This is, undeniably, one of the most discussed and fret over aspectS of raising a child, especially a toddler. Yes, I am guilty too.
There was a time when Toshyth was down with a bad bronchial infection and just gave up on eating. He would only survive on milk. And that would lead to humongous amount of anxiety in me.
Advices poured in.. ‘Let him go hungry. He will himself ask for food’. ‘Give him bite sized food in regular intervals’. ‘Does he like sweet? Make everything sweet.’
Been there, done that. And now, I can confidently say that I have learnt the rules of the game. Not by solely going with what people said, but by sheer experience.
We, as parents have to understand few things very clearly.
- Every child is not the same. So, if Shiraj has 5 meals a day, it’s not necessary that Toshyth will also do the same! ( Umm…who’s Shiraj?!?!)
- This is a time tested one – There are phases in a child’s growing age and they are not permanent. So, you have to believe that This Too Shall Pass and One fine day he/she will start eating better!
- Body type,eating capacity,eating habits of the family matter. They do guys. So a lean guy can eat a lot and still be lanky! Metabolism – heard that word?
- And it is no way going to help our children by constantly telling them that they are not eating enough. This sends a wrong message to them. We should stop discussing our children’s eating habits in front of THEM. We can choose to go to a corner and vent, but not in front of the kids.
- Consistency is the key.
What worked for Toshyth when he became a picky eater:
- A mealtime routine: When I shared Tosh’s eating troubles with a friend and how worried I was, she told me – how important is it to have a meal routine for a child, just like we have a sleep or play routine. Everyday, at around the same times, telling the child that now we are going to have our meal- wash hands, encourage him to set the table with you, sit down, serve food and start eating. And it worked wonders for us and Toshyth. Yes, he showed interest in eating!
- Also, I do not give him options anymore. I don’t say – “If you don’t want to eat egg curry, what would you like to have, instead!” This approach tells them that they can play around with choices, delay eating time and finally get their way.
- I have also learnt that by putting conditions like, “if you finish your vegetables, only then you get to eat the dessert”, do not go a long way. Also, here, we are kind of glorifying the dessert and making him focus more and only on the dessert. Doesn’t help in the long run.
- It’s okay for a toddler to not finish everything served to him. If you think he had a decent amount of food to thrive on, do not chase him for the last bite. Force feeding has never helped anyone.
- We avoid keeping biscuits, chocolates, breads, regular tid bits in our kitchen. Our kids are very smart to know, what and where are we storing stuff. These snacks, when given to our children, only fill them up (zero nutrition) and interferes with their timely meals. Encourage snacking on fruits.
- No one likes eating same old food everyday. We try to bring variation and enhance the taste with different herbs and spices.
- The food that we serve should look appetising; be it for our kids or anybody!
- Every child has his favourite food. Toshyth loves eating poori with any subji. We treat him with his favourite food at least twice a week.
- Everyone has the same food in our family. We do not cook Toshyth’s food separately. So we have all our food minus chillies and hot spices. That encourage us, the adults, to have few bites of green chillies with our meals ( you know green chillies are a great source of Vit C and K!)
- One last thing that has really helped me is to talk FOOD with Toshyth. So, even when I am feeding him or he is self feeding- I ask him, what is that he is having. Sometimes, he thinks through it and answers! It is great to be aware of what we are eating. And starting early helps. Also, he watches me cook in the kitchen and I take him through the cooking process- chopping, frying, adding spices to the dish… and most of the times, he is excited about trying that dish for his lunch or dinner. Or we can always encourage them to eat fruits and vegetables by saying that these food will make them stronger! They will also have good skin and hair if they ate fish! Statements like these are much more original than, if you eat an apple you will get to play outside 🙂
With these ideas and some planning, we have successfully turned our fussy eater to a happy eater. Toshyth, now, enjoys his meal times and looks forward to eating.
Sometimes, we are so much after having an empty plate without absolutely no left over that we tend to forget and not accept that the child has had a fair amount of food, served. Gulity?
As parents, we definitely need to be watchful about our kid’s weights and wellbeing when they say NO to food. And we also have doctors to guide us through in extreme cases.
So, let us start small, not rush, have faith and make it fun. And trust me, there is nothing as great as feeding a hungry toddler….so let them be a little hungry 🙂
P.S. I will try and share some recipes of toddler meals in my upcoming posts. Stay tuned!