Top 4 Healthy Eating Habits To Instil In Your Children
I have always found habits extremely interesting, for the simple reason that they play such a crucial role in the order of our days. Your daily, weekly or monthly habits have such a profound effect on your life, and this can be either positive or negative.
For example, the person with the habit of brushing his or her teeth properly for at least two minutes – morning and evening – will enjoy much better oral health than the one who squeezes in a quick 30 seconds of cleaning and hopes for no cavities.
Likewise, the older the habit is, the stronger it will be.
One of the things I am most thankful for to my mother is that she was mindful of the effect of such habits on her children, and that she raised us to practice good ones from early childhood. (At this point of my life, I find that I’m actually trying to teach her some, and you wouldn’t believe the struggle I’m having in getting a 50-year-old lady to learn to like green tea, or even just take her coffee without sugar!)
Nevertheless, it is thanks to her that I opt for water and not soda when I’m thirsty, and to my father that I enjoy an active life outdoors. I’ve also discovered that it doesn’t stop there. Research is indicating that certain habits can even be carried through from parents to their children through DNA. In other words, to some extent children can inherit their parent’s habits, both good and bad. A paper published in Science from the researchers from the University of Adelaide found that, in addition to carrying genes, sperm and eggs are coded with genetic memories that can affect the health of an embryo.
“Transgenerational epigenetic effects interact with conditions at conception to program the developmental trajectory of the embryo and fetus,” the paper read, “ultimately affecting the lifetime health of the child.”
What does this mean about our habits?
This peer-reviewed research makes the case that a baby’s health doesn’t necessarily begin on a clean sheet and with a fresh start, but that it has its origins in the health of its parents. Development in the fetus and development after birth is influenced by the decisions of the parents.
That being said, parents have a responsibility toward their children, not just to take care of their own health so that what is being carried over through DNA is good, but also to teach them healthy habits so that they can improve their health throughout their lifetimes.
The mantra ‘Food is medicine’ has long been exercised by health hedonists everywhere, and I am a firm believer of this myself. Some of the most important habits all parents can and should carry over to their children involve food, and keeping this in mind, here is a list of the more practical ones.
1. Teach them simple nutritional health benefits
Kids should be aware which foods hold which benefits, and what they should eat if they want specific benefits. Explain in simple terms concepts such as protein building muscles and healthy carbohydrates providing energy. This can even be a tactic to get them to eat their protein-filled broccoli!
2. Raise them with healthy treats
It’s a simple truth that most kids love sugar, and sweets like cookies, chocolates, ice cream and doughnuts will inevitably be involved at some level. Unfortunately, more and more studies show that sugar really, REALLY isn’t your friend, with several studies confirming that sugar is as addictive as cocaine (including a 2013 study from Connecticut College, USA). Don’t despair, though, as nature is abundant with treats that will satisfy the sweet tooth and contribute health benefits. Save your children from struggling with sugar later in life by incorporating the following elements into their diets:
- dates (great for heart health and strong bones, good source of fibre, and fantastic energy source)
- raw honey (good source of antioxidants and energy)
- sweet fruits such as mangoes, strawberries, lychees and grapes
- dried fruit
- dark chocolate
3. Grow your own food, and get them involved
To quote Farmer Angus, we are all farmers by proxy. Gardening in itself has been proven to be great for longevity, as it is a natural way to relax and spend time in nature, but if your children are involved in growing their own fruits and vegetables, they are almost guaranteed to eat it more readily. Moreover, this puts more fresh produce on their plates, containing less chemicals and preservatives, and teaches them about organic produce. Click here for more benefits of growing your own food.
4. Involve them in cooking
In general, little girls enjoy cooking and baking with mommy anyway, but time in the kitchen does not have to be determined by gender. By teaching boys basic cooking skills like making eggs, french toast, porridge and simple, easy meals, they are less likely to later on opt for fast food whenever they are hungry. In any event, involving children in cooking empowers them and gives them confidence, which will be even more valuable later in life.
Remember, health really is wealth, and while these habits are simple, they form a basis on which your children will build healthy lives. In addition, each one will provide you with wonderful memories of their childhood.
Click here to find out how you can make your own healthy nut butter at home, and customise it to fit your own tastes.