Healthy Meal Time
F
ulfills Children's Psychological Needs

Mouth-watering healthy meal stimulates appetite and arouses an aura of excitement. It makes mealtime a happy family event and influences children's all-round development. Besides the provision of nutrition, children flourish with the fulfillment of their social and emotional needs.

As the family enjoys a healthy meal, ongoing interaction provides intellectual stimulation and emotional support to children. Social and communicative skills of children sharpen in happy environment at meal times as they share experiences with their parents.

Children at 3 years of age and above should be encouraged to eat at the table with the entire family, even though they may make some mess there. It reassures their status as eligible  members of the family and boosts their self-concept.

Guard against eating alone while watching TV

Atmosphere at meal times

Atmosphere at meal time influences personality development of children. All efforts should, therefore, be made to create a positive and a stress free environment at the meal time. Healthy meal time is a very special time of the day, for it is the only time when all family members get together, enjoy each other's company, eat, and share their experiences.

Parents are the role models

At meal times children follow parents' food habits.
Parents are their role model, also for healthy eating habits. The food habits formed in childhood are followed through out the life.

Children's needs for healthy meals

Children need 3 nutritious meals and 2 healthy snacks per day. While looking after children’s essential nutrition needs also cater to their food preferences. Convert each meal in to nutritious balanced diet. How you convert your child’s desired dish in to a healthy meal is only a matter of a little creativeness. 

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Introduce variety of foods

Children often prefer only a limited variety of foods and opt for one particular preparation day after day, but they should be introduced to a variety.

Variety helps make healthy meals. 
Offer new foods repeatedly with slight variation in presentations, may be at 8-10 meal times, before you establish your child’s acceptance or rejection towards it.

Do not force a child what he rejects consistently. May be some particular ingredient does no agree with him, or he could be even having that particular food allergy.

Food Pyramid helps create healthy meals

Allow personalized eating plan based on the guidelines provide by the food pyramid, individualized on the plate. Over a few days, the diet supplies all the essential nutrients necessary for child health and development

Prepare the plate in the kitchen to help children learn the correct proportions of healthy food choice.

Healthy meal requirement varies with child growth stages

Increase in appetite is normal phenomena to meet the increased body needs during growth spurts. This should be differentiated from some children’s tendency to over eat, another challenge for parenting skills.

Regular monitoring of child’s growth on growth charts and evaluating the degree of fatness on BMI charts will help preventing childhood obesity and the related diseases.

How can the tendency to over eat be controlled?

  • Lengthen meal time by 10 min.

  • Teach to eat slowly and chew the food well.

  • Encourage to drink enough water with meals and in between the meals.

  • Offer foods that include lots of vegetables, fresh fruits, and whole-grain cereals and pulses, as proposed in food-pyramid.

  • Don't force children to eat healthy foods. Make the healthy foods into interesting dishes that the learn to make right choices.

  • Serve small portions at a time.

  • Allow about 5 mins to lapse before serving next helping - It may help wane off comfort eating.

  • Don't first restrict a food and then give the same food as a reward on a particular accomplishment.

  • Do not coax children to finish all that is served in the plate. It will develop their ability to recognize natural cues of hunger and satiety, thereby regulate their energy intake. 

Differentiate overeating from healthy eating

A child is said to have a tendency to over eat when he continues to eat even after he has had a full meal. Sometimes this is seen in form of binge eating.

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