Last Updated on 3rd July 2019 by Dr Vinita
Who doesn’t want his child to make healthy food choices?
I think None!
But, with today’s kids being choosy in what they eat, this seems difficult, sometimes even IMPOSSIBLE.
And I am sure, you must have tried hundreds of ways to develop healthy eating habits in your picky eater. But the end result is the same: He prefers eating junk food over healthy fruits and veggies. He repels healthy food altogether.
Don’t worry! There’s still hope!
That hope is in teaching your child about healthy and unhealthy food with the help of TRAFFIC LIGHTS.
TRAFFIC SIGNAL NUTRITION, as I call it is a fun way to teach and develop healthy eating habits in your child right from the toddler age.
I have used this method to develop healthy eating habits in all the picky eaters reporting at my clinic. And I have faired well!
So, excited to learn about TRAFFIC SIGNAL NUTRITION?
Let’s dive in!
Here’s what you will learn in this post:
Definition of Healthy Food
Before I proceed to describe TRAFFIC SIGNAL NUTRITION, you must know how to define healthy food to your child.
Explain this to your child:Healthy food is one that contains all the nutrients to make you strong and active, build your bones and muscles, make your brain strong and healthy, and helps you fight all diseases. Click To Tweet
Rather than just saying that green vegetables are a healthy food, define healthy food to encourage kids to learn more about them.
Plus, this defintion of healthy food also tells them why healthy eating habits are important. Go a step further and define what unhealthy food is and how it affects their health.
How to do that?
See this video:
Note: Never say to your child, “If you don’t eat healthy food, you will be a bad boy/girl and all his/her classmates will ougrow them in studies/sports.” This creates a negative picture of healthy food in your child’s mind while your focus is to make him/her fall in love with it.
How to Use Traffic Lights to develop Healthy Eating Habits?
Wondering why I have used ‘Traffic Lights’ as a tool to teach the importance of healthy eating to kids?
Well, that’s because children get attracted to the COLOURS!!
Colours are the primary source of learning for any child. Crayons, sketch pens, paints etc. are the first step in the staircase of learning.
So why not use these COLOURS to teach children about healthy and unhealthy food!
Now, let’s see what each light in a Traffic Signal means in food and nutrition!
1. What does Red Light mean?
The red traffic light tells you to STOP! If you don’t, you will meet an accident.
Similarly, there is a ‘red light’ in nutrition too. If you consume these ‘red light foods’, you will fall sick. So, don’t eat these:
- Sweetened Beverages: Fruit juices and soda drinks available in the market have added sugars and preservatives harmful to your health. They can cause dental caries and upset stomach.
- Hydrogenated oils: Many cakes, cookies, biscuits, chips etc. available in the market add trans-fats or hydrogenated oils to increase the shelf life of the product. These partially oxidised fats are responsible for increased obesity in kids.
- Artificial Flavours and Colours: Many candies and jellies add artificial colours to enhance the appeal of the product. Check for the added colours and flavours in the products before you hand them over to your kids.
Use the chart below to teach your child about ‘Red Light Foods’:
2. What does Yellow Light mean?
Yellow traffic light means ‘LOOK’!
It gives you the permission to move ahead but with CAUTION!
So, the foods in the ‘yellow light zone’ can be consumed occasionally.
These foods are harmful only if you eat them without control. But it’s ok to enjoy them from time to time. Hence, ‘yellow zone foods’ are also known as “Sometimes Foods”.
- Fast foods: Fast foods are high in calories with almost zero nutritive value. But our life is dull without them. If you eat them occasionally, there is no harm. Try dishes like burgers, fries, hot dogs, pizza, etc. at home so the kids don’t opt for outside food. Fast food when prepared at home with all the fresh ingredients can be equally healthy. This way you know what your child eats and how much.
- Bread: Eating a slice or two in a meal is OK but the whole day shouldn’t revolve around bread as it is the main source of carbohydrates. Keep changing your bread from white to brown to multigrain to rye for maximum benefits.
- Butter, Ghee, Cheese and Oil: These food items are everyone’s guilty pleasure but are equally important for health. No one can ignore them. Hence, they can be eaten under control. 20 gm of fat (4 tbsp) per day is absolutely essential for your kid. Also what kind of fat one eats is important. Oils rich in PUFA and MUFA are good for health. Saturated fats like ghee and butter should be eaten in minimum amounts.
*Tip: When kids demand deep-fried goodies, use an airfryer instead of the traditional oil frying. Check out the best deal on airfryer here.
This chart will tell your child about ‘yellow light foods’ which can be eaten ocassionally:
3. What does Green Light mean?
Green symolises ‘GO’! So, ‘green light foods’ are always a ‘Yes’ for indulging in healthy eating.
But the ‘green light foods’ are equally boring for your kid. So, remind them how safe it is to drive only when the light is green. For a bright and healthy future, one must drive in these ‘green light foods’:
- Greens: Yes the first instinct that comes to my mind is “Go Green”. Green leafy vegetables are rich in many vitamins and minerals and they combat every growth requirement. They are rich in antioxidants too. Try innovative methods of cooking with greens.
- Dairy: Milk, curd, paneer, yoghurt etc. are essential for your kid’s growth and should be included in their diet. Dairy is the major source of class 1 proteins for vegetarians. Make sure your kid gets at least 2 glasses of milk per day.
- Eggs and lean meat: The best sources of class 1 proteins for non-vegetarians are eggs and lean meat. You can go for a variety of non-dairy alternatives like tofu, soy milk etc.
- Seeds and Nuts: Sprinkle your dishes with seeds and nuts to enhance their health benefits. Being rich in healthy oils, nuts and seeds are a good source of fat too. However, make sure that a handful is not eaten every hour. Nuts and seeds are a good snack material, so keep an eye.
- Fibre and whole grains: Include meals that are rich in fibre for a healthy digestive system. The inclusion of whole grains will ensure that your child gets the maximum benefits out of a meal.
A beautiful chart like this helps kids to remember what they must eat to stay healthy for life:
Final Words on Healthy Eating Habits
It is important that your child excels in his subjects, his manners and his habits.
And inculcating healthy eating habits is just ONE of them. TRAFFIC SIGNAL NUTRITION offers the easiest, exciting, and a reliable way to do so.
So, use these Traffic Lights to teach your kids, not only one but two lessons: Road Safety and Healthy Eating Habits.In today’s tech-savvy environment, it’s time that the kids get introduced to the concept of balanced eating. Learning about food and nutrition from a young age will benefit them in the future. Click To Tweet
Now, I want to hear from you!
Do you have any other idea to teach kids about healthy eating? Let me know in the comments.
Liked this fun way to develop healthy eating habits in children? Please share with other Moms too!
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