The conversation around eating disorders aren’t as prevalent in Asia as it is in other parts of the world, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a problem. A study recently found that in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and other parts of South Asia, “obesity rates have reached epidemic proportions.”
Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to body image and eating disorders, which is why it’s important that we develop healthy eating habits with our children, starting from a young age. Here are five practical tips:
1. Be a good role model.
As in other areas, when it comes to nutrition, you can’t be an effective teacher unless you practice what you preach. Try to set a good example by choosing nutritious snacks and don’t skip your meals.
2. Don’t ban food.
Banning certain foods can lead to overeating when they are available. Instead of labelling foods as “good” or “bad,” go with “everyday” foods and “sometimes” foods. Allow your kids to eat “sometimes” foods in moderation, and don’t make them feel bad or guilty about it.
3. Make nutritious food easily accessible.
When they’re hungry, kids will eat whatever’s in your fridge or pantry, so make sure that they’re well-stocked with healthy foods.
4. Don’t use food as a reward.
When you use food to reward kids or to show affection, they might start using food to cope with stress or other negative emotions. Instead, find non-food ways to reinforce good behavior, such as hugs or words of affirmation. And remember to praise your kids for their character, not their weight or what they choose to eat.
5. Make family meals count.
Regular family meals allow you to model healthy eating patterns while taking the focus away from the food and towards the social connection. Instead of fixating on what or how much your child is eating, focus on connecting with your child. Turn of the television and keep other devices away from the table so you can get the most from meal times.
6. Teach your child to eat when they’re hungry.
Instead of simply telling your child to eat everything on their plate, help your child distinguish feelings of hunger and fullness. Avoid strict rules. While you can decide what you will serve at meal times, allow your child to choose how much—or even whether or not—they will eat.