Healthy habits begin in childhood

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Healthy habits begin in childhood

Nutrition wellness is not just for adults anymore. In fact, the patterns and habits we develop as children will often determine our lifestyle as adults. Day care centers can play a very important role in developing healthy attitudes in children that may decrease health problems in adults. Good nutrition and exercise habits are vital for healthy children.

Childhood obesity is a good example of how habits developed in childhood can affect adult lifestyles. Studies have shown that overweight children often become overweight adults who are more likely to have overweight babies. Overweight adults also have an increased tendency to develop heart disease, high blood pressure, respiratory problems, diabetes mellitus, tooth decay and social problems such as depression and poor self-esteem. The good news is that this overweight cycle can be broken, and child care providers can play a major role. By paying close attention to how you feed the children in your care and by encouraging regular exercise you are teaching healthy habits.

Some points to remember in establishing healthy eating habits are:

  • Set a good example. Children learn by watching you.
  • Provide a variety of wholesome, nutritious foods.
  • Avoid foods that may contribute to weight problems such as soda pop, chips, candy or rich desserts.
  • Give child-size portions; allow the children to ask for seconds.
  • Don’t insist that everything on the plate must be eaten. An appetite change where children eat less is normal.
  • Make meal times fun yet relaxed. This is not the time for watching television.
  • Don’t use food as a bribe, reward or punishment.
  • Encourage daily, physical activity by making exercise fun.

Childhood is not the time for dieting. Children need sufficient calories and essential nutrients to support growth and development. Rather than restricting calories, the goal is to keep the same weight while height increases. This results in the overweight child growing into her or his weight. Again, you can play an important role in children’s food choices by providing healthy, nutritious foods for meals and snacks.

Nutrition wellness education does not require years of study or advanced degrees. All it requires is a desire to help children develop healthy attitudes towards good nutrition and regular exercise. These requirements are easily incorporated into day care settings. Begin now to help children become healthy adults.

Updated October 22, 2019 8:51am