How I Added Health & Taste to my Toddler's Palette
Created by Nandini Muralidharan Updated on Jul 10, 2018
Around the time my toddler turned two, the calm, serene toddler who loved trying new foods suddenly wanted only curd rice for every meal. And not just that – he refused to try any new food that was served at the table. Have you gone through a similar situation at some point with your child’s food preference? Each of us has our own ways of dealing with it – while some of us may cajole the child with a sweet treat, some of us may resort to using a screen for distraction, while some of us may threaten with punishment. Now, the truth of the matter is that none of these work in the long term and may even lead to behavioral issues and eating disorders. Happy to share here some of the steps I took, especially the ones, which worked with my fussy toddler.
Signs Of A Fussy Eater
While assigning labels, positive or negative, to a child is something that we must consciously avoid, for the purpose of understanding what a ‘fussy’ eater’s behavior is, here are some points:
1. Shows reluctance towards eating – would rather play or do something else.
2. Has an aversion towards any food he hasn’t tried before.
3. Prefers some textures over others and doesn’t try new ones.
4. Distracted during meal times, and plays with the food on his plate.
How I Worked Around My Fussy Eater
It really isn’t rocket science – your child, and he alone, knows how much food he needs. So when he loads up on the calories that he needs, he automatically stops eating beyond that. So how did I make sure my daughter got the nutrition she needs? Here’s what I did:
1. Eat as a family: One of the most important steps towards healthy eating is
to eat together, and focus solely on food and family bonding. This means, no screens, no phones and no work during meal times. Serve various dishes and let your child pick what she wants to eat. My daughter, who disliked any type of vegetables, slowly started trying a piece or two when my husband and I did.
2. Presentation matters: Whatever said and done, the way the food is served makes a difference to appetite and what your child eats.
• So, we had colorful salads of cucumber, tomatoes, carrots with a dash of lime arranged on plates in different patterns.
• Sandwiches had mint chutney smiley faces on them, and so on.
• During breakfast we had quick-fix, yet healthy recipes like scrambled eggs and omelets served with different seasonings for variety.
• Fruits were served like colorful blocks that my daughter would sometime build like Legos and then polish off!
3. Don’t force-feed: Force-feeding can only have one result – a power struggle that ends up in food aversion. Offer foods at the table, but don’t force your child to eat if she doesn’t want a particular food. Offer these at regular intervals, though, and who knows? One day, she might like it! When it came to green vegetables, my daughter slowly started eating some of the palak in the dal preparation, or in palak paneer. Eventually, she tried spinach soups and South Indian spinach preparations and took to them. I did the same with cereals, and with time, she took to them as well.
4. Take pressure and fear away from food: Don’t let mealtimes become battles. Introduce new foods, but don’t pressurize your child to immediately eat it. If he does, that’s great. But if not, let him be exposed to it first.Then he can try a small bite, and so on.
5. Involve your child in preparation: Ask for your child’s opinions while preparing a meal. Give her a couple of choices (don’t make it an open- ended question, or you’ll have to serve a chocolate sundae for breakfast!) – “Do you want your eggs boiled or scrambled today?” This way, your child feels that his choices are respected. And with slightly older children, you can involve them in the actual preparation, too.
Food is something that one can have a love-hate relationship with. In order to help your child to develop healthy eating habits, start early, and try some of these tips. Happy Parenting!
Disclaimer- This Blog is supported by Nestle Ceregrow. A child needs more nutrition than an adult. Each bowl of Ceregrow contains the goodness of grains, milk & fruits and makes up for the lack of sufficient nutrition. Follow Early Childhood Nutrition to learn more.
Calculated basis per kg body weight; ICMR 2010
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