Most often when I meet any parent the greatest cause of their worry is that “my child is a fussy eater”. Though the child looks quite plump and that makes me believe that it is not the problem of the child being trivial but the parents sometimes do not know the right food for their kids. Growing urbanization, false advertisements and lack of time for working mothers has shifted the focus towards convenience foods which tastes good but is loaded with calories coming from sugar and unhealthy fats. Home being the first educational institute for children and parents being their first mentor have a profound role to play in developing food preferences, trends, likes and dislikes of children.
Parents often take pleasure when they see their little girl standing in front of the mirror trying to imitate her mother by applying those numerous beauty products. In the similar manner children take note of what is being served on the table and their preference is governed by what is being eaten by their parents.
Following points should be kept in mind in order to develop lifetime habits of nutritious and healthy eating.
- Mealtimes should be fixed and Children should be encouraged to eat with the family as it results in better food intake.
- Serving same food at frequent intervals might become monotonous for the child. Care should be taken to serve variety in the meals. It gives an exposure to children on trying different foodstuffs and does not limit their choices to few foods.
- As the popular culture goes of watching television while eating food, it is important for parents to develop habits of eating at dining table without any hindrances as it results in better absorption of food by the body and develop dining etiquette among children.
- Children have small appetite and feel hungry at frequent intervals and thus focus should be on feeding small frequent 6-7 meals in a day instead of 3 large meals.
- Children get attracted to anything which is colourful and appeals to the eye. Food served in different shapes and manner is preferred. For example Chapatis can be made green by adding Spinach and can be made red by adding beetroot. Similarly breads can be made in different shapes of star, sun and moon for better acceptability.
- Ensure to serve healthy food from each food group in a day such as milk/milk products, egg/cottage cheese, chicken/pulses, fruits and vegetables as it results in optimal intake fulfilling the need of both macro and micro nutrients.
- Include more finger foods which are easy to hold by a kid and best for picky eaters. For example mini spinach rotis, rice balls and baked vegetable cutlets.
- Avoid force feeding any particular food to the child as it might result in lifelong aversions to that food. Inculcate habits where the child is in a position to make his/her own healthy food choices.
- Since children tend to eat better in the company of peers, mothers should make intelligent and interesting choices while preparing their little one’s tiffin boxes.
Parents should not categorize any food as good or bad as it modifies a child’s thinking which might become difficult to change later in life. Parents need to teach their children about the principle of including variety in diet but in balanced and moderate amount.