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Getting a fussy child to eat is the ultimate exercise in self restraint and persuasion and requires Zen-master-like mental power and stamina for even the most loving parents. And this is not just about the child-too often a parents self esteem hinges on her ability to persuade her child to eat healthy food when he doesn’t want to.
We forget that every child is unique “There are certain kids who are extremely sensitive: they are differently wired. Since their senses of smell and taste buds are super-developed, they might refuse to take foods that are liked by others”. In such cases Parents should desensitise their taste buds in a very cautious and gentle manner.
Have you ever notice that why your child paediatrician usually say never forcefully feed your child, you ever thought why they are saying so. The reason is that there are studies which prove that if we are forcefully feed our child then we are making food as a punishment for them, that’s why your child always irritated whenever they see any food stuff. If the child is not eating anything then also they are gaining half of the energy by themselves, that’s why your child activity level is same whether they are eating properly or not.
But by this statement we doesn’t mean that stop giving anything to your child, instead we mean that stop forcefully feeding your and don’t make feeding your child as a punishment for them. Instead try to understand your child needs and requirements and make feeding your child as an enjoyment task for them.
Let’s examine some common food peeves and find out how to beat them.
1. My child won’t eat any Greens
As kids have more taste buds, they are more taste sensitive than adults. Many common vegetables are poisonous in their wild form. They are grown in such way that the toxins are either removed or reduced before consumption. So, it’s simply a survival mechanism for kids to avoid these foods.
Every human being has certain tastes and preferences. But with kids, what matter most is presentation. If you give them the same old veggies everyday, it’s but natural that they will revolt after sometime.
Tricks to include Greens
Ø Cut veggies in fun shapes for your kids.
Ø Try stir fry instead of giving kids plain, characterless sabzi
Ø It’s okay if a child prefers some vegetables over others. Allow her to pick one or two veggies out of what offered
Ø It’s alright to ‘cheat’ sometimes by hiding mixed/blended veggies in pasta sauce, gravies, soups, homemade burgers, pau bhaji, pizza toppings etc.
Ø Combine bitter veggies with sweet ones, such as spinach with sweet potato, broccoli with beetroot.
Ø Never say “My child hates vegetables” in front of your child. You wish to change that habit, not establish it in his mind. Right?
Be a role model and enjoy your own veggies, most children mimic their parents and older siblings.
2. My child hates to drink Milk
Its mostly urban kids who react indifferently to milk as they have other options that taste better, Drinking milk is a habit that most parents want to force on their kids, which results in children linking milk with negative feeling like imposition and punishments.
I want to ask one question here from parents, Are you guys are drinking milk in front of your children?
I am sure maximum moms and dad answers “NO’, so how can you force your child, just think!! How your child drinks or has milk when you are avoiding for yourself.
In some cases, health conditions like lactose intolerance and casein intolerance could also frighten kids away from milk, but don’t fret if your child hates milk as your child can be perfectly healthy even without it.
Milk is a potential source of calcium, an essential element for strengthening bones. Milk isn’t the only, or even the best source of calcium. If your kid is not taking milk try to avoid plain milk for a time being instead include other good sources like cheese, yoghurt, cottage cheese, butter milk, and after some time may be a week or 2 again include milk in your child’s diet.
Tricks to include Milk
Ø Try yoghurt, butter milk, as its fermented and probiotics
Ø Try soya milk, milk shakes
Ø Offer milk to your child occasionally. This will gradually take away the hatred and who knows after some time he/she may even start liking it!
3. Lives on Fries, colas and pizza
Most children go through a phase of not eating a balanced meal. It could sometimes be a statement of independence, or an attention-seeking ploy. It could follow an illness.
Junk food is heavily advertised to both children and indulgent parents. Visual impression has a huge role to play in their choice of foods. Add to this peer pressure. These twin influences motivate children to try junk food initially and over time, they get hooked onto it.
Tricks to avoid fries, colas and pizza
Ø Encourage your child to try baked/ grilled home-made potato fries with virgin oils. As a variation, go for sweet potato/ carrot fries. Make your own pizza using whole-wheat base. It’s easier to control the fat and salt content in home-made foods.
Ø Suggest a yoghurt based drink like a cool smoothie.
Ø Give your child company and attention while he/she eats.
Ø Be firm about what your child is allowed to eat. But in case he/she refuses to eat what you offer, you should neither force, nor offer an alternative.
Ø Have healthy snacks, like mini cheeses, dried fruits, and a bowl of salad with a tasty dressing on the table.
4. Gorges on cookies and goes ‘yuck’ when I offer him fruits
Cookies and bakery products are rich in sugar and Trans fats are linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and even sudden cardiac problems. Therefore, these foods should be consumed only as a ‘treat’. It’s best to avoid then as much as possible.
Tricks to limit the intake of cookie
Ø Bake cookies, muffins and granola bars at home
Ø Get your children to help you bake. That’s a fantastic way to get them to be interested in food.
Ø A great way to consume fruits is by blending them in smoothies and shakes.
Ø Serve bit-size fruit pieces with a little ice-cream or sweet/ flavour yoghurt. As an alternative, blend seasonal fruits and a bit of fresh fruit juice in a blender. Pour into kulfi moulds and freeze.
Don’t banish sweets from your child’s life. Limit the intake and provide interesting options.
5. Demands finger foods in lunch box and want to play during break time rather than eat
It’s quite normal for a child to be more interested in playing than eating. And an elaborate lunch box seems like a hindrance. Finger foods are appealing to kids as they are less messy and more fun.
Tricks to include finger food
Ø Your child lunch box should include a good source of protein, wholegrain, fruit and/or vegetables. Cheesy chicken and veg wraps are great idea.
Ø Mini meals: make bite size pizzas and add your own toppings. Try mini idlis topped with cheese and chutney or mini cutlets made out of veggies and chidwa/ Poha served with sauce/chutney.
Ø Home made burgers cut into quarters and served with salad.
Children love colours so a few mini sandwiches with some grapes on side and baked vegetable crisps (carrot, Beetroot, Sweet potato) on the other might attract your child’s attention.
6. Hates meal-time and also refuses to try anything new
If you pressure your child to eat certain foods, he/she might start loathing meal times. Understand that food neophobia (avoidance of unfamiliar foods) is common but can be over come.
Tricks to try new things
Ø Make meal time a time for the entire family to eat together.
Ø Invites your child’s friends over for a meal, especially those who you know have a good appetite. Children are known to imitate their peers.
Ø Keep the portion small as too much food on the plate can overwhelm your child.
Ø Never use mealtime to criticise his/her behaviour. Make it a fun time.
Ø Don’t force or nag the child to eat new foods. Be patient and give him/her time.
Ø Try one new food at a time; otherwise it can get frustrating the child.
When you introduce a new food, tell the child a story about how good it is and how it will help him, this work well with older kids.