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Introduction to healthy eating habits in kids
Getting our children to eat right can be a real challenge. But, as parents, if we can inculcate some healthy eating habits in our kids early in life, it needn’t be so tough later on as they are growing. This covid lockdown could be the best time to get to know them and teach them some good habits that’ll last them a lifetime.
My first baby was born healthy and I worked till the last day before my delivery by C-Section. I didn’t have problems during my entire pregnancy and had a flat tummy postpartum. As I had to return to work, I weaned my baby a bit early, but my baby was comfortable. I have dealt with her food habits as a nutritionist should, and both my kids love veggies having developed a habit of being ‘not too fussy’ around foods.
However, I was not so lucky with my second child. With him, I decided to opt for normal delivery, and with mum’s support (who’s a retired nurse) it went smoothly. My son was born premature, weighing around 1.3kgs which went down further to 900 gms the following week. My life experience grew many folds whilst bringing him up. By Almighty’s grace, now he is an eleven-year-old, active, and spirited young man, I’m so proud of. Thankfully, both my kids don’t fuss about eating. We discuss all the pros and cons of the meals served on the table even today and we respect each other’s opinions.
Key ways to manage fussy eaters
So if you ask me to mention only few important ways to manage ones fussy kids, it would be:
If your child is throwing tantrums- ignore it. Yes! ignore, after letting her/him know that it is not acceptable. But let them know that they still can have their food when they are hungry and feel like it.
Serve something new with an old favourite:
This technique I used with my daughter and it never failed. Mix a new vegetable to his/her favorite afternoon snack e.g. fritters.
Observe your child’s hunger signs
Is your toddler restless, showing temper tantrums or sleepy when its not bedtime? Are they willing to eat bland or snack such as an apple that are not their favourites? It could be that he/she is hungry.
Get your child into the kitchen
Involve him/her in whatever you’re cooking. Talk to your child and ask suggestions so that they feel like an important part of the whole process
All the above processes are also a part of what we know as “Responsive feeding” of children.
Easy ways to get your children eat right – The Responsive Feeding
As a global strategy for feeding infants and young children, WHO recommend responsive feeding. Responsive feeding involves a two-way interaction between a parent and their child.
There are basically four types of parenting styles: authoritative, authoritarian, uninvolved and indulgent.
Create a feeding structure
Research has shown that authoritative parenting generally uses a responsive style of feeding. Parents create a feeding structure, which is engaged and interactive and responds appropriately to a child’s hunger and fullness indications. To be good at responsive feeding, the parents have to monitor how the child communicates feelings of hunger and satiety. At the same time they are ready with an immediate response from their side. Responsive feeding supports self feeding and creates a social environment that is essential for feeding. For instance, a calm and comfortable feeding set up.
Create the right environment
I still remember I used to pick up my daughter and put her atop of our wooden dining table before her meal times, let her comfortably sit there so that she won’t be distracted by the urge to run around the room. Later on, it became a habit for her to sit down calmly before meals. The environment created in responsive feeding, itself encourages healthy eating behaviour, acceptance of new foods, and self-eating in response to hunger or fullness stimuli.
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Further, responsive feeding helps in building the trust in parent-child relationship at this early age. When you respect their wishes of hunger and satiety, the child’s inbuilt ability to recognize their own apetite and fullness and have a control over them. This in future will help navigate healthy eating and better food choices.
However the challenge is that ,children often experience neophobia (fear of anything new),particularly with plant based foods especially, greens and vegetables. This can be quiet frustrating for parents who understands very well that regular consumption of variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts and greens play an important role in lifelong wellbeing of their children.
Therefore, it is important to consider how they are to be introduced to children so that they can always attribute a good feeling or positive sense with these foods while growing up and they form a part of their eating habits.