural tendency to eat only those foods that they love the most. Therefore, it may be a challenge for the parents to instill healthy eating habits in them. It can be difficult to convince your child that an apple is as tastier as his or her favorite cookie. Even when you allow your child to munch on his or her favorite food, it has to be ensured to make it equally nutritious.

Promoting Healthy Eating Habits in Children and Teenagers

The child’s impulse to imitate is often strong, so it is equally important for you to act as a role model for your child. It is not acceptable to ask your children to eat fruits or vegetables while you are munching on soda and potato chips. Below are few suggestions to promote healthy eating habits in children and teenagers:

  • Arrange regular family meals. An appetite can be enhanced by promoting the idea of enjoying a family meal together. It can soothe the mind of the child and make it comforting for him to eat what all the members are eating. Breakfast can also be enjoyed in group and this is the time when teenagers fail to have a healthy meal as they are rushing for school.
  • Cook homemade meals often. Eating homemade food is healthier not only for the children/teenagers but for the entire family. The foods that are served in restaurants have greater amount of fat and salt in them. So, it is recommended to save them for dining at specific times.
  • Involve children often. Children are fond of shopping for groceries with the adults and are often excited about what is going to be cooked for dinner. When children/teenagers are involved, it is easier to teach them about the nutritional value of each food and to read food labels as well.
  • Limit the food portion. Never insist your child/teenager in eating a plateful of food that is served. Never use the food as a bribe or reward.

Limiting Sugar and Salt Intake to Promote Healthy Eating Habits in Children and Teenagers

One of the biggest challenges is to limit the amount of salt and sugar in the food of the children.

Limiting Sugar Consumption to Encourage Healthy Eating Habits in Children and Teenagers

Studies have shown that children should only take 3 tablespoon of sugar per day. Not allowing your child to eat cookies and candies is not the only solution. There is a large amount of sugar present in ketchups, bread and all the other things. By limiting sugar consumption you will encourage healthy eating habits in children and teenagers.

  • Do not disallow your kid from eating sweets at once. When this is done, the kid will crave for sweets and tend to eat them more once they get a chance.
  • Give recipes an alteration. Try to find those recipes that use less sugar and are equally scrumptious.
  • Avoid sweet drinks. A 12-oz soda comprises of 10 tablespoons of sugar, so try adding fruit juice or sparkling water instead.
  • Bring down the consumption of processed foods like cakes and bread that can cause blood sugar to trigger.

Limiting the Salt Intake to Encourage Healthy Eating Habits in Children and Teenagers

There is approximately 2300 mg of sodium in a tablespoon of salt. Below mentioned are a few guidelines about salt intake for kids.

  • If a child is 1 to 3 years of age – They should eat less than 1,500 mg per day
  • If a child is 4 to 8 years of age – They should eat less than 1,900 mg per day
  • If a child is 9 to 13 years of age- They should eat less than 2,200 mg per day
  • If a child is 14 to 18 years of age – They should eat less than 2,300 mg per day

Also, try staying away from packaged, fast food, processed and restaurant food. There are processed foods like soups or frozen dinners that can have high content of sodium in them. Many meals are burdened with sodium.

  • Include frozen or fresh vegetables rather than the canned ones.
  • Cut back on snacks that is salty like pretzels and nuts.
  • Choose products that are low on sodium content.

Healthy Eating Habits For Toddlers And Young Children

Young children can be asked to try new textures and tastes of food while they are in the transition from eating baby foods to real foods. Keep in mind that toddlers have smaller stomachs. Feeding them large meals is not a good option, so try including smaller meals per day.

Based on size, age, activity and needs, the normal calorie intake per day is 1000-1400. It is normal for your kid to be extremely hungry one day and avoid food the following day.

