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Tips and advice: Feeding your child

IMPORTANT: Here we provide some tips and advice on feeding young children, but this is not designed to replace professional medical advice, so if you are unsure, consult your pediatrician.

We cannot be held responsible for the information included on this page.

GOOD EATING HABITS

Your child should eat at the table with the family, not when or where he wants to. If he does not like a particular dish, put a little on his plate and encourage him to try it but do not force him. If you know he genuinely detests a certain food, try to offer more appetizing options that you know he will like, but avoid preparing special food just for him. Faddy eating habits emerge when they are allowed to develop, so nip it in the bud from an early age.

HOT WEATHER AND LACK OF APPETITE

Children sometimes lose their appetite, especially during hot weather. You can be a little more understanding during these periods, and make them food that they like so that they don’t go to bed without eating (try to stick to healthy but tasty options; toasted cheese and a glass of milk perhaps). But only do this on certain occasions, as you don’t want them to get into the habit!

EAT YOUR GREENS!

If your child says he hates vegetables and there is no way of getting him to eat them, try adding chopped vegetables like leeks, carrots, broccoli, and spinach to pasta sauces, meatloaf, and other dishes. The vegetables will be camouflaged and he will happily eat all those important vitamins without knowing!

child-eating

TOO MUCH FOOD VS NOT ENOUGH

If your child does not have problems with his appetite and eats well, do not allow him to eat too much. Parents worry when their children do not eat enough, but children who eat too much have more health problems caused by being overweight. Childhood obesity is very dangerous for the child’s future health and it is the responsibility of the parents to ensure their children are healthy and fit. If you are wondering why your child is growing slowly it is not because he does not eat enough, but on the contrary: slow growth requires fewer calories.

Whatever your child eats, you should ensure he gets enough fruit and vegetables to give him the vitamins he needs to be healthy. Make sure your child is growing in accordance with his growth curve, and ask your pediatrician if you are concerned.

NO SNACKING

Try not to give your child sugary or salty snacks between meals. Above all avoid candy as it takes away her appetite. If you find she needs to eat something mid-morning or in the afternoon, give her a piece of fruit, yoghurt, sandwich made with wholemeal bread or a piece of cheese.

SAY NO TO DRAWN-OUT MEALTIMES

A child should take no longer than half an hour to eat her meal. Don’t let her sit in front of her plate for hours on end. If she doesn’t want it, don’t force her to finish it. Even if she hasn’t eaten anything, remove her plate if she hasn’t eaten anything for ten minutes, without getting mad or chastising her. Stay as calm as possible. If she wants her dessert, give it to her. She is sure to be hungry by the time the next meal comes around.

DON’T TAKE ANY NOTICE OF OTHER PEOPLE

Even though other people who give you their opinions are well-meaning, you know your child better than anyone else, and your pediatrician is the one you should turn to for advice. Don’t take any notice of what your friends, neighbors or grandparents say about how you should feed your child, or at most listen to their advice and then make your own decisions.

baby-feedingDON’T FILL UP THE PLATE

Children only have relatively small stomachs and small appetites, so don’t put too much on their plate as this will overwhelm them. It is better to let them eat everything on the plate then serve them more if they are still hungry.

DRINKS FOR KIDS

Children need to drink plenty of fluid. Quench your child’s thirst with water, 100% fruit juice, skim milk or soy milk. Beware of juice drinks, which may contain very little or no real fruit juice (look at the package). Young children should not drink soda pop or other sweetened drinks, as they contain empty calories and artificial sweeteners. They are also bad for the teeth. Save them for an occasional, special treat, like when you go to a restaurant or party.

YOUR CHILD REFUSES TO EAT

If your child absolutely does not want to eat, don’t lose your cool: if you scold them or force them to eat you will make mealtimes traumatic and frustrating for you and they will only become more resistant, enjoying the extra attention. Be patient, or you will end up with the opposite to what you want! Children will eat when they are really hungry, so you can relax.

IF YOUR CHILD EATS EVERYTHING...

There is no need for excessive praise of a child who eats well. Eating is not a virtue, rather a need and a privilege. Your child should be aware that she eats to stay healthy and strong, and because she enjoys it. It is not to keep mom and dad happy. Interesting scientific research shows that when you praise children for doing something they enjoy, it may reduce their motivation and sound insincere. So try not to overdo the praise unless it is truly deserved.

NO COMMENT

Never talk about your child’s eating habits in front of him or show him that you are irritated with his lack of appetite. Neither should you chastise him if he doesn’t eat, nor praise him too highly if he does. He should never be made aware that he has a problem with food and eating. If you have reached the end of your rope, go to another room to shout or vent your frustration.

THEY WILL GROW OUT OF IT

One thing to remember when you despair of having a relaxing mealtime ever again, or when you are worn down by your child’s picky eating, is that they will (probably) grow out of it at some stage. Be consistent, and think of that light at the end of the tunnel.

NO TV AT MEALTIMES

You may like to watch the TV while you eat, but it is a good idea to train your children that mealtimes are to spend with the family, so wait until they have gone to bed to switch on.

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