Food for children: Here’s how parents can instil seasonal food habits in kids Health

With today’s fast paced lifestyle and abundant options available, children can no longer be tricked into meals so, how should parents manage nutrition filled fun meals that children will enjoy? Health experts suggest it is wiser to start young with them and build food habits centered around involving them in meal planning and meal prep.

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Khushboo Thakker Garodia, Homeopath, Trichologist, Nutrition and Stress Management Expert, shared, “Today we see food being advertised everywhere on TV, social media and this makes an impression on the young mind but when children are involved actively in the house, they learn to value the food made at home and are able to look beyond the marketing strategy and be healthy and well. I strongly believe that the change starts at home – when all members reassess what and how they eat – if not all then at least both parents start eating better. ”

She advised, “One of the best ways to do this is by involving children in the kitchen, right from planning meals, helping clean vegetables and having them set the table. I believe even taking them to farms to understand where their food comes from, what food grows in which season, crop rotation – all these things impact the food choices your child makes. This gives them a clear understanding of why some fruits grow in one season and why some in the other. ”

Asserting that they learn why it is important to choose local produce over so called organic food which has traveled miles and may not be as nutritious, Dr Khushboo Thakker Garodia said, “As parents, it is very important to be involved in cooking and eating in balance because children do not listen to us, they see what we are doing and then mimic us. If we are being fussy about some foods, our children fuss too. In my personal experience – I saw that kids, though small, valued their meal on the plate more when they helped me prepare it in the kitchen or excitedly set up their plates. It is exciting for them to go to a vegetable vendor, select vegetables and then see how it is prepared and finally how it looks on their plate. Their involvement brought down our food fights. ”

Listing some fun simple activities to introduce the concept of seasonal foods to children, Dr Vanshika Gupta Adukia, Founder of Therhappy, Pregnancy / Childbirth and Lactation Specialist and a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist, shared:

1. Take them to a local market and show them the specific fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains known for the current season.

2. Involve them in the weekly food chart planning by asking them about the various seasonal produce they would like to include in the family meals.

3. Create a countdown for them before their favorite seasonal produce would be out of the market for the said season. During the countdown, introduce them to a new food that would be available shortly in the next season.

4. Consider gardening if it is an option or take the child to a nursery / farm to witness the process of farming for seasonal produce so that they understand the process and concept better.

“If you ask me the easiest way to ensure health, my answer will always be: eating seasonally. Nature has perfected the timing and chemistry of its produce for far longer than humans have been around. In today’s world, you can get strawberries in summer and apples are frozen for months before they hit the grocery store, ”said Radhika Iyer, Entrepreneur and Founder of Raa Foundation and Anahata Organic, Yogini, Mountaineer and Philanthropist.

She pointed out why that is not good for you and your kids:

1) The produce has to travel miles away and that makes them days / months old.

2) You have to use chemicals to grow foods out of their season. These chemicals are then digested by us.

3) Not eating seasonally can seriously affect your immune system and make you feel tired and lethargic, the opposite of what we want food to do.

On the other hand, she emphasized that the local seasonal produce can be picked from the farm and to your house, eating seasonally keeps your body’s cycle in sync with nature and it gives you strong immunity. It also gives you good energy and allows you to have a more stable mind.

Since it can be tricky to implement seasonal food habits with children, she shared some ways parents can do it:

1. Lead by example. Children learn everything from the environment around them, especially from ages 0 to 7. Make seasonal eating a habit yourself and naturally extend that to your kids. It is okay if your children are above the age of 7 too, leading by example is still very crucial to helping them make a lifestyle change.

2. Make fun recipes and involve your kids when you cook. There are so many resources out there that make fruits and vegetables exciting and easy options to eat. Examples of this are smoothies and rice bowls! Find recipes that cater to your family’s particular taste and keep your kids around as you cook! When they watch the process and engage with food, they build a stronger and personal relationship to the food that they consume.

3. Make it a habit from childhood. Start as young as you can. Remember that no age is too late to make a change. But, habits are formed in early childhood and it is far easier to maintain habits you grow up with.

4. Explain why eating seasonally is important. Children are smart! Often, we tell our kids what to do without telling them why it is important to do it. When there is no reason, it is an order to do something they may not want to do. Explain the basics of nutrition and the importance of good health. Then explain how eating seasonally ticks both boxes. Keep them in the loop and educate them with the knowledge you have.

5. Keep canned food / produce out of the house. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Don’t keep canned food or food in plastic around the house. Stock your kitchen with fruits and raw ingredients that need some preparation to eat.

6. Shop locally and take your kids with you. Take your kids grocery shopping! Go to your local bazaar and teach children how to identify edible produce. The best way to build habits and make children understand the importance of a habit is through providing them with experiences. When all their senses are engaged, habits stick easier and memories are sharper.

7. Incorporate produce that grows year around. Some fruits and vegetables, such as lemons and onions, grow all year round! Incorporate them in your meals and point out the difference between seasonal produce and year-around produce.

8. Remember, no one is perfect. Learning habits is a process! It is okay if you can’t eat seasonally 7 days a week first. Start with 2 days, then build to 4 and so on. Learn to embrace the imperfection of the process. We live in a world that is doing the opposite every day, so going against the grain is going to be an adjustment!


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