When your child is growing, his food choices are very important. After all, not all foods are equal, and you can help him make better choices by teaching him about "good" and "bad" food types.
However, you will need to do this carefully to prevent your child from developing an eating disorder.
Eating disorders among teens (including anorexia, bulimia and binge eating) are usually associated with those who constantly face a lot of stress due to emotional and physical changes in their lives, as well as the burden of academic and peer pressure.
Make it a point to instil self-confidence and a healthy self-esteem in your child. Remember that no harm will arise by occasionally eating "bad" foods, for example, having a glass or two of soft drinks occasionally.
- Here is a list of "bad" foods that one should limit:
- Soft drinks, fruit juices and other sweetened beverages.
- Energy drinks and energy bars.
- Breakfast cereals that are high in sugar and low in fibre.
- Pastries, cakes and doughnuts.
- Crunchy snacks such as chips or other flavoured treats.
- Biscuits, cookies, bread or crackers made with refined flour.
- Canned soups and instant noodles.
These foods can be taken as occasional treats, but should not constitute the bulk of one's diet.
Encourage your child to choose most of his food from the "good" list:
- Plain water.
- Freshly prepared fruit or vegetable juice with no added sugar.
- High-fibre food, such as whole grains, legumes, fruit and vegetables.
- Wholegrain cereals with little or no added sugar.
- Fruit or vegetables as snacks.
- Wholegrain food products.
- Homemade soup with less sugar or salt, accompanied by wholegrain noodles.
There are three key elements to achieving proper weight management:
- Balance - eat a balanced mix of foods.
- Moderation - eat moderate portions; too little or too much will often result in health issues.
- Variety - eat different varieties of foods to ensure that the body gets all the different types and amounts of nutrients that it needs. The more colourful and varied the food is, the better.
These three elements highlight the importance of eating food from different food groups - such as carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, protein and fat - in moderate amounts; eating food that is balanced; and spreading meals throughout the day.
It's also important that children eat regular meals, don't skip meals and don't overeat.
The key to good health and appropriate weight management is eating regular meals in moderate portions, with as much variety and colour as possible.
After all, food should be enjoyed, and eating wisely allows you to enjoy one's favourite food and still stay healthy.
Try to make time to eat at least one meal a day with the whole family, and make sure there are no distractions such as the TV or any other electronic gadgets.
It should be a time for the family to bond over a meal.
This will also provide you with an excellent opportunity to get closer to your child and provide him with any emotional support he may need.
The writer is a consultant paediatrician.
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