Building healthy habits for children from a young age is important for their overall health, now and in future. In the spirit of ‘new beginnings’, parents and caregivers can start the New Year by fostering good eating habits among their children to build a positive relationship with healthy food.
“As we get the New Year underway, many of us are looking to get back on track from a health perspective, and we’re encouraging caregivers to take this opportunity to start building healthy habits with their children if these aren’t already in place,” explained Candice Sessions, Laager Marketing Manager. “With just a few simple changes and consistent reinforcement, children will quickly get into the habit of eating foods that boost their nutrition and overall well-being and getting enough hydration, without it being a fight. It’s important that these aren’t just for the start of the year, but something that is sustainable and that can become part of the family’s regular routine.”
Mbali Mapholi, Laager Tea4Kidz partner dietitian emphasises that when building new habits, 3 things are key:
- Making practical and sustainable changes, that can be maintained in the long term
- Positive reinforcement (focusing on the positives around the changes, not the negatives)
Here are Mbali’s top 6 tips for building healthy habits for the family in 2023:
- Lead by example
More is caught than taught. Raising or caring for kids comes with responsibility which includes leading by example as a way to build healthy habits. Even the food language or health language used at home may impact the child’s views on nutrition and health. Leading by example means adopting healthy habits as a caregiver, thereby exposing the kids to such indirectly or directly. This includes healthy food choices, healthy lunchboxes (for parents and children), and a healthy amount of physical activity. This also extends to healthy habits such as good sleep and stress management.
- Establish routines
Adding and supporting a child’s routines is important to help them adopt healthy habits. One example is encouraging a child to eat breakfast before going to school as part of the morning routine, and eating dinner early enough for the food to digest properly before bed. Another key part of a healthy routine is getting enough sleep. Sticking to a routine consistently helps children prepare for the day as they know what to expect.
- Involve children in shopping and cooking
Kids naturally have inquisitive minds and are always curious or eager to try something different. Take advantage of this by involving kids in food shopping as much as you can, so they can experience the whole food journey. This may also encourage them to eat new and healthy foods.
Exposing children to healthy foods early in life can train their taste buds to enjoy the flavour and texture of these foods for the rest of their lives. Involving children in the cooking process exposes them to new recipes, food textures and tastes. This is because one of the main reasons children dislike certain foods is unpredictable texture changes. However, when they’re involved in touching food items before and after cooking, they are more likely to embrace the textures.
- Encourage play
Kids do not need any encouragement to play! Given the opportunity, they will run and have fun. However, kids may fall into the trap of unlimited or excessive screen time when at home relaxing. Encourage these natural habits of physical activity by joining in the fun and leading by example. Engage in outdoor activities such as walking, bike riding, swimming and sports.
- Refrain from the food reward system
Using food as a reward may influence how your child responds to certain foods. Giving them treats as a reward may encourage them to view treats as superior to healthy foods. When trying to instil healthy habits, use non-food-related rewards to avoid creating an affinity towards ‘fun foods’ which are to be consumed in moderation, as part of a healthy diet.
- Limit sugar intake
Excessive sugar intake can lead to a number of health complications, including hyperactivity, obesity, and diabetes. Sugar should be limited, and natural sugars (e.g. those occurring in fruits and whole foods) should always be prioritised over refined sugars. A key issue with sugar is the fact that it leads to spikes and dips in energy levels, and regular sugar consumption can potentially drive a dependency on sugar to maintain energy levels and a sense of overall well-being.
One of the key areas where children often consume large amounts of sugar is via fruit juices and fizzy drinks. Rather than making these a regular part of their diet, get into a habit of giving them water or Rooibos tea instead. Laager Tea4Kidz has a range of flavoured Rooibos teas that are naturally caffeine-free and sugar-free and can be enjoyed hot or cold. Rooibos is also naturally sweet so adding sugar or honey is not essential.
Laager Tea4Kidz has a range of flavours, including 2 with added Vitamin C for even more health benefits. Parents and caregivers can also access a range of healthy recipes, advice and tips via the Joekels website, www.joekels.co.za, and via @Tea4Kidz on Facebook and @LaagerRooibosTea on Instagram.