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

Dr Han Wee Meng, Head and Senior Principal Dietitian, Nutrition and Dietetics Department, together with Dr Chua Mei Chien, Head and Senior Consultant, Department of Neonatology, and Ms Christine Ong, Senior Principal Dietitian at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), a member of the  SingHealth group, share tips to help you embark on a smoother journey in feeding your children and cultivating good eating habits.

Educate yourself on healthy eating

This is the most important step. You can teach your children healthy eating only if you know what eating healthily means – more fruits and vegetables, less oily and fried foods.

Share the responsibility

You decide when, where, and what the family eats; the child chooses whether and how much to eat from the options you provide.

Teaching children healthy eating habits involves helping them to recognise when they feel hungry and when they feel full. Young children are good at listening to their bodies. They eat when they are hungry, and they stop when they are full. When we try to control how much children eat, we interfere with this natural ability. Keeping this division of responsibility helps your child stay in touch with those internal cues.

Listen to your child

Children who are pushed to have “one more bite” often learn to ignore their bodies’ signals, and that can lead to overeating and weight problems later on.

No healthy child has ever starved to death from stubbornly refusing food! As long as your child is growing well and active, rest assured that he or she is getting enough to eat.

Dr Chua: Don’t expect your child to finish every meal. Also, have realistic expectations by offering only child portions.

Breakfast is important

Start your child’s day with a healthy breakfast. Eating breakfast regularly helps children develop healthy eating habits, improves concentration and memory, and reduces hyperactivity, among other numerous benefits. It also helps upstart children’s metabolism which aids in the absorption of nutrients.

Furthermore, a nutritious breakfast has been linked to having better eating habits throughout the day.

Set up a regular snack and meal schedule

Most children do well with three meals and two or three snacks a day. When your child’s body is used to a schedule, hunger and appetite become more regular.

Dr Han: Meals should be served at regular times with each meal lasting not more than 30 minutes.

Cook more meals at home

Cooking meals at home allow more control over the amount of oil and salt used. Healthy options can also be added.

Dr Han: When dining out as a family, always go for healthier food options. If there are no weight issues, eating fast food not more than twice a week would still be within recommendations. Healthy tips when eating fast food include: avoid upsizing when ordering set meals, ask for little or no mayonnaise in burgers, and remove the skin of fried chicken.

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