Teach Children How To Cook

Personal sharings of Chef Peter Pang on How To Lead Your Child To Healthy Eating

How To Develop Good Eating Habits In Your Child

Posted by Peter Pang on August 18, 2008

How to Develop Good Eating Habits in Your Child

“There are no bad foods, only bad food habits.”

In order for your child to develop a healthy and positive relationship with food, parents need to make the family meal table a happy table. It is important to have meat and vegetables on the menu but not as important compared to communication and socialization.

Look at it this way. If every meal time is like a battleground, the child is already standing by to shield herself from any intrusion of the “vegetable bullets” fired from your “vege machine gun,” coupled with threatening sounds coming out from your mouth. If this were to continue, both of you or even the entire family will be upset and end up with poor indigestion. Here are a few tips that can ease the stress on everyone.

  1. Small children have small stomachs. You as a parent should know that a small stomach only holds a small amount of food, so do not fill your child’s plate with an amount enough to feed an adult. No wonder children fear the dining table. It is because of you, out of your love for your child, that you overwhelm them with too much food. Just let them fill their own plate from the healthy choices you present. Make it a dining rule that they choose at least three different items on the table and let everyone dine in peace. Amen.

  1. You need to encourage your kids to sample new foods. You need at least 15 times of serving a new dish in the course of several months before it is accepted by your child. The new food you try to introduce to them must be similar to what they already like. For instance, if your child likes to eat peanut butter jelly sandwiches, you can substitute banana slices with jam or jelly. You can substitute mashed sweet potato with mashed potato and then move on to cooked carrot. In this way the new food already seems somewhat familiar.

  1. Sometimes it is the texture of the food that is unappetizing rather than the flavour. Children like to eat crunchy food, and I must confess, so do adults. And you will begin to notice that most junk food are crunchy in texture. Try raw, crunchy vegetables instead of cooked. Some vegetables can be finely chopped and added to soups, chilli, casseroles, meatballs and hamburgers. If your child does not like to eat fruits, hide fruits in muffins, pancakes or ice pops. You can start a new family tradition whereby you turn one night a week into “Try New Food Night” whereby everyone, including the adults, has to try at least one bite of the new food.

If you are scared that your children will hate you for this, let me share with you this quote: ”Your sons and daughters weren’t made to like you. That’s what grandchildren are for.

  1. Grow vegetables with your children. Get your children involved in growing a vegetable garden or you can bring them to visit an orchard so they can see where food comes from.

  1. Kids are all about fun, so why should their food be boring? Let them choose a recipe from a cook book and help them prepare it. You can serve tuna salad in an ice cream cone or soup in a colourful mug. Place meatballs on a popsicle stick or disposable chopstick so they can eat them like lollipops. Form pizza dough into their initials. How about a banana boat stranded in a sea of ice cream? Many children love to experiment with different dips and dressings, which is why they love tomato sauce very much (to me it is a chemical sauce full of colourings, artificial flavourings, gums, fillers and preservatives lining up like the Mercedes E class, E124, E129, etc). Give your child good dips and dressings like yogurt, low-fat salad dressing or melted cheese to make food and vegetables much more inviting.

  1. Don’t force your child to “clean up their plates.” I know a lot of parents worry their child is not eating enough even though she is growing at a normal rate. Forcing children to “clean up their plate” may lead to eating disorders down the road where they will form the habit of stuffing a lot of food into their stomach as they thought this was the correct way of eating. Most children can regulate their intake for their own bodies. They will not allow themselves to starve and they will also know when they are full.

Always be nice to your children because they are the ones who will choose your rest home, and they will surely remember to ask you to clean up your plate.

  1. Some children eat the same few foods day in and day out. To a lot of parents, it seems like a big problem, but actually it’s not. The best course of action is to make sure the foods they do consume are as nutritious as possible. You also need to periodically encourage them to break out of their routine; kids will move on when they are ready. Don’t allow this “choosy” attitude of your child to be the source of arguments for this can result in your child using her eating pattern as an attention-getting tactic.

  1. Meal times should be stress-free and as relaxed as possible. Try to eliminate distractions, such as television, and use meal times to reconnect as a family. A family meal is not just a time to nourish the body; it is also an important time to socialize. Avoid arguments over what your children are eating or not eating during the meal. Trust me, it will do your digestion good!

  1. Let them snack! Growing bodies require a large amount of nutrients and choosing the right snacks can help fill in the missing gaps of a child’s daily nutritional needs. Snacks also help keep energy levels high and prevent overeating at mealtime. The perfect snack should be like a mini-meal, a small amount of carbohydrates along with some protein and a little fat. Examples are crackers with cheese or peanut butter, crackers with milk or fresh fruits with yogurt.

Contrary to the popular practice of eating fruits after a meal, it is actually a good practice to eat fruits in between meals and not during meals. This is because fruits can be digested in one and a half hours whereas protein and starch take a longer time to digest. If your fruits are caught and mixed with the protein and starch in the stomach, and coupled with the temperature of 37 degrees Celcius, toxins will be produced and this will affect you and your child’s health.

