Have you been lately running around your house with a plate of food in one hand and a morsel in the other? Or you’ve been setting your youtube channel constantly on CHU CHU TV or Jingle Toons just to feed your little monster?
Well, you are not the only one. Its a common household scenario for most of the parents these days. As much blissful it is, parenthood comes with its own sets of challenges too. The biggest of all is feeding a child, especially during toddlerhood. As a parent, the concern for your child to meet optimum nutrition is completely justified but then how do you manage, a fussy eating kiddo? The appetite of a toddler can vary drastically even within the same day at times.
Here are some of my tried and tested tips on how to get your fussy toddler to eat more
- First of all relax, panicking or worrying will only worsen the situation. Our concern tends to transform into frustration or anger at times and that can have a negative impact on your child’s appetite further. Knowing and accepting the fact that its pretty normal for toddlers to reject food or be picky/eat less is the first step.
- Remember they are growing and learning at the same time. Most of their tastebuds are being developed and their sensory receptors are perceiving and adapting to the new taste and textures of food which might take some time.
- Toddlers may not always be able to express their physiological state. If someday you are bloated or constipated, would you be able to finish your meals? Not really, isn’t it? Similarly, if your child is constipated or bloated he or she will not be interested in eating, which is very obvious.
- If your child is having too much of milk/juice or munching on snacks like chips, cookies as fillers, he or she may feel too full to eat during meal times. Remember they are small kids, they do not understand how much is too much. You need to ensure giving them each food item in proportion to their need, for them to make space for rest of their meals.
- Avoid forceful feeding. In the process of ensuring the kid’s nutrition, we tend to forcefully feed them. This can have a negative impact on kids about food. They might tend to perceive eating food as something that needs to be done without their will. This kind of feeding doesn’t give a positive outcome in any way.
- Stop running behind your child with food continuously and let him or her guide you for their hunger signals. Your child may not always be able to gauge if they are full or not but they definitely will sense the hunger pangs and try conveying them to you through various means. Some of them might cry, make certain gestures or he /she might just get cranky, pay attention to such behavioral cues.
- In most of the cases, our moods have a direct impact on our appetite. That happens with kids as well. Don’t feed your child when he/she is distressed/ irritated. Calm them down and then offer them food.
- Children also tend to reflect the actions of their parents.If you enjoy your food while eating, they will observe you and try to replicate.Tell them how yummy the food tastes to you and attach those happy emotions with food.
- Keep the distractions minimal.Whether T.V, smartphones or toys such distractions can cause your child to be more inclined towards it rather than the food. Let the child eat knowing whats going inside, let him/her discover the fragrance, texture, and taste in each bite.
- It is also very natural for a kid to eat less in sickness.Although it’s more important to eat healthy in such times, try giving your child soothing foods in that case.
Every child at some point goes through this phase of fussy eating, so relax but ensure that your child is eating sufficiently from all food groups. Now how do you do that? Sharing a few tips for the same.
- If your child is a picky eater and doesn’t eat most of the veggies, puree the veggie and add it to his favorite food. For eg. Add carrot/spinach/beetroot puree in his favorite pancakes/ tikkis etc.
- If your child is fascinated with different shapes/colors.Make the food look interesting by rolling out chapati in a half moon shape or make a happy smiley face in his regular sandwich.Add pureed veggies to your rice to make it colorful.
- If your child has a smaller appetite, try giving him just one meal item that has mix veggie/mixed grains in it.
- If your child doesn’t eat a specific food group for eg.Milk. Try giving him/her other milk products like yogurt/cheese/paneer etc. You can also camouflage certain foods into another so that he/she eats that food unknowingly without making faces.
While you do not freak out regarding his/her eating habits, do pay attention to certain serious issues of poor eating.
1)Height or weight drastically low than the ideal range
2)Rapid weight loss or weight gain
4)Hyperactive or Inactive or lethargic behavior
5)Developing rashes, swelling, itching, nausea diarrhea after eating a particular food item
Your Pediatrician and Child Nutritionist can help you screen for any such symptoms.They can also guide you whether your child is having sufficient nutrition and help him or her with any treatment if required.
Hope this makes your feeding experience a little better going forward 🙂
Dietitian and Diabetes Educator
Alpana Tarkar, is a Clinical Nutritionist with a Post Graduation in Nutrition & Dietetics having 9 years of experience in the field. She is a Certified Diabetes Educator and a mother as well. She has helped many people improve their medical profile & believes in achieving a healthy body & mind through minor changes in the daily routine. Her mantra for fitness is “Make healthy eating a treat to your taste buds and exercise time your fun time, results will follow effortlessly”.