Feeding Children – Part II

The key to feeding children is to be moderate. Don’t restrict their diets too much or you will risk having more problems providing the nutrients they need. For instance, do not impose your low fat diet on your kids! This won’t provide enough energy for proper growth and development.

All children, whether vegetarian or not, need regular sources of food that will meet all their nutritional requirements. Aside from this, the food must be safe, appealing, and appropriate to a child’s stage of development. “Safe” and “appropriate” can mean giving a little child foods that he can easily chew and swallow. For example, a crisp carrot stick can cause a small child to choke. It would be better to give him a softer, cooked carrot instead, or something pureed in the blender. Food for little ones can be ground or cut into small sizes. Tender consistency is recommended. “Appealing” means you need to provide a nutritious variety of foods and introduce them in a way that will spark the child’s interest.

Knowing what a child must eat is just the beginning. Getting him to eat is the bigger hurdle. Relax. Getting too anxious about the task can rub off on a child and make him uncooperative. Remember that many things can affect a child’s appetite so consider what is wrong. He may just be overtired and would prefer sleep to food.

It may take a little coaxing on your part to help a budding gourmet to try new foods. You can overcome initial hesitation by cutting the new food into shapes or decorating them. I’ve even resorted to telling stories about particular vegetables or making faces using mashed potatoes, peas, or whatever I’m trying to feed them. Sometimes you may have to bend a bit more by letting a child have a choice. Tell her she can just pop it into her mouth and spit it onto a napkin if she doesn’t like it. Imagine what it must be like to eat parsley or bitter melon for the first time. If she does reject the food, try re-introducing a “new and improved” version in a few weeks.

Children usually like simple foods that allow them to readily identify the ingredients. When they are served foods with a mix of so many ingredients, they are likely to reject them. As a child becomes more familiar with different foods, he will welcome more combination dishes.

I know that the process can be frustrating. It’s not always easy to convince children to eat something you know is good for them. You might even be tempted to use force or resort to bribery. Neither is a good idea. Force doesn’t usually work and it just makes the mealtime stressful for everybody. Bribery can lead to future problems when you’ve inadvertently made food something the child can turn to for comfort, entertainment, or as a reward.

When you have successfully introduced a certain food, sometimes a child can develop such a strong affinity for it that it can become a fixation. He may insist on eating only that food and nothing else. This problem is usually temporary and common in toddlers who are just beginning to develop their preferences. Don’t worry unless the fixation lasts more than two weeks. Then you may need doctor’s advice.

The key to feeding children is to be moderate. Don’t restrict their diets too much or you will risk having more problems providing the nutrients they need. For instance, do not impose your low fat diet on your kids! This won’t provide enough energy for proper growth and development. Let them have avocados, nuts, seeds, butters made from nuts and seeds. It’s also not necessary to be counting calories for kids. You’ll know they’re getting enough energy if they’re active and growing. Just keep giving them well-balanced, varied meals, and encouraging them to play and exercise.

If you don’t like your children to eat “junk food” then you must refrain from having them any where in your house, and better still, refrain from eating them yourself. But consider how restricting kids from eating certain foods can sometimes increase the appeal of the forbidden items. So I think there’s no harm in sometimes allowing a little treat. Fruit can be a wonderful food item to encourage children of all ages to see as a treat available year-round, and throughout the day. And hardly any mess!

Another thing to remember is that children have smaller stomachs and should not be expected to eat so much at one meal. They will need to eat more often to get all their requirements so don’t be so strict about snacking. A child may need one to two snacks a day to tide him over till the next meal. Good nutrition-dense snacks may provide 15-20% of a child’s energy intake. Kids usually like to designate certain foods as snacks that are not part of their usual meals. Try pumpkin seeds, dried fruit, whole grain crackers, half a banana or a tiny nut butter sandwich.

Every child is different. One may need a little encouragement to eat, while another may need some restriction. Be patient and remember that meal times must be relaxing and enjoyable.

An excellent substitute for heavy ice cream is to simply freeze some bananas, then when wanting a dessert, blend in a food processor. Add frozen berries or mangos to enhance the flavor. Kids are sure to love it, and so will you!

If you don’t like your children to eat “junk food” then you must refrain from having them any where in your house, and better still, refrain from eating them yourself.

What you have in your mind?