One of the most common issues parents face is whether their child eats enough or not. I’ve never met a parent claiming “my child over eats”.
Rather 80% of the parents who visit me claim their kids don’t eat properly. What they forget to note is that probably their child is eating perfectly fine, but not as much as they wish to. Remember, a kid’s stomach is the size of his/her fist, and the kid cannot eat more than that. Hence, it is extremely important for us to understand how much we should feed our kids. The article aims at creating awareness on how we can maintain the right diet and develop healthy eating habits in kids at an early age, so that once s/he grows up, we need not worry about their eating behavior.
When to expose the child to new foods:
The right time to expose the child to new foods is from 6-12 months. The child’s taste buds start developing by this time and they are ready to experience something new. Strictly stick to homemade food. It may be ragi, rice, wheat, anything that is prepared in a household. Please ensure that the food is prepared in a manner that requires the baby to bite and chew it. A highly mashed food may result in the kid gulping it, thus resulting in not developing a habit to chew and bite. The child may feel uncomfortable in the initial stages, but will soon develop a taste for the food and start enjoying it.
Best Practices to be followed for a 1-3 year old child:
- Ensure the child eats on his/her own: Once the kid crosses the first year, s/he should start eating on his/her own. If kids eats on their own, it ensures that they don’t overeat. In fact, they will eat as much as their body requires. In most of the cases, parents tend to feed their kids, which results in kids being overfed, as parents are not aware when to stop. It results in kids developing an aversion towards food, and rather than enjoying their meals, they start disliking it. Also, kids should be made to eat along with family, as it helps in building their social skills.
- Never miss the breakfast: Remember the phrase “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper”. Breakfast essentially is brain food that can also be termed as “breaking the fast”. Since the difference between dinner and lunch (to be taken next day) is generally around 17-18 hours, breakfast acts as an important source of nutrition between these two meals. Hence, ensure that your child is fed a wholesome and healthy breakfast and never misses it. Also, drinking milk alone (along with health powders) in breakfast results in reduction of appetite. Hence, it should be accompanied with healthy and rich homemade meal.
- Avoid TV during meals: When the child is watching TV during meals, the focus is not on the meal but on the program running on the idiot box. As a result, the child (even eating on his/her own) may over eat, or eat less, as this is not the priority. While most of the parents feel that letting kids watch TV helps them in feeding them smoothly, it is not the case and hence should be avoided
- Avoid junk food: No matter how harmful they may be, in today’s scenario, it is extremely difficult to keep your child away from junk food. But you must avoid it as much as possible. And when you can’t, ensure junk food like chips, wafers, chocolates etc. are not substituted by meals, but are given after meals so that you can keep a check on their intake.
- Be aware of myths: Bananas lead to cough, mousambi/orange/ragi lead to cold, eating papaya results in heating the body, milk/curd develops phlegm in the body – these are some of the common myths that often stop us from serving these healthy food items to our kids. All the above-mentioned foods have no such side-effects and can be served to kids anytime. They are extremely healthy and play a key role in child’s overall growth and development.
- Every child is unique: Each child has his/her own unique eating habit, appetite and hence should never be compared with. Just because your neighbor’s kid eats 5 times a day, it doesn’t mean there is an issue with your child. As long as the child is playful, active, and keeps you on your toes, there is no need to worry about their eating habits by comparing with others. Also, never scold or threaten your child regarding food intake, as it may result in developing an aversion towards food. At the same time, never bribe your child too for eating as in such a case, bribery will take priority over food.
- Presentation: Last, but not the least, like anything else, the presentation of the food plays an important role in child’s acceptance to eat it. Kids are often attracted towards something new, different and attractive. So present the food in a manner that it creates interest in your child, and motivates him/her to eat it too.
By following these practices, you can lay a strong platform of healthy eating in your children that will inculcate disciplined and healthy eating habits in them in the long run.