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Latest research says that self control can be taught in childhood so what better sphere of life to start it than food. Control does not mean a ban, it means making an informed choice. For this to work, a child must have the knowledge to know what is good for him, what should be limited and what must be rejected.

This is where the parents’ role assumes importance. They are with the child for a major part of the day and can influence their food choices. Children are bombarded with information via TV commercials, internet and print media ads, so it would be naïve to think they can be kept isolated and ignorant of the junk food available in the market place. A balance has to be struck between what they want and what they need.

Forbidden fruit is often the sweetest so a ban is not going to work. It will only lead to tantrums and arguments. Educate your child on the pros and cons of consuming sugary drinks and fatty fried food every day of their lives. Let them choose how often they can have cold drinks, ice cream, pizzas and burgers. It will be easier to abstain if the children feel they are in control. You can gently remind them that they chose a particular day or course of action and ask them to stick to it.

Sit down with your children and give them a sheet of paper each. Ask them to write down the menu for the week and allow one day when they can eat outside or junk food. This will satisfy their craving, allowing them to have healthier meals for the rest of the week. Once the menu is finalised, put it on the refrigerator so that everyone can see it displayed and follow it.

Keep aside one evening when you take them out for ice cream. If there are four people in the family then do not keep more than four bottles of cold drinks in the fridge, one for each member. Let them choose when they want to consume their quota. Lead by example so you should also follow the same thing. When the children see you practicing moderation, they will follow suit.

When other children are patronising the school canteen, your children will not want to be left out. Here again allow them to choose one day in a week when they can eat at the canteen. Explain to the children the harmful effects of cold drink on the teeth. Limit portion size as well. Don’t buy super size food and choose the healthier option on the menu. Once in a while it is all right to indulge and enjoy junk food.