Janet was very happy and contented that her 2 year old did not make her take numerous rounds around the house with the food bowl that she finished the platter easily. However, within months she realized that she was almost at her wits end to make her daughter eat. The eating sessions started becoming lengthy, troubling and repelling both for Janet and her daughter. She could not give up feeding her but desperately wanted respite from the disquieting eating sessions.
Children can depict picky eating habits early in age. Children, who otherwise revealed trouble-free eating habits, can also undergo a transition in eating habits for various reasons. Sometimes, the transition can be overwhelming. Picky eating habits can be disturbing especially when you have a nuclear family wherein external assistance can be a matter of chance and not choice. An important consideration when dealing with picky eating habits of children is working with their appetite.
Techniques to Increase Children’s Appetite
Two Cooks can Make Eating Exciting
A smart technique to help your child take interest in eating is to engage him/her in cooking. Designate small tasks, like peeling or segregating ingredients, depending on the child’s age. When your child will help you cook food, he/she will be curious to try out the outcome of his/her effort. You may prefer to cook something which your child particularly likes to eat so that the interest keeps on building. The more exciting the recipe, the better engaged he/she shall be.
Insist, but Within Limits
Some children may show a disinterest in eating to reveal a protesting attitude against you. May be any of their wishes did not get an approval and they start a ‘hunger strike’ as part of their revolting agenda.
Although you should not surrender to eating tantrums quite often, you must also know that forceful eating may not produce the desired outcome. Rather, it may create dislike for eating which can turn into an unpleasant experience for your child. Your child should not sense that you are too concerned about food.
Avoid being a ‘short notice cook’. If your child does not want to eat something, do not take the liberty to cook another meal. Instead, you can increase the variety of (healthy) food you serve and give choices.
Children, for some reason, may not like the taste of cooked vegetables. Raw vegetables can be consumed more readily by them. Make eating fun. Accompaniments can be tricks to enable children eat what they otherwise may not want to. Prepare healthy dips and use attractive utensils to make the food more presentable. Some children can have special liking for their ‘fish-plates’ or ‘cartoon-imprint’ bowls. Get some fancy ones with a food-friendly make. You may also cut fruits and vegetables in attractive shapes to make eating pleasurable.
Moreover, some children like food plain and simple while others may crave for good garnishes. Match your child’s temperament. Take your child along in shopping trips and select healthy foods he/she likes. You may also plan a trip to the nearby vegetable/fruit market to enable your child identify different foods and establish a relationship with them.
Inspire Discipline in Eating
Children are very fond of following elders. If you have dinner while the news channel displays, children will also claim to have their share of watching the TV while eating. Do not promote eating with watching television. It distracts children from enjoying meal time and relish what they eat. Advertisements can also inculcate unhealthy eating habits.
Follow a regular meal time. Have sufficient gaps between snacks and meals. As far as possible, have family gatherings during meal time.
Amalgamate the Old and New
With age, children need to eat a variety of foods to get a balanced nutritional diet. If your child is a picky eater, you may introduce new foods gradually. Give him/her time to accept the new taste but keep repetitions alive.
In a study, children were tested by giving a choice of two kinds of chips – one familiar and the other a new one. Additionally, some children were offered a familiar chip dip while others were offered an unfamiliar one. The study revealed that children who chose the familiar dip were more likely to try tasting the new chips.
Besides, a study also points out that children can accept a bitter or sour taste more readily when it is amalgamated with a sweet one on the first instance. A recipe of steamed vegetables (like green beans and broccoli florets) with an appetizing condiment (like yogurt dip or sweet-and-sour sauce) can be worth trying.
Indulge in Physical Activities
Research indicates that healthy eating and physical activity can yield improved academic performance and classroom behavior among children. Physically active children can better adapt themselves to eating which can work in favor of their appetite. Hungry children have lesser chances of resisting food.
If your child scores low on physical activeness, concentrate on increasing his/her activity level. Produce tempting and healthy foods when your child wants to relax after having exercised or played energetically.
Take the Doctor’s Advice
The doctor’s prescription can come to your rescue when you are desperate to increase your child’s appetite. Having tried many skills, you may not want to wait further compromising on your child’s nutritional needs.
Zinc deficiency can be a common and concerning cause behind mineral deficiencies in children. Reduced appetite may not bring in all the required nutrients for your child’s growing bodily needs. It has been observed that low levels of zinc are associated with poor appetite levels. Your doctor may prescribe zinc supplements for a desired period.
Although zinc is the primary substance that regulates digestion of proteins and affects how food tastes, prescription drugs may not be the ultimate solution to increase children’s appetite. You should consider incorporating other appetite enhancing techniques.
Patience is the Key
Whatever be your technique of making your child eat, at the end of the day what counts is whether your child gets the right amount of nutrition or not. Speak to your child about his/her preferences and make him/her an aware person who eats with delight and enthusiasm. Have lots of patience as changing picky eating habits of children can be time consuming.