There are some food-related facts you should memorize as they are essential to your survival with toddlers and little children.
- Firstly and most importantly, if a child is offered adequate food, he will never starve. Research has shown that toddlers when offered a wide range of foods three times a day, selected for themselves (without adult assistance or instruction) diets which were wildly unbalanced day by day but perfectly balanced in the long term.
Trust the internal rhythm of the child’ body – if he is hungry he will eat. In this respect he is just like a wild animal.
- All foods contain calories, but the calorie content of each food is different. A child who seems to eat very little food may be eating it in a high calorie form.
Never use food as a reward or punishment, bribe or threat. If he is hungry he will eat. If not he won’t. Giving food emotional overtones can lead to severe eating disorders such as overeating or anorexia.
- Milk is an excellent food and very convenient package of the nutrients children need in an easy-to-take form. But as the child grows, he needs more solid food. The ratio of food to milk should be 80 – 20% otherwise the child may suffer from anemia.
Expert view – By and large, parents in India still put a lot of stress on milk in the child’s diet even once the child has started eating proper food and is getting calcium from a lot of other sources. As a result of such an overemphasis of milk the children don’t take in enough iron-rich food. Actually, if about 80% food is given as compared to 20% milk then the chances of iron deficiency are much less.
- Sweets are bad for your child’s teeth. Sweet food eaten quickly will do much less harm because the acid produced from the sugar in it, is gone from the mouth before it has time to eat into the tooth enamel. A lollipop sucked slowly over time can do much greater harm than a piece of chocolate quickly swallowed.
– Choose sweets, which dissolve quickly.
– Encourage him to eat all of the sweet in a relatively short time.
– Discourage sweets such as fudge that stick to teeth.
– Make him drink water after eating a sweet.
– Give him a piece of cheese after the sweet, as cheese has a cavity-fighting effect.
– Don’t use sweets as rewards and treats otherwise your child will not only like the taste but also place an emotional value on them. He will want sweets every time he is hurt, tired or miserable or as proof of your love for him.
– If you use sweets as a bribe for doing something unpleasant he will learn that he is owed compensation for doing unpleasant chores or happenings in his life.
Keep sweets out of the emotional arena and treat them as you treat other nice tasting foods like mangoes.
- Snacks are said to be rubbish foods or junk foods. By and large however they have the same nutritional content as other similar foods. The problem with snacks is again an emotional one. Snacks are by definition brought because the child wants them, they are chosen by him and are eaten because he wants to eat them rather than because you want him to. As such it becomes more desirable to a toddler.
The answer is to treat snack foods as foods rather than as a treat or something to be avoided at all cost.
A child should not get chips because he has been good anymore than you would offer him a carrot for the same reason.
§ Offer the child the kinds of food he likes best occasionally as a part of his regular meals, while keeping healthier foods freely available for eating between meals whenever he is genuinely hungry.
§ Discourage soft drinks, coffee and tea. Soft drinks have little nutritional value and high sugar content which is harmful for teeth. Coffee and tea have stimulants which children don’t need.
§ The best way to inculcate healthy eating habits is to make mealtimes a family event where all the members sit together and discuss their day.
A child’s palate is born a clean slate, the tastes that develop depend on the foods introduced to him and the parents attitude towards various food items.
Start feeding your child right, right from the start
- Keep white out of sight. Refined foods like white bread, polished rice, sugar and desserts rob the body the body of its much-needed iron.You may not like brown bread but try introducing it to your child as it is the healthier option.
- Hold off introducing sweet foods as long as possible. For example start by introducing yogurt without sugar. Let the child get used to food without too much additives.
- Serve the milk straight- don’t add additives in the hope of disguising the taste of milk. Let the child relish the actual taste of milk.
- Spice their diet with variety.
- Make exceptions-instead of a complete ban give into treats sometime.
- Let your child eat plenty of dried fruits along with the fresh ones.
- Don’t substitute fruit juices for fruits as they are higher in sugar and lower in fiber.