Nutritional Needs Of Toddlers And Young Children

Nutritional needs of toddlers and young children have to be considered seriously. Calcium forms an important part of any child’s diet and milk is the major resource of this nutrient. Make sure that your toddlers get whole milk every day until they are two years old. If your kids are intolerant to lactose or avoid dairy, try including foods that are rich in calcium like cereals, soy and orange juice.

Toddlers also need iron at least 7 mg per day to avoid iron deficiency as it can affect behavior, learning and growth. When your toddler is surviving on breast milk, he or she is getting a complete dose of all the essential nutrients. However, when switched to real food, it is necessary to ensure that all these nutrients are being flushed into the child’s body in the right amount.

Dietary Guidelines For Toddlers And Young Children

The Following are few dietary guidelines for parents of toddlers and young children:

  • Fruits and vegetables: Two portions each every single day. These may be fed in the form of snacks like slices of carrot or apple. You can also add some vegetables to the soup.
  • Whole grains: Four portions daily. Can consist of multi grain toast or buckwheat pancakes for breakfast, a wheat bread sandwich for lunch and brown rice or any other whole grain for the evening meal.
  • Milk and dairy: Three portions, or one pint of whole milk every single day. Milk puddings, Cheeses and yogurt can also be the right alternative.
  • Protein: Two portions per day. Persuade your kid to eat proteins like eggs, chicken, baked beans, lamb, turkey and lentils.
  • Vitamins and minerals: Always be in contact with the doctor with regards to the child’s diet and make sure that your kid is getting the right nutrition.

Healthy Eating For School-Age Children

Eating can be counted as a social activity that forms a part of every child’s life. Your children spend more time at school or at a friend’s place rather than at home. So, it can be hard to monitor their daily nutrition intake or the choices that are made while having food.

For children who are still in the age group below 12, it is necessary to include variety of items. Creating some new delicacies every single day can help them in eating complete diet for a few years in their early life. Try giving them examples about each food habit and let them know that they are extremely healthy.

Nutrition Guidance For School-Age Children

As the children are in the stage of development, they may need same amount of nutrients as well as vitamins like the adults. This is why; it is essential to include whole wheat grains, milk, fruits, vegetables, nuts and other healthy proteins in their diet. It is also important to consume healthy fats. The following are few guidance tips for parents of school-age children.

  • Monounsaturated fats, coming from plant oils such as peanut oil, canola oil, olive oil, and avocados along with nuts and various seeds.
  • Polyunsaturated fats, along with Omega- 6 and Omega- 3 fatty acids that are highly found in fishes like herring, anchovies, salmon and sardines or in corn, soybean and walnuts.
  • Children, like the rest of us, should limit: Trans fats that are found in margarines, vegetable shortenings, candies, snack items, fried foods and processed foods as well.

Special Nutritional Requirements for Teenagers

The best way to make some significant changes in the dietary habits of teenagers is to bring to light some of the consequences of eating a poor diet. These may include athletic ability, appearance, energy and their ability to enjoy life. These short term benefits are more important to teens rather than the long term ones. Below are some special nutritional suggestions for parents of teenagers.

  • Calories: Because of all the activity and growth, teenage boys need up to 2,800 calories per day and girls need 2,200 every single day. Fruits, veggies and lean proteins are the best way to get calories.
  • Protein: For the body to maintain and preserve the muscles, every teen must get sufficient amount of protein. This may come from fish, meats, dairy, soy, nuts and beans.
  • Calcium: Most teenagers get insufficient calcium that leads to weaker bones and osteoporosis in later years. The calcium often comes from juice and cereals including leafy greens and sesame seeds.
  • Iron: Deficiency of iron can cause fatigue and anemia. Therefore, it is essential to include foods that are rich in iron in the diet of the teenagers. This may include spinach, kale and other leafy vegetables as well as some portion of red meat.

On the ending note, rather than completely eliminating the intake of junk food, limit its consumption. Replace them with alternatives that are healthier and consists of all the right nutrients in right amounts. This will serve the need of eating a healthy diet in teenagers and children.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 2, 2021

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