Let’s face it: when it comes to nutrition and healthy eating habits, children – especially picky eaters! – are a vulnerable demographic. Whether it’s an extreme dislike for vegetables, sauce or, heck, anything that isn’t white, most kids will choose foods based on aesthetics rather than nutritional quality. While parents are raising the white flag on the battlefield that is the dinner table, nutritionist in Singapore and founder of Biowhole Nutrition PUJA BANSAL tells them not to give up just yet. Bansal has seen a number of young ones suffering from childhood obesity traipsing through her door in the past year.
“There has been a prevalence of a more sedentary lifestyle associated with the use of more gadgets and long hours of watching television,” says the nutritionist, adding that this – coupled with the easy availability of processed foods – meant that children are getting inadequate nutrition. This has led to a plethora of health issues, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, fatty liver and even behavioural issues and depression.
While research has shown that healthy eating habits that are inculcated before adulthood tend to persist, it’s not too late to make a change. Much of the problem can be averted by instilling these healthy habits even if your toddler is now a teenager. So take a look at this nutritionist’s simple tips on how to get your finicky young foodie to loosen up.”
Tip #1: Make it a family effort and get them involved.
“I often tell my clients that nutrition isn’t just about a certain dietary model. It’s a lifestyle overhaul and many different factors come into play. If there is a demand to make dietary changes for one picky eater, accept it as a family and make it sustainable for everyone. The chances of your child succeeding in making new changes are highly likely when they see their parents and siblings eating the same food.
So whether it’s just eating as a family or cooking, get the kids involved as much as possible. Ask them to chop the onion or ask them to make a simple salad by chopping in some simple vegetables. Engage them in the colours, smells and textures. This not only will help them eat healthier, it will stimulate digestive juices; in turn, this can indirectly help them digest food better and enable them to stay full for longer.”
Tip #2: Cook from scratch as much as possible.
“In today’s fast-paced world, processed foods can be a quick and easy fix for your picky eater. However, we know that processed foods are mainly devoid of fibre. Fresh, wholesome foods, on the other hand, feed our gut microbiome which is vital to our wellbeing. This will help ensure that we are extracting nutrition from our food, enabling good absorption and allowing adequate detoxification from pesticides and other harmful substances.”
Tip #3: Focus on eating slow and relishing your meals
“Digestion starts in the brain. In this ‘cephalic’ phase of digestion, the brain readies our digestive system for nourishment. Kids should relish every bite of their food; they shouldn’t be rushed through meals, which can create a state of overconsumption of food. This is not only vital for their digestion. It’ll also keep the microbiome balanced, as releasing adequate amounts of hydrochloric acid, bile and pancreatic enzymes is vital in keeping a healthy microbiome.
When food isn’t digested well, it will have negative implications on your gut bacteria. Eating slowly also signals the brain and lets you know when you are full.”
Tip #4: Eating the rainbow by incorporating colour
“In nutrition therapy, we often tell our clients to ‘eat the rainbow’. Colour is not only important to our body, but also to the visual eye. Children are more likely to eat their meals where there is colour involved.
As a nutritionist, I often ask children to count the colours of the rainbow and ensure that they have incorporated them all. The more diverse the diet, the more diverse the microbiome, which is what we strive for.
Fruit and vegetables have certain properties that not only reduce inflammation, but have the ability to change gene expression in a positive manner. Eating a whole host of colours will also provide your picky eater with a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals needed for development. A less recognised aspect to increased colour intake is that its consumption is associated with happiness, life satisfaction and overall wellbeing.”
Tip #5: Prioritising sleep
“Numerous studies suggest a link between reduced nocturnal sleep and an increased body mass index and fat percentage. Sleep deprivation also affects decision making; so, while there are healthier options around, your child may lean towards only eating carbohydrates or leaning towards something sweet.
Nutritionists will tell you this imbalance comes mainly from the regulation of two key hormones: ghrelin and leptin. Sleep deprivation causes an increase in ghrelin – our hunger hormone; this results in increased food intake. Meanwhile, it lowers the body’s leptin levels, which is our satiety hormone; this makes children less sensitive to the feeling of being full. Getting adequate amounts of sleep will allow your kids to make wiser decisions with their food intake and nutrition.”
Tip # 6: Consult with a registered nutritionist in Singapore for more tips on healthy eating habits.
For more information or to book a consultation session with registered nutritional therapist, child nutritionist and founder of Biowhole Nutrition, Puja Bansal, visit biowholenutrition.com.
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