Food is essential for the growth and development of a child. ‘Good food means the right kind of food for good health, it is nutritious. It contains a natural substance that the body needs to grow properly and stay healthy.’ In recent days, socio-economic conditions and cultural norms of our community have been changing and the food habit of children are also changing facing such changes. Urban lifestyles have led to high consumption of instant foods mostly junk food daily. First food culture is an emerging trend among children. ‘Energy-dense high sugar, fat, salt content and low nutrient value in terms of protein, fiber, vitamin and mineral content are termed junk food.’
THERE ARE FEW SIMPLE WAYS TO HELP KIDS TO AVOID JUNK FOODS:
1. Limit Children’s early exposure:
a. Kids may be more prone to addiction than adults. So, parents should limit their exposure to products with added sugar and colored in their early years of life. E.g., from childhood children must be controlled to consume chocolate or chips or any other junk foods.
b. Instead of going cold turkey establish some basic and fair rules and then stick to them. Maybe it’s one sweet treat at a policy or perhaps a couple of small goodies. Whatever it is, be clear and give your kids some choice, and keeping a limited number of junk food in the house will help.
c. As they say, homemade is always the healthy option. When you can’t switch them away from outside food, you can always make it at home, making a few healthy swaps too. This also reduces the chances of contamination, preservation present in fast foods. This can also be a change for them in daily routine food, making them enjoy it even more. E.g., instead of providing outside fast food or any kind of food to children, parents can make the food at home and can add some vegetables also for better nutrition or increased food value.
2. Divert their attention from fast food:
a. Attention is a way of giving priority to information. In this strategy, people seek to direct their attention away from stimuli that give rise to unwanted desire. By diverting your kids’ attention elsewhere (like tell them stories) one may prevent full processing of the emotional aspects of a tempting stimulus and reduce the emotional impact.
b. It’s harder to say no when you have all sorts of goodies in the open and little arms reach. Rearrange your pantry and fridge so the only stuff they don’t mind having them grab is front and center (like healthy fruits and veggies).
3. Be a good role model in front of them:
a. Parents are often a child’s first role model, so they see them doing, exactly do the same. A parent’s preference for sugar, fat, and salt in their diet, as well as their views of self-control, come together to influence their choice to regularly give a child junk food.
b. Parents with a lower preference for sugar fat salt and with a growth mindset regarding developing self-control to limit the amount of junk food they provide to their children.
c. What parents do at home when it comes to meal selection influences the food choices their children make away from home. Parents should explore their own beliefs about self-control to understand how they influence their children’s developing food preferences. Doing so may help parents to improve their diet in a way that benefits how their children eat. Early encouragement and motivation start from home. E.g., Parents more prone to taking candies or sugar must control themselves from taking them, so that children can learn from them and consume fewer candies or sweets, or sugar.
4. Creating a positive eating environment:
a. Try different foods with different colors, textures and tastes, also let your child decide what to eat. Let him or her choose the fruits and veggies at the store. Make eating a fun experience for them by cutting food into fun shapes. E.g., Parents can make some cartoon shapes or interesting color compositions of food that can attract children more towards home foods.
b. Try creative ways of incorporating healthy ingredients into food recipes. Allow your child to help during cooking by including them in cooking activities like adding ingredients, baking, they learn more about the food and are excited to taste it.
c. Cooking at home is not enough until you sit together and have at least one meal as a family. Children learn from what they watch and when they will see that you enjoy and eat healthy food items, they will automatically switch to the habit of opting for nutritious food. Eg. Parents can tell their child that if he/ she can finish the meal faster than others sitting at the dining table then he/ she will be told a bedtime story.
5. Talk to Your child:
a. Talk to your child and explain to her which of the food items are important. Tell her that you love her, and you are concerned with her health and well-being. Even if children do not like the change, they will accept it after understanding your point and concern. E.g., If parents can make some attractive cartoon art or show/ make a small video about different foods with the value of it, then it can be effective to make children understand about the importance of the vegetable, fruits, and other valuable foods.
b. Your child does not like anything, in particular, there is no harm in having a healthy backup as an alternative. Don’t try to force or punish your child as it may cause undue stress during mealtime.
c. Give your child the freedom of having healthy choices and also the leverage to select one of her preferences. Reward her with a piece of her favorite food item now and then. Teach your child to have a balance between healthy food and not-so-healthy ones by explaining the importance of food to her.
Building healthy food environments for children and adolescents by using proven approaches will help kids to avoid junk foods. Children must have to leave eating junk food for not only being physically strong but also have to be mentally strong with full potential. Healthy food will help a child to have proper potential in all works carried out while junk foods make hindrance to follow the workflow. And to make these possible a child must have to follow the mentioned ways to the maximum extent possible.