Rhythmic gymnasts start their careers as early as possible in their lives. Some of them start at three, others at four or five when their bones are still malleable enough to do gymnastics exhibitions. Because of their early involvement in the sport, their struggle to always keep healthy and fit also start almost once they are born. However, we all know and it is a common knowledge that feeding kids around these ages are difficult for us parents or guardians. They love sweets and unhealthy snacks. They throw tantrums if we don’t give them what they want. Luckily, combined with good coaching, there are ways to encourage our young gymnasts to eat healthy.
Young children, out of all the other age groups, are the most difficult group to introduce healthy meals to. They are more exposed to unhealthy foods than we are as adults. Also, they spend so much time on the TV than adults do, where they are subjected to unhealthy food advertising campaigns that strategically targets children. We, as their parents, are of course concerned for their health especially since they participate in a sport, so how can we encourage kids to eat healthy meals?
Children usually consume sugar and additive-filled drinks and sweet foods. This is not good as athletic children need to eat more whole foods and less processed foods, just as much as we adults need to. However, since they are young, they don’t see the disadvantages to their poor eating habits in quite the same way as we do. They think it is not important and pushes it aside, believing they are indestructible superhumans.
On the other hand, this is not a lost cause. We can surely get our kids hooked on healthy eating and help them move away from those tempting but unhealthy meals or snacks at an early age, especially if they need to—like if they are joining a sport or they have a poor health. Here are a few tricks that can help us encourage kids to eat healthy meals:
· It is best to introduce to our youngsters healthy eating at a young age, when they are very little, before they are exposed to the unhealthier foods. Having a wide variety of foods that are healthy when they are that age will almost guarantee that they’ll find one that they like.
· If our kids are already exposed to unhealthy food, we can let them help us prepare the meals. Home cooking is better for this approach. If the kids are exposed to the love and effort that goes into preparing a healthy food, they will hopefully learn to appreciate it. Also, the aroma of a cooking food that fills the house can help as an appetizer to them.
· If our kids are indeed helping us prepare the meals, we should acknowledge something they are doing right so they would feel good about it. We should teach them to prepare simple foods as well for the first few times, and as they get older we can let them prepare one or two meals alone per week.
· Shopping for the ingredients also has an effect to our children as it makes them interested in the choices that we make. At the earliest age possible, we should teach them how to read the nutritional charts and inform them which food are good and which are not.
· Total ban of sweets, ice cream, and other less healthy food could result negatively to our kids. If they are deprived too much of what they want, once they are grown up and are making decisions for themselves, they are most likely to indulge into it more.
· We should allow them to eat what they want once in a while as occasional treats, like if they did well in a competition or learned a new gymnastics skill during practice. Another great idea is to find a healthy alternative sweet that tastes just as good as the sweet that they like. Some kids would actually realize that they like those better.
· Now if our kids are picky eaters, we should be patient with them. We should do it one food item at a time and always try to make food fun. Turn it into an adventure or give it a story. Whatever we think works for them.
· Snacks should be healthy as much as possible. Instead of cookies, try giving them their favorite fruit or vegetable. If they got used to eating healthy at snack times, there’s a huge chance that they would eat healthy during meal times as well.
· We should also eat what we are trying to feed our children. If they can see that we enjoy eating it, chances are they would be encouraged to try it too.
· Most importantly, we should not force them to eat vegetables if they don’t want to as it would result to them resenting the food their entire life. Instead, we should encourage them.
Eating the right kinds of food does not only help our young athlete’s physical health, but also their mental health. Studies have proven that healthy eating increases children’s concentration level so they can perform well in school. This is why it is important to encourage our kids to eat healthy meals.
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