Pleasing picky eaters

EAT RIGHT

Pleasing picky eaters

TEAM EFFORT Involve your kids in food-related activities like shopping for groceries or helping in the kitchen.

Preschoolers are very active and always bursting with energy and enthusiasm. This is the perfect time to inculcate good eating habits in them.

Parents of preschoolers often worry whether their children are getting the proper nutrition that they need for physical and mental development.

Preschoolers need nutrients to provide energy, promote growth of body tissues, and regulate body functions. The child’s diet should contain energy-rich foods, body-building foods and abundant vitamins and minerals. Don’t let these words  intimidate you. But yes, the components of a well-balanced diet must be chosen judiciously to provide all these nutrients in adequate amounts. That’s why it is important to encourage healthy eating habits in children.

General guidelines

Parents can keep these tips in mind when teaching preschoolers to make healthy food choices.

*Make foods interesting

Young children enjoy colourful and attractive foods that arouse their imagination and curiosity.  Try making vegetable cutlets in different shapes like stars, or hearts. Or serve poha or upma in an animal-shaped bowl and see how quickly these foods disappear! With a little creativity, snacks can be made very colourful and interesting; something that all children delight in eating.

* Follow healthy eating habits yourself

Parents are the primary influence in the lives of young children.  If you eat a well-balanced diet and regularly eat different types of  foods in front of your child, it will encourage him to try those foods too.  Include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in the family diet, because they are rich sources of vitamins and minerals. Preschoolers should be encouraged to eat on their own, even if the child is slow, or creates a mess.
 
* Keep nutritious snacks readily available

Toddlers and preschoolers have small appetites so in-between snacks are as important as other meals. When kids get hungry between meals, have fresh fruits or other healthy snacks readily available for them to eat. Healthy snacks include milk, cheese, yogurt, whole wheat crackers, popcorn,  boiled eggs, fruits, and vegetables. This will help meet their nutritional needs and make them less likely to reach for less nutritious options like chips, chocolates or cookies.

* Finger food

As a rule, children prefer finger food. This simply means food that is easy to handle. Cut sandwiches into tiny pieces for your child and watch them enjoy the small bites. My son prefers to eat his methi paratha like a roll rather than the traditional way. Ever noticed how kids love to eat finger papads, cheese slices and always finish their popcorn?   

* Limit intake of sweets

Children love chocolates and sweets. But the not-so-sweet side of the story is that excessive intake leads to dental caries. To be on the safe side, keep a watch on the number of chocolates your child eats and keep the number down to 1-2 bars a week. Encourage your kids to brush their teeth before going to sleep.

* Involve kids in food-related activities

 Take kids to the market; they can help you to select the fruits they want and help you to pick out vegetables. Being actively involved teaches youngsters the importance of a healthy diet. Let kids help you in the kitchen. They can wash and peel vegetables and fruits, peel boiled eggs, cut cubes from paneer, add ingredients to foods, and even help you to prepare their favourite dishes, like sandwiches or noodles. Children are more likely to eat the food if they have helped in its preparation.

Milk is among the most calcium-packed foods and is important for development of strong bones. You could try adding a favourite flavour, like chocolate or strawberry, to milk. If your child still does not drink milk, then you should include milk in the diet in a different form, such as  paneer, dahi or even delicious kheer. Cheese pizza and macaroni and cheese are also calcium-packed dishes that kids love to eat.
If milk allergy is the reason why your child does not drink milk, then he must avoid all dairy products to avoid reactions.

As long as the child is healthy and is growing well, you should not worry about the amount of food eaten at mealtimes. Children’s appetites fluctuate after infancy, so respect your child when he says he can’t finish his food. Serve kids small portions, and let them have more if they want it. The criterion is how much the child eats during the day. Small children have small appetites, so mid-morning and evening snacks are as important as lunch and dinner.

To preserve kids’ appetites, serve snacks no less than two hours before lunch or dinner. Healthy snacks include milk, cheese, yogurt or dahi, whole wheat crackers, popcorn, murmura,  boiled eggs, fruit, and vegetables.

Eating jags (or periods when toddlers favour only a few foods) are common. Feel better by offering a wide variety of foods alongside your child’s favourites while you wait for the phase to pass. In preschoolers, food preferences are short lived. It is important for the parents to encourage the child to eat all kinds of foods. If your child rejects an entire food group, such as fruits and vegetables, for a few weeks or more, consult a  nutritionist or doctor for advice.

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