As a parent, you provide food for your children every day. Whether they are small or adolescents, you have a huge influence on their eating habits. If you enjoy a healthy diet, your children will learn to do so as well.
Childhood is the period of life when a preference for healthy behaviours should be instilled, and when the life skills necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle should be learned. It is important for children to have role models at home (family members) and at school (teachers), and any other positive leaders (such as older peers) who are directly involved in promoting healthy behaviours.
Diet and exercise patterns during childhood and adolescence may spell the difference between health and risk of disease in later years. Promoting and teaching children about regular meals and healthy snacks including plenty of fruit and vegetables; moderate amounts of dairy products, lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs and legumes; starchy foods; and an adequate intake of monounsaturated vegetable oils, such as olive oil and nuts, will contribute to proper growth and development without supplying excessive energy to the diet.
It is important to remember that children learn by doing. We can help them learn healthy eating habits by involving them in growing, shopping, preparing, serving or cleaning up after meals. When cooking together, they can easily be involved with measuring, washing, adding and stirring ingredients. Both adults and children benefit from sharing activities together, and learn and teach one another.
Finally, it is essential that children get adequate physical activity. Making fun forms of exercise accessible to children – especially those from lower socio-economic groups - should be a priority. There are many options to consider: football, basketball, dance, gymnastics and swimming are just a few.
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