Introducing healthy eating habits and home-cooked meals in an era of fast food

Food is the most integral and basic part of our lives. And, childhood is the phase in life where healthy eating habits are developed through exposure to different kinds of food, textures, colours, flavours, and aromas. Parents, especially mothers or primary caregivers have a major influence on a child’s eating habits. For this reason, it is imperative that they are well informed about the importance of healthy eating habits.


Reasons to inculcate healthy eating habits:

Healthy eating habits includes not just eating all kinds of vegetables and fruits, but also includes eating home-cooked food. This doesn’t mean that all home cooked meals are healthy. Deep fried foods, heavy use of refined oils, use of high salt and sugar in the meal preparation are very unhealthy. Healthy way of cooking ensures the vegetables are cooked in the right way. For instance, steam or boil and pan-fry vegetables instead of deep frying them.

Home cooked meals are made with much care as hygiene is maintained whilst preparing meals (washing/cleaning vegetables or fruits properly, cooking in clean and tidy environment and utensils). This ensures maximum nutrition being given to your child. Your child’s immune system is still developing and needs maximum amount of nutrition in their everyday meals.


The role of nutritious food in a child’s diet:

Nutrition is very crucial during the early years of every child. Afterall, we are what are surroundings are, aren’t we? Parents or primary caregivers play a key role in shaping the eating habits of a child. They are the role models for everything – personality traits, character, habits, behaviours, language and more. And therefore, parents and primary caregivers need to follow healthy eating habits so that the child also learns to eat nutritious food. Nutritional meals include properly cleaned and well cooked vegetables in various forms; fruits that are locally sourced, cleaned well and added to the child’s diet; healthy snacks that are prepared at home and so on. Deep frying foods on a regular basis is unhealthy as the food loses all its nutritional value. Fruits must be thoroughly washed and given by cutting them into pieces or as it is to retain maximum nutrition. Fruit juices are not as healthy as they have high sugar content but can be given occasionally. Adopting healthy eating habits during childhood ensures the child continues to make healthy food choices for the rest of their life.

It does take a lot of effort to prepare home cooked meals but by planning ahead, and involving the child in the meal preparation, it can be a fun time to bond well with each other and develop a sense of shared responsibility. Children are more likely to eat healthy when they are involved in the meal preparation that includes going to the farmer’s market to get fresh vegetables and fruits, washing them and helping out wherever they can. This also makes it a wonderful family time as well.

Lack of nutrition leads to loss of immunity that directly impacts the overall health of a child. Parents who ensure their child eats nutritional food are the ones who are laying a strong foundation for their child’s health for a lifetime! A healthy child is a happy child who grows up to be a healthy individual with strong immunity.


Growth and development according to age:

Healthy eating habits ensure that your child gets all the valuable nutrition that is required for their growth and development. It helps them grow well and meet their developmental milestones as they grow at a rapid pace in their early years. It helps them develop a healthy relationship with food so that they grow up to make healthy food choices in life. Fast food is the biggest threat to a child’s physical and mental health. In the absence of healthy home cooked nutritious meals, the child tends to crave for and love the tasty junk foods that have zero nutritional value.


Protection against several diseases and illnesses:

The world we live in is ever changing and we are witnesses to a pandemic that we never imagined would strike us in such a horrific way! Having a strong immunity goes a long way when such life threating viruses or diseases emerge in our environment. Immunity is built over time and the ones who have had healthy eating habits from their childhood benefit to a great extent. Their bodies are better prepared to fight the illnesses. Parents and primary caregivers must take responsibility to provide nutritious healthy home cooked meals on a day-to-day basis.


To provide better mental health:

Research on the relationship between child’s diet and mental health has proved that there is indeed a strong connection between the two. Children whose diet includes healthy nutritious food are less susceptible to mental health issues like anxiety, depression and more. This makes it all the more essential for parents and primary caregivers to ensure that their child is given the most nutritious food that includes vegetables, fruits, nuts and so on. Depriving them of healthy nutritious home cooked food will directly impact not just the child’s physical health but also their mental wellbeing.


Healthy Fast-food options

It is impossible to keep children away from fast food completely. They are exposed to it in their surroundings and they do feel the need to try it out. For this reason, fast food or junk food can be given to your child but do it occasionally and in moderation. You can also swap ingredients to make delicious fast food at home. For instance, you can make grill or air fried sweet potatoes instead of French fries. You can swap sugar with jaggery, you can make healthy ice cream at home without any artificial preservatives, colours, or unhealthy sweeteners. Swap refined oils with ghee, butter to add nutritional value to your child’s diet. Include eggs, meat, paneer, make healthy pizzas with whole wheat flour. Swap refined flour with whole wheat flour or oats flour or almond flour. You will find amazing quick recipes on the internet and all your time and effort that goes into providing healthy food will be greatly appreciated by your child when they become adults. Healthy food paves way to healthy life style and a sound mental health.

Eating fast food or junk food often leads to several diseases that affect the heart, blood sugar levels, blood pressure and many organs of the body. Immunity gets weak making it difficult for the body to fight infections and disease-causing organisms. Your child’s early years are the foundational years for developing healthy eating habits and strong immunity. Negligence of parents or primary caregivers on providing healthy home cooked nutritional meals will adversely affect their child’s health in the future.

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