Developing healthy habits in our kids

The Make Every Meal Healthier! theme this month is how to give kids lifelong healthy habits.

Around the world, life is changing. People are becoming busier and working more, and the focus on families eating together is lessening. Just as in other parts of the world, here in NZ kids are spending more time in front of screens and eating junk food, and losing touch with their food. They’re also not developing healthy eating habits, table manners or knowledge of where their food comes from.

This is a real shame, because research has shown that there are lots of great reasons to keep the tradition of family dinners alive. Children whose families regularly share meals together know more about their family history and tend to have higher self-esteem, interact better with their peers and show higher resilience in the face of adversity. Research from Harvard University found that families who eat together are twice as likely to have five servings of vegetables and fruit a day as those who don’t. Eating family dinners is associated with consuming fewer sugary drinks and less fried food, and children who regularly eat family dinners have a higher intake of a host of nutrients including calcium, iron, folate and other vitamins.

So this month’s challenge is to revive the family meal! Even if it’s just a couple of times a week, try to sit everyone down, set the table, turn off the TV and get rid of the mobile phones. Spend half an hour focusing on your food and talking to each other. This is a great way to develop the habit of mindful eating – savouring your food and understanding your body’s natural signals of hunger and fullness.

First published: Oct 2012

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