World Sight Day: Screen time and meals for kids, tips to make mealtimes relaxing and enjoyable

PerZarafshan ShirazNew Delhi

As children grow, it is difficult to feed them due to changes in their eating habits and it is common at home to find children eating meals with a TV/tablet/mobile phone. Since it takes time to feed children, it becomes easy for parents to feed them with cartoons playing on the screen, but several studies and surveys show that this habit has disadvantages.

In an interview with HT Lifestyle on World Sight Day, Susmita N, Clinical Nutritionist at Cloudnine Group of Hospitals in Bangalore, Bellandur and Jayanagar, recommended: As children grow, we should let them serve and feed themselves. It helps to know your body’s cues. Watching the screen while eating keeps them distracted and they do not pay attention to the food on the plate, the texture of the food and the quantity of food consumed. It is also observed that there is an increase in the consumption of unhealthy junk food between meals as they cannot remember the quantity of food eaten during meals. Poor intake of vegetables and fruits is also seen in these children.

Revealing that children who have more screen time are more exposed to junk food due to advertisements aimed at young people, the nutrition expert said: Children are attracted by these junk food advertisements and want to eat them, leading to alternating your eating habits. . Making children play outside increases their appetite and they take care of the food served. This can be taken advantage of by parents by serving them healthy food options. Avoid junk food like snacks and serve fruits, milkshakes/smoothies, roasted nut mix, makhana etc. that have nutritional value. Keep healthy snack options ready at home.

She added: Family plays an important role during mealtime. Parents have to be role models for their children. Having a family meal away from all distractions helps improve eating habits, improve communication skills and help in better bonding. Studies show that children who eat with their family have better consumption of vegetables and fruits and end up having a healthy eating pattern. There is a positive correlation between eating as a family and better cognitive skills in children, leading to better academic performance.

Susmita N suggested the following tips to make mealtimes as relaxing and enjoyable as possible –

  • Provide healthy, acceptable foods.
  • Respect the child’s ability. If your child says he is full, don’t force him to empty the food from his plate.
  • Allow them to choose between 2 or more healthy foods. Give them healthy options.
  • Do not nag, bribe or force a child to eat. Always remember that children learn to hate the foods they are forced to eat.
  • Remove any type of protected electronic device from the dining area.
  • Have age-appropriate conversations with your children. Ask about your day, about your friends and discuss topics of interest.
  • Plan tomorrow’s meal with your child’s food interest in mind.
  • Be a role model and follow what you preach. Parents should not be distracted while feeding children.
  • Pre-plan the food a day in advance. 3 main meals and 2 snacks packed with nutrition. Remember to include grains, colorful vegetables, seasonal fruits and protein sources.
  • Have a limited amount of screen time after your meal.

She concluded: Poor psychosocial skills and lower cognitive development are also observed in children with increased screen time. Reduced physical activity leads to poor metabolism and causes obesity in children. Over time, these children grow into adults with eating disorders and are relatively obese.

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