World Sight Day: Screen time and meals for kids, tips to make mealtime relaxing | Health

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi

As kids grow up, it is difficult to feed them due to their altered food habits and it is a common sight at home to find kids eating meals with TV/tablet/mobile phones. As it takes time to feed kids, it becomes easy for parents to feed them with cartoons playing on the screen but various studies and research show that there are down-side to this habit.

World Sight Day: Screen time and meals for kids, tips to make mealtime relaxing and enjoyable (Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels)
World Sight Day: Screen time and meals for kids, tips to make mealtime relaxing and enjoyable (Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels)

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 kids grow, we should let them serve and feed themselves. This helps to know the body cues. Watching screen while eating keeps them distracted and they will not pay attention to what food is in the plate, food texture and quantity of food been consumed. It is also observed that there is an increased consumption of unhealthy junk food between meals as they are not able to remember the quantity of foods eaten for meal. Poor intake of vegetables and fruits are also seen in these children.”

Revealing that children who have an increased screen time have more exposure to junk food due to the advertisements that targets the young population, the nutrition expert said, “Kids get attracted to these junk food commercials and crave to eat them leading to alternation of their food habits. Making the children play outside builds up their appetite and they tend to what food is served. This can be taken as an advantage by parents by serving them healthy food options. Avoid junk food as snacks and serve fruits, milkshakes/smoothies, roasted nuts mix, makhana etc that have nutritional value. Keep healthy snacks options ready at home.”

She added, “Family plays an important role during meal time. Parents have to be a role models to children. Having a family meal time away from all distractions help in better eating habits, improve communication skills and help in better bonding. Studies have shown that children who eat together with family have better intake of vegetables, fruits and end up having healthy eating pattern. There is a positive correlation between eating together as a family and better cognitive skills in children leading to improved academic performances.”

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

  • Provide wholesome, acceptable foods.
  • Respect the child’s capability. If the child says he/she is full do not force them to empty the food in plate.
  • Allow them to choose from 2 or more healthy foods. Give them healthy options.
  • Don’t nag, bribe or force a child to eat. Always remember that children learn to hate the foods they are forced to eat.
  • Remove any kind of screened electronic devices from dining area.
  • Have age appropriate conversation with your kids. Ask them about how was their day, about their friends and discuss about topics of interest.
  • Plan for tomorrow’s meal keeping the child’s food interest in mind.
  • Be a role model and follow what you preach. Parents should not be distracted while feeding the kids.
  • Preplan the food a day prior. 3major meals and 2 snacks filled with nutrition. Keeping in mind to include grains, colorful vegetables, seasonal fruits and protein sources.
  • Have limited amount of screen time post meal.

She concluded, “Poor psycho-social skills, lower cognitive development are also observed in kids with increased screen time. Reduced physical activity leads to poor metabolism and causes obesity in children. Over a period of time these children grow up to become adults with eating disorders and are relatively obese.”

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