Are meal times a battle zone in your house? Are you tearing your hair out trying to get your child to eat proper meals?

All parents want their children to be as healthy as they can be. However, many can attest to the fact that getting children to eat healthy foods is not always easy. Despite the challenges, we still persist.

The importance of cultivating good eating habits in children

Good nutrition is very important for young children to support their health, growth and development.

Healthy eating can stabilise children’s energy, sharpen their minds, and even out their moods. It can also help children feel good, stay at a normal weight, and have lots of energy for school and play.

“Establishing good eating habits can help your children maintain a healthy weight and normal growth. They are also likely to maintain a healthy lifestyle when they become adults,” says Dr Han Wee Meng, Head and Senior Principal Dietitian, Nutrition and Dietetics Department, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group.

“Furthermore, eating unhealthily sets the children up for an increased risk of obesity and obesity-related conditions such as sleep disorders and metabolic problems such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.”

Dr Han adds that eating unhealthily may also limit the variety of nutrient intake, particularly those in vegetables and fruits like vitamins, phytochemicals and fibre, which are important for maintaining good health.

Tips to get your children​ to eat healthily

Children’s dietary habits are largely formed before the age of five. Therefore, as challenging as it is to get toddlers to eat well, early childhood is actually an ideal time to start teaching them about healthy eating habits. Also, the patterns they develop now will likely be the ones they will carry into adulthood.

It is important to note that as toddlers struggle to develop a sense of autonomy, they prefer self-feeding and become selective in their choices of foods. And if they feel pressured and forced to eat, their need for autonomy may lead them to resist eating.

Find out more ways to cultivate good eating habits in your child in the next page.

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