Children of age one to five years sometimes avoid eating and eat too little or eat only a single variety of food. This is a very common problem; so many parents are tired of it and have anxiety regarding this behavior. The first thing we need to understand is that it is normal behavior and it is associated with their child's growth pattern.
For the initial two years of life, children grow very rapidly and then the growth rate becomes relatively slower. They tend to eat less as their appetite comes down. The reason being their appetite is related to the speed of their growth. So, if your child is growing well (gaining the expected weight and height) and is active, having the energy to play, learn things, and do their routine activities, they will be just fine.
Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to help you establish good dietary habits that will help your child enjoy eating and reduce their lack of interest in food.
What can we do for imparting better nutritional practices?
You can carry out the following practices to impart better nutritional practices to your child.
Eat together -Family members should sit and eat together and it should be cultured in children. This family practice helps a lot, as children learn by observing adult behavior. This habit is one of the easiest ways to make children eat without any fuss. Preferably avoid television or mobile phones while eating.
Balance diet -A well-balanced diet is at the heart of good nutrition.Meals should contain a mixture of cereals, legumes, fruits, and fresh green vegetables to meet the daily requirement of calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals to support the growth of your child.
Let them choose -You should Offer your child healthy choices & let your toddler select the type of food they want to eat; this creates an interest in food in them. In each meal, at least one part of a meal should be of their choice like some fruit, vegetable, potato, eggs, whatever they love to eat.
Try Finger food - Finger foods are liked by some children. Foodstuff like banana or cucumber or carrots for older children can be given to allow them to control their eating habits.
Praise good behavior -You should always try to encourage good feeding habits by talking about them, loving them, and appreciating them.
Have Patience -You need to slowly let the child get accustomed to new food one at a time, research has shown that it may take 10-15 times of trying to get a child used to a certain food item.
What we should avoid doing?
One should avoid the following while trying to feed children.
· Avoid food fights: Don’t force your child or children to eat. If they don’t want to eat just let them go. Fighting and punishing behavior creates even more dislike for the food. A baby’s appetite varies at times. If he is sleepy, excited, or not well, he will eat less. Do not try to force-feed but watch for signs of hunger.
· Don’t bribe: Do not bribe your child or children to make them eat food. In the long run, they just start liking the chocolate or chips more than regular food.
· Don’t switch on the TV or play something on mobile while eating. It is a major distraction.
· Don’t criticize or keep telling others that your child isn’t eating. It reinforces the behavior, as children are very sensitive, and they adhere to their tag.
· Avoid too much snacking of artificial and junk food, as they make children feel full. Hence, at the time of meals, they might not feel hungry at all.
If you're concerned that picky eating is compromising your child's growth and development, consult your pediatrician. He or she can plot your child's growth on a growth chart. A food diary can also help your child's doctor determine any problems and ensure that your child is getting a healthy balanced diet to grow and develop.
Remember, picky eating usually is a normal developmental stage for toddlers. Most children outgrow this problem as they grow older.