It is best to offer a wide variety of snack options and let your children make their own choices. Guide them in the right direction by keeping healthy snack choices at their eye level in the refrigerator or in cabinets.Good snacks include fat-free crackers, fresh fruits and yogurt. Plan on offering snacks one to two hours before a meal. This will satisfy their hunger without spoiling the appetite.

As your children become involved in athletics and team sports, it is important to provide energizing snacks either before or during a game. Examples of good energizing snacks are bananas, oranges, low-fat granola bars and pretzels. These are easily digested and provide complex carbohydrates for energy. Encourage your child to drink water before, during and after the game to prevent dehydration. Remember that all types of food can be part of a healthy diet if eaten in moderation. Chips, candy and cookies should not be totally banned; instead, save these treats for special occasions or as once-in-a-while treats. Your child will love you for it.

Although your children are what they eat, please, for goodness sake, do not stop them from eating nuts.”

  1. Fast food for kids once or twice a month is okay provided you choose or help them choose the healthier choices. For example, choose grilled chicken instead of standard burger and fries, fruits or yogurt instead of chicken nuggets, wheat bread instead of white bread, and milk or fresh fruit juice instead of a soft drink. Fast food chain nowadays know that people are becoming health conscious, so they offer a “healthy menu” and a “playground for kids.” You’d think they are sincere, but better think twice. If your child really need that “latest” toy that she will die for, just buy her a kid’s meal (choose as healthy as possible) and put the guilt on hold and balance out the rest of the day with choices that are as healthy as possible. Remember to insist on a healthier menu and let me tell you why.

“Your children are watching and observing you – Walk Your Talk

  1. During long road trips, snacks are a great diversion on the journey. With some preplanning, eating on the journey can still be fun and healthy. Fill your coolers with apples, bananas, baby carrots, dried fruits, nuts and wholegrain cereal. Hard candy, gummy bears and animal crackers are non-messy treats and popular kid-pleasers.

  1. School lunches are the most important. It is better to make your own lunches for your child as school canteens can never give full attention or concern for your child’s health. Due to cost constraints, they use the lowest quality processed food and the least fresh vegetables they can find in the market. They sell your child chemically-concocted drinks and processed foods which are full of preservatives, additives and colourings. Examples are red coloured sausages and deep fried fish fillets made from flour and flavourings. My heart felt such great pain at this point of writing, as in a few hours from now, children will be going to school to eat and drink these “special food.”

Let me tell you a true story. I met a man in his 50’s asking me how to manage a catering business as his canteen contract had just expired. I asked him to tell me how he ran the primary school canteen and this was what he told me. ” We tendered the canteen contract with a very high price. The school gets most of our profits, and in order to stay profitable, this is what we do: For the drinks, we buy the cheapest orange flavoured cordial we can find, add lots of water, and since it’s so diluted and colourless, we add orange colouring into the drinks as well as synthetic vinegar to fake the sourish taste. For the vegetables, we are able to get for free by savaging big rubbish bins in the wet wholesale market.”  And by the way, this too how some unscrupulous economy rice sellers get their vegetables from. Disturbing, yet true!

Suggestions for you as the parent, prepare sandwiches or have your child  prepare them herself. Make some pancake rolls filled with meat and fresh vegetables, or fill a thermos with tomato and chicken soup, and some fresh salad with fruits would be good. You can get more ideas from kids cook book.

Let me share with you my personal experience with my daughter, after I’ve taught her some recipes. One day, she started to discuss with me how she could prepare her own lunch without having to wake up early. I gladly said, “Daddy has a way and this is what we are going to do…”

  1. The Power of Television is Not to be Underestimated. Children are easily influenced by television advertising, which unfortunately, is often focused on sweetened cereals, fast food and snacks. Sports heroes and movie stars only increase the appeal of these foods in young minds. Help your children become a savvy consumer and discuss the power of advertising by explaining that food on television never looks as good as “in person.” Explain to your child why you choose not to purchase certain food items and be firm in your decisions. Television not only affects the young mind but young bodies as well. Obviously, the more time children sit in front of the television, the less time they spend in more active pursuits. Physical activity is a key component of a healthy lifestyle and a simple trip to the playground or a game of tag is a perfect way to burn energy and avoid obesity in children.

“The TV is one of our entertainment mediums – we call it a medium because nothing’s well done.”

  1. Have Fun in the Supermarkets. Let the chore of shopping turn into a learning experience for your child. The key is to keep your child busy and involved in the process. Preschoolers can go on a “treasure hunt” for a specific colour and shape of fresh vegetables. Older children can help to look out for discounted items or best buys. Hand over some of the decision making and let your children choose a shape of pasta or the flavour of yogurt. You must constantly remind them to read the labels on cans and choose the healthier alternatives. Feed your children and yourself before going to the supermarket. Junk food looks much less tempting on a full stomach.

Have fun cooking good nutritious meals.

A stock is just like computer: trash in trash out.

Till We meet again



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