The most frustrating and infuriating moment for any parent would be: when their toddler won’t eat at all. We resort to many techniques like bribing, punishing, shouting, comparing and force feed a kid. But, as a parent we play a key role in building a children’s approach to eating and food. The following are the mistakes that parents unknowingly make in feeding their toddler, that negatively affects the kid’s eating habits and nutrition in the long run.
- Controlling the child’s food intake - It is your ultimate responsibility to provide your kids a healthy and balanced meal at regular and appropriate intervals. In other words you get to decide on what, when and where of feeding. Children with the natural ability to regulate their food intake can decide on whether and how much of eating. Research shows that forcing a kid to eat teaches a kid not to trust his body and hinders self - regulation. When you decide on whether or how much of eating for your kid, he will end up both disliking the food and mealtime.
- Trying to fix something that isn’t broken - Never interpret normal food-related behaviours as problematic and respond inappropriately. Most of the food-related behaviours are normal and adaptive. Kids’ food intake and appetite stabilises after the age of 2. A previously good eater might become more selective with their food choices. This kind of picky eating at different stages is a normal part of development.
- Cooking an alternative meal on demand - Most of the parents are ready to cook an alternative meal when the kid doesn’t accept the meal that has been already made. But cooking on demand sends a wrong message that he cannot accept new food varieties and decreases his eating confidence. Plan the meal with one or two varieties that your kid might accept.
- Insisting on finishing their plate - Insisting and pressuring a kid on a clean plate will result in over-eating. Healthy children will stop eating when they are full. By allowing the kids to follow their internal and natural cues of fullness, you are helping the kids to self-regulate their food intake.
- Not providing them different varieties of food - You often hear your fellow mothers saying “My kid would never eat that”. It has to be noted that eating preferences of kids change at different stages. It may take from few days to months for a kid to accept a new food. So parents should prepare and introduce varieties of food to their kids. But, when introducing a new food variety make sure at least one of the kid’s favourite item is included in the meal. Toddlers have almost double the number of taste buds than adults. So never force-feed and be considerate when they tell you they don’t like the food. But never stop introducing new food every now an then.
Fussiness and food-related behaviours are a normal part of a child development and most of them improve with age. Kids who are labelled ‘picky eater’ are actually quiet normal. An important indicator of whether the kids meet their nutritional needs is the growth curve. Once parents start seeing the bigger picture of what is going on with food and feeding, things around becomes pretty easy.