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Healthy Eating in Children

Help Your Child to Eat Healthy

A doughnut after eating a pear and a pack of chips for the broccoli! Have you been making such deals with your fussy eater?

Many mothers have constant trouble making their child to eat the right amount of healthy food at the right time. As observed through studies, many children in the US are becoming obese because they consume much more calories than what they really need. As per recent estimates, the prevalence of obese children aged 6 to 11 years has increased from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 18 percent in 2012. In addition, few studies have revealed that almost one-third of toddlers in the US do not consume any fruits or vegetables in a whole day. With increased demand for unhealthy fast foods and sugary drinks, children often do not get the required amounts of essential nutrients. The unhealthy lifestyle that includes too much fast food, increased screen time and no physical activity has resulted in high rates of obesity among children.

 What could be the possible reasons for increased intake of unhealthy foods among children? Do children lack the knowledge about good nutrition?

If we want to make our children healthy eaters, we need to make them understand what healthy eating means and what are the benefits of nutrition in health? Changing someone’s dietary pattern in adulthood is often a difficult task. Therefore, the nutrition education that can improve eating habits must start in the childhood. As per the evidence obtained through studies, dietary counseling is the first step towards increasing awareness for healthy eating. Let’s try to understand what diet counseling is and what benefits can it offer?

What Does Diet Counseling Mean?

Diet counseling sessions for children usually involves, both, the children and their parents. The counseling usually starts with nutritional assessment, which evaluates your daily diet intake. The dietician or other professional can then provide you individualized education designed to meet your family’s needs. The diet counseling may also help you to understand different food group and importance of healthy diet in disease prevention as well general well-being. Children who need to lose weight or those with eating disorder may require special sessions that particularly focus on their condition.

What are the Benefits of Diet Counseling?

Nutrition counseling can significantly impacts children’s nutrition knowledge. In addition, when parents are involved in the dietary counseling, it can have even greater impact on food preferences of children. The researchers have reported that children who receive diet counseling along with their parents have better knowledge about nutrition and able to select more nutritious food.

The evidence obtained from studies suggests that it is possible to influence children's food choices, with dietary counseling given to them. Since young children are susceptible to change in their habits, parental support is important to implement new eating habits and to make the changed eating patterns permanent in children.

If you want to bring in change in your child’s dietary habits, it should start with you. Parent’s nutritional knowledge, parenting styles and feeding practices and meal preparations show strong modifying effects on children’s dietary behaviors all of which can be improved through diet counseling.

Is your child a picky eater? Have you tried to adapt the healthy eating habits yourself? 

References:

  1. Ashworth A, Ferguson E. Dietary counseling in the management of moderate malnourishment in children. Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 2009; 30(3): 405-433.
  2. .Vitolo MR, Rauber F. Maternal dietary counseling in the first year of life is associated with a higher healthy eating index in childhood. J Nutr. 2010 ; 140(11):2002-2007.
  3. M Ra¨sa¨nen, KeskinenS. Impact of nutrition counselling on nutrition knowledge and nutrient intake of 7- to 9-y-old children in an atherosclerosis prevention project European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.2004; 58:162–172.
  4. Lagstriim H, Seppanen R. The impact of child-targeted dietary counseling of parents on food (milk) preferences of preschool-aged children in the STRIP project. Scandinavian Journal of Nutrition/Naringsforskning 2001; 45:51-56.
  5. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. Available online: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/dietaryguidelines2010.pdf. Last assessed on September 8, 2014. 
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