How to develop healthy eating habits in children
Ensuring that your children eat right is a real challenge. But, as parents, if we can inculcate some basic habits early in life ,it needn’t be so tough later on as they are growing. Staying at home, this quarantine, is the best time to start knowing them and teaching them some good habits that’ll last them a lifetime.
My first baby , Loy, 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 post partum. I weaned my baby a bit early,as I had to go back to work 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, Adi. With him, I decided to opt for normal delivery and with our mom’s support (who’s a retired nurse) was able to do it successfully. Adi was born premature, weighing around 1.3kgs which went down further to 900 gms the following week. My life’s experiences grew many folds while bringing him up. By Almighty’s grace, now he is eleven years old active and spirited young man, I’m so proud of. Thankfully, as I said, none of my kids fuss over eating and we discuss all the pros and cons of meal being served on the table till today and we respect each other’s opinion.
So if you ask me to mention only few important ways to manage ones fussy kids, it would be:
· Be patient. If your child is throwing tantrums- ignore. Yes! ignore, after letting her/him know that it is not acceptable. But let her know that she still can have her food when she is hungry and feel like.
· Serve something new with an old favourite : This technique I used with my daughter and it never failed.
· Observe your child’s hunger signs
· Get your child to the kitchen and involve her in whatever you’re cooking. Talk to your child and ask suggestions so that she feels as an important part of the whole process
All the above are also a part of what we know as “Responsive feeding” of children.
Easy ways to get your children eat right - the responsive feeding
Ensuring that your children eat right is a real challenge. But, as parents, if we can inculcate some basic habits early in life, it needn’t be so tough later on as they are growing. Staying at home, during this quarantine period, is the best time to start knowing them and teaching them some good habits that’ll last them lifetime.
As a global strategy for feeding infants and young children, WHO, recommends 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.
Research has shown that authoritative parenting generally uses responsive style of feeding. Parents create a feeding structure, is engaged and interactive and responses 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 (fullness) and at the same time being ready with an immediate response from their side. Responsive feeding supports self feeding and creates a social environment that is essential for feeding, for example, a calm and comfortable feeding set up. I still remember I used to pick up Loy 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.
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 plays 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 a 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.