Every parent goes through the trauma of ensuring their kids eat “enough”. The biggest challenge for them is that they are not aware how to define what is “enough”, or sufficient for the child. Hence, every time the child refuses to eat, they end up force-feeding the child, leading to a situation where mealtime seems to be a battle ground and a happy time becomes traumatic for parent and child.
Here are a few measures or tips to ensure you are able to give sufficient food to your child, without both of you getting upset and hurt.
Trust your child
A healthy child refusing to eat is not lying, but is expressing the truth, indicating they are not hungry. Those children who lose this awareness of hunger / satiety could end up being overweight / obese. Hence, you should listen to him/her, rather than force feeding the kid in a belief that the child will become underweight, or will be deprived of essential calories/nutrients. Trusting your child will also develop a feeling of self-belief and responsibility in him/her.
Utilize the meal time
A child refusing to eat should not be allowed to leave the dining table and get busy with some other activities such as playing/watching TV etc. Joining the family at mealtime helps the child learn and focus on family values and culture, what the family talks about, what the members think of different issues etc. This will make the child mingle more with the family, and s/he will also be assured that a meal time is all about spending time with family on the meal table.
Fix meal timings
Typically, meals are: Breakfast, lunch and dinner and a snack break in between each meal. For instance, you may fix the meal timings as 7 AM (For breakfast), 1 PM (for lunch) and 9 PM (for dinner) along with timings for snacks. Following a structured approach helps the child to understand that the meals will be served only at these timings, and s/he is assured of not being nagged at all times. The same logic works for mother, wherein she is also saved from serving food repeatedly following a meal that was not eaten.
Fixing a minimum of 6 hour gap between two meals also ensures the child is able to digest the food well and is hungry by the time the next meal arrives. Fruits, raisins, cheese, cucumber, carrots and tomatoes could be given for snacks as these servings will not kill child’s appetite
Avoid Food supplements
When faced with a “picky eater” many parents opt for adding food supplements/energy drinks or bars. They presume the child will have these supplements and will also eat the meal at the required time.
Unfortunately, the reality is that food supplements are high in calories and hence kill the child’s appetite. As a result, the child refuses to eat proper meal. Hence such supplements are best avoided.
Make your child participate
Letting the older child participate in meal preparation will make them feel responsible and motivate him/her to eat what has been prepared.
You could also plan the meals in discussion with your child and make those dishes a part of the meal plan that s/he likes. This way, the child will be satisfied with what’s being served to him/her and will not create a fuss.
It is a well-known fact that presentation matters a lot in the food we eat. Hence, creating variety in the way you present the dishes will make the child feel excited and motivate him/her to try new dishes.
Following these tips should help you in making meal time a happy and enjoyable experience not only for your child, but you too. The sooner you implement these, your meal time will become a stress free experience, and something that you and your little one will look forward to.