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How To Feed Fussy Eaters ?

Written and reviewed by
Msc - Clinical Nutrition
Dietitian/Nutritionist, Mumbai  •  12 years experience
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Hi, this is Malika Kabra Rathi being a mother of a 5 year old and a paediatric nutrition since 10 years, I know how challenging it is for mothers to feed their fussy, picky or poor eaters.

So today I am going to share with you my 5 prong approach in order to ensure that your child eats well and will fully. A research suggests that when you introduce lumpy or chewy food at the age of 6 to 9 months, your child appreciation for food increases and it reduces the likelihood of him turning into a fussy eater later on. If your child’s first took hasn't interrupted, don't worry his gums are strong enough to be able to grind that food. If you hadn't done this when your child was a baby, again don't worry it's never too late nor too early to start following these guidelines to tackle your fussy eaters.

So the first approch is do not give up on food rejection and also an Australian research suggests till you don't introduce a new food for nearly 10 times on 10 different occasions, you cannot really label that food as undesirable by your child, so keep trying and keep patience. Remember that child should be practically hungry each time you introduce the new food. Second, keep calm Indian parents equate their happiness question to the amount of food their child eats, some mothers even break down when their child refuses to eat. Remember, a child will never voluntarily starve unless he is unwell. In fact children are very good judge of their own hunger and appetite signals. If meal times are friendly children really look forward to it. Just the way our appetite keeps fluctuating as per our activity levels, digestion, sleep patterns and the weather outside. Similarly, no single child will eat the same amount of food on your daily basis, so keep realistic goals and please feed on demand.

Some warning signals for the parents whose child refuses to eat,no nagging or yelling not showing anxiety, no threatening, no bribing the child with foods like cakes, chocolate, biscuit cookies, and no running after the child with food plate in hand. If the child is suffering from constipation or lack of energy during the day, is not in getting in happy playtime or is falling sick very often please discuss the same with your paediatrician. Third, setup good and responsible examples, charity begins at home we all know parents and relatives staying with their young children are their first point of contact. Parents with restrictive eating habits pass on the same to their children because children learn their behaviour from their parents. So don't limit your child's food variety to those that you prefer, it may so happen that your childs taste buds are totally different than yours and perhaps all this while you were feeding only those who to your child that he didn't quiet originally like.

Fourth, food and growth, like I said before child will never voluntarily stave unless he is unwell. So if he is eating well and he is growing well and not falling sick too often you are on the right track. If it is still your concern then please keep a tab on the total amount of food that the child eats during the day, children can graze constantly so the amount of snacks that they label on between there three full square meals just like we adults we love to have a 3 full square meals, a child may end up snacking more often and all these little little snacks that the child labels on ads up to their energy and calorie value and which is why they are fuller for longer hours.

If you need further reassurance , please check your child’s growth and weight chart and discuss the same with your paediatrician. One word of question, there are children who eat well but are lagging behind in their growth and weight chart they could be hyperactive, so please reduce the amount of sugar, milk, chocolates, bakery items processed and packaged foods in their diet, instead substitute it with nuts, millets, whole fruits and vegetables, homemade ghee, homemade snacks and homemade curd and see the difference for yourself. Fifth, meal time strategies, be a good role model while you sip on your early morning tea and coffee do not expect your child to start his or her day with something healthy. Set up regular habits of eating and sleeping in time, a child when wakes up in the morning is practically very hungry provided he wakes up early in the morning by early I mean anywhere between 8 to 8:30 or even before that, avoid putting your child to sleep very late in the night or during afternoon. Early to bed and early to rise will surely keep your child healthy, wealthy and wise Encourage self-feeding and food exploration from a very young age don't worry if they messed up in fact teach your child about nutritive value of some common foods, he will be surprised to know what good nutritionist they turn out to be.

My 5 year old child, as soon as he spots Amla in the market he tells me how abundant it is in Vitamin C and how it helps standing his immunity. Keep sufficient gap between two meals example anywhere between 1 to 3 hours is ideal depending on the child’s age, activity levels and appetite. Offer a wide variety of fresh and colourful fruits and vegetables on your child's plate. Encourage each time he tries a new fruit or vegetable, remember, if your child likes a particular kind of fruit or vegetables avoid serving it to him on a daily basis because sooner or later he is going to get bored of it as children taste buds a constantly changing, in fact focus on variety in taste, texture, colour, consistency of food cooking methods and selection of ingredients. Offer alternatives between the same food groups if your child dislikes milk don't worry offer him a whole lot of curd, yoghurt, homemade paneer and homemade ghee. Do not force feed your child, a child will only throw up or vomit if you force feed or over feed him.

Don't compare between two children because every child has his unique body structure, eating preferences and immunity, so don't compare two children on the amount of food they eat, their height, growth and weight. Food and water go hand in hand, if your child is eating well but is not having enough water it can further suppresses his appetite. So please ensure your child is hydrated well specifically in summertime. I hope my 5 prong approach is of use to you in your real life situation to deal with fussy picky and poor eaters, just the way it was for me. Motherhood is the best gift of nature so enjoy every bit of it and don't turn yourself into fussy mothers in order to tackle your fussy eaters,

Thank you.

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