In order to build healthy habits, young children should be given the opportunity to try plenty of nutritious food options. This means trying a variety of new foods, returning to foods young children have previously rejected, and also limiting unhealthy options.
A new study shows that children with healthier diets growing up are those whose parents placed restrictions on what they ate from a young age. While it is important to expose children to as many different types of foods as possible, children may have an impulse to eat foods with lower nutritional values such as sweets.
By limiting a child’s consumption of low nutrition food, while providing an abundance of nutritional snacks, you are giving your child access to healthy choices. Your child can feel in control of what they eat, while also learning which foods to limit and why.
When parents limit this impulse for their children, in time children learn to limit it themselves. On the other hand, replacing a healthy snack with a sweet can ruin a child’s appetite and limit their exposure to healthy options.
While desserts and sweets do not have to be completely forbidden, limiting them is important for healthy children. Sweets and desserts shouldn’t be used as a reward, whether for good behaviour or clearing their plate. This encourages an unhealthy attitude towards food, particularly, toward unhealthy food. When a child sees dessert as a reward, their perception becomes that nutritious food is just the chore to get them to the good stuff. They should learn to enjoy nutritious meals in their own right!
Teaching children self-regulation is the most important part of teaching them healthy habits in the future. This is important so they learn how to regulate which foods to include in their diet and which to exclude. This is also important for learning portion control.