Are you at a constant war with your little one over food? Are constant power struggles between you and your child a common thing at the dining table?
Feeding a fussy child can be a problem and could be a source of worry for most parents. Around 25-35% of toddlers and preschoolers are described by their parents as picky or fussy eaters. But fret not, as childhood food jags, fear of new food or other feeding challenges is usually part of normal development.
To rule out any acute or chronic illness, a detailed history and general physical examination of your child by a Pediatrician is necessary. This helps to diagnose the underlying cause(s) of food refusal and address the problem from the root.
But let’s face it, we cannot always blame it on our kids. Sometimes, children’s refusal to eat may come from “Unrealistic Parental Expectations”.
Unlike the common notion, the statement, “I’m born this way” may not be applicable to all picky eaters. Most of the times, parents’ effort to make their little ones eat more, makes them fussy. Parents should decide only the quality of food and let the child decide the quantity.
Most common complaint of parents, especially new mothers, is decrease in the appetite of their child. You must know, this is normal for children between 2-5 years of age as food consumption moderates to match a slower rate of growth.
Also, as toddlers struggle to develop a sense of autonomy, they may prefer “self-feeding” and become selective in their choice of food. If pressurized or forced to eat, their need for autonomy may lead them to resist eating. Sometimes food is not an issue at all, children often tend to use the dining table as a stage to express their mere independence. The eating process is just one more way they learn about the world.
Following are the secrets to outsmart your toddler!
- Eating should be an enjoyable activity. Bribes, threats or punishments have no role in healthy eating. Try to be creative, include a variety of colours. Appealing food presentation might entice your child to try food items which he/she might otherwise avoid.
- Give small portion of each food item at every meal. If your child finishes everything on the plate, more food can always be added.
- Snacks work best mid-way between meals but should not be offered if the timing or quantity of snacking interferes with the child’s appetite. Choose the snack items that are dense in nutrients. Try not to offer juice as a part of the snack. A child should not be allowed to graze throughout the day or to drink an excessive amount of milk or juice as both practices lead to eating less at meal times.
- Parents should only insist on table manners that are appreciated to the child’s age and try not to make discipline an issue at meal time. A child who is crying or upset is unlikely to eat well.
- Toddler’s time at the table should generally be limited to about 20 minutes. When mealtime is over, all food should be removed and only be offered again at the next planned meal or snack. It is unlikely that subsequent meal will be refused.
- Exercise and play always help to stimulate the appetite, but they should not be tired or overstimulated. A 10-15 minutes heads-up before any meal will help to prepare and settle them down to eat.
- Distracting your child with toys/books/television during meals is a complete “No-No”. Eating with the family provides the toddler with a pleasurable social experience and the opportunity to learn by imitation. In this case, it’s up to parents to set a good example for their kids by making wise food choices, exercise regularly and follow an overall healthy lifestyle.
- Get your child involved in meal planning. It always helps! If possible, read recipes together, even put your child in charge of writing down the grocery list. Do grocery shopping together during which you can teach your kid how to make healthy nutrition choices.
To conclude, “Make sure your child is hungry by meal time".