healthy eating habits for kids

Healthy Eating Habits for Children at a Nursery

The journey to a lifetime of good health begins during the early years of a child’s life. One of the most significant aspects of this journey is the development of healthy eating habits. What we consume in our early years can shape our preferences, physical health, and future relationship with food.  

It is not uncommon for parents to feel overwhelmed or confused about the best ways to approach nutrition for their young ones. This is where a trusted nursery can play a vital role in laying the foundation for a lifetime of healthy choices. Nurseries provide an environment where children can explore various foods, learn about nutrition, and establish healthy practices. 

This blog will explore the importance of healthy eating habits for kids and provide practical development tips.

The Importance of Healthy Eating Habits

Healthy eating isn’t simply about choosing an apple over a packet of crisps. It’s a holistic approach that encompasses understanding how food fuels our bodies, the importance of balanced meals, and the joy of relishing various flavours and textures. 

By fostering healthy eating habits in nursery-going children, we can set the foundation for a lifetime of optimal health. It’s not just about preventing obesity or dental cavities but promoting overall well-being and cognitive development and instilling a positive relationship with food.

How to Develop Healthy Eating Habits in Early Years

kids eating habitsFollowing are the 8 healthy eating habits every child should develop:

  1. Encourage Regular Meal and Snack Times

Establishing regular meal and snack times aids in managing hunger and satiety signals in children. This can deter the development of extreme hunger, which often leads to fussy or selective eating behaviours. Creating and sticking to a balanced meal schedule that includes three meals and two snacks spread evenly throughout the day is essential.

  1. Avoid Using Food as a Reward

Leveraging food, particularly sweets, as a reward can pave the way for unhealthy eating patterns. Instead, seek alternative methods to acknowledge and encourage good behaviour. Verbal praise, stickers, or small toys can serve as effective, non-food rewards that do not associate food with emotional satisfaction.

  1. Engage Children with Playful Food

Children, by nature, are curious and love engaging in playful activities. Transform meal times into an exciting adventure by using food creatively. Use different food items to craft funny faces or picturesque landscapes on the plate. This makes eating fun and encourages children to try other foods they might otherwise avoid.

  1. Promote Self-Feeding from an Early Stage

Promote self-feeding when your child shows developmental readiness. This not only fosters a sense of independence but can also stimulate their interest in their food. Initially, it could be a messy exploration, but it’s a crucial step toward developing their fine motor skills and self-reliance.

  1. Serve Food in Smaller Portions

Offering large servings can be daunting and overwhelming for small tummies. It’s advisable to start with smaller portions and offer more if they continue to show hunger cues. This also promotes mindful eating, reduces the chance of overeating, and helps minimise food waste.

  1. Educate About the Food Pyramid

Introduce the concept of the food pyramid for kids. Use simple, age-appropriate language to explain food groups and why they are vital for our bodies. Employ visual aids like pictures, flashcards, or even actual food items to create a more interactive and tangible learning experience.

  1. Prioritise Hydration

Water should be the primary source of hydration for children. Parents should limit the intake of sugary drinks and fruit juices, as these can contribute to obesity and tooth decay. Ensure your child has access to water throughout the day, and encourage them to drink regularly, especially in hot weather or during physical activities.

  1. Educate About the Importance of Nutrition

Teach children about the crucial role nutrition plays in their overall health. Explain how different foods help their bodies grow, protect them from illnesses, and help them function at their best. Use fun and interactive ways to teach, such as reading books about nutrition, playing learning games, or even cooking simple, healthy recipes together.

How to Promote Healthy Eating in Early Years

healthy eating habits

Promoting healthy eating in the early years requires a multi-pronged approach. Here are some strategies for promoting healthy eating in children: 

Introduce New Foods Gradually

When it comes to introducing new foods, patience is critical. Children must often be exposed to food multiple times before they are comfortable enough to try it. Always keep the tone positive, and don’t force them to eat. Instead, encourage them to touch, smell and play with the new food. This can help reduce their initial reluctance.

Provide a Variety of Healthy Options

Children are more likely to eat a balanced diet when they are offered a variety of foods. This doesn’t mean you need to prepare a gourmet meal every time. Simply include different types of fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins in their meals. Offering a colourful plate can make the meal more appealing to little ones and increases the chances they’ll eat a wider range of nutrients.

Make Healthy Swaps

Where possible, make healthier swaps in your child’s diet. For instance, swap refined grains with whole grains, processed snacks with fruits, and sugary drinks with water or milk. These small swaps can make a big difference in their overall nutrient intake.

Set a Good Example

Children learn more from what we do than what we say. If they see you enjoying a range of healthy foods, they are more likely to do the same. Show them that healthy foods can be delicious and satisfying. Your attitude towards food can significantly influence your child’s eating habits.

Keep the Atmosphere Positive

Avoid turning meal times into a battlefield. Keep the atmosphere light, positive, and stress-free. If a child refuses to eat, don’t force them. Instead, remove the food without making a big deal about it.

Common Questions about Healthy Eating Habits

When it comes to healthy eating habits for kids, parents often have a lot of questions. Here are answers to some of the most common:

How to Maintain Healthy Eating Habits?

The key to success lies in routine and diversity. As mentioned above, keep a fixed schedule for meals and snacks and rotate different food items in their diet. If certain foods are met with resistance, don’t be disheartened. Continue to offer them in a relaxed manner and demonstrate healthy eating yourself, as children learn best by example.

How Can I Encourage My Child to Try New Foods?

To encourage your child to be adventurous with their eating, give one new ingredient at a time. Pair this with a food they already enjoy. This method creates a sense of familiarity and comfort, making the new food less daunting. Additionally, involve your child in cooking or shopping for food. This could enhance their interest and willingness to try it.

What if my Child Refuses to Eat a Certain Food?

Avoid forcing your child to eat something they dislike. It’s perfectly normal for children to have aversions to certain foods. Again, instead of creating a battleground, continue offering the food periodically, without any pressure. Over time, their tastes may change, and they might start accepting it. Remember, it can take multiple exposures to a new food before a child is ready to try it.

How Can I Make Meal Times Less Stressful?

Make meals a family occasion to create a serene and enjoyable mealtime environment. Strive to keep distractions like television or mobile devices to a minimum. Instead, engage in meaningful conversations, discuss your day, or even talk about your food – its tastes, textures, and origins. This reduces mealtime stress and subtly educates your child about different foods.

Healthy Eating at Tappy Toes Nursery

At Tappy Toes Nursery, we understand our pivotal role in shaping your child’s relationship with food. We are committed to promoting healthy eating in the early years, providing balanced, nutrient-rich meals prepared with fresh ingredients. We also incorporate fun and interactive activities to make mealtimes an enjoyable learning experience.

Conclusion

Instilling healthy eating habits in children is not a one-off event but a long-term commitment. It’s about consistency, patience, and a lot of love. Remember that it’s okay to have treats occasionally and equally okay if your child doesn’t immediately take to broccoli or spinach. 

At Tappy Toes Nursery, we understand the importance of nurturing healthy eating early on. Our dedicated staff works closely with parents to ensure children receive balanced and nutritious meals. Together, we can lay the foundation for a healthy future for our children.



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