It is said that no child is born a poor eater. Each of us arrives into the world with a natural survival instinct, and this requires eating. However, if your baby has become a poor eater, here you will find some suggestions which behaviors to avoid and what to do to make him eat healthily and with appetite again.
In babies, the problems with eating are usually related to immaturity of their digestive tract, manifested e.g. by posseting, flatulence and colic. In older children, the problems with eating usually result from the atmosphere you create around meals. There might have been some situations in the past because of which now your child eats unwillingly and little. How to encourage the child to eat?
Here are some useful tips:
Try not to label your baby as a "poor eater". Babies perfectly impersonate our projections about them. After all, we avoid saying: you are naughty, scruffy or messy. We say instead: "I don't like your behavior", "I'm sorry that you don't want to wash" or "keep your word and tidy your room". What is the use in trying, if you are already labeled for ever? "Poor eater" is also such a label. And it is even more unjust, as probably you yourself caused your child's problems with eating.
You should consider whether your child really eats too little. How much is it "too little"? He is one so he eats nearly the same things as adults. But not in the same amounts. When he gets a big serving each time, he is discouraged by it and not able to eat it all, and at the end he is shamed by his parent, then eating can hardly mean anything pleasant to him.
Does your child really eat little? Maybe it is just your impression? Remember that a banana, rice wafer, or puree juice is quite a large portion of food for a toddler. Consider that when analyzing your child's meals.
We are used to eating three big meals during the day. For years dietitians have been saying that five smaller ones are a better option. This works great for children. Add a second breakfast and an afternoon tea. It does not have to be a big sandwich. A few dried apricots, apple or fruit puree are also a meal. Divide a dinner between two meals: first soup, and the second course only after an hour or two. The child will not be discouraged by the size of servings and will eat each meal more willingly.
If our child does not want to eat soups, then do not give him any snacks an hour or two before the meal. And the unhealthy ones should be banished altogether. If the child was given a sweet by Grandma, stuffed himself with a bread roll during a walk and washed it down with sweet juice, then he is simply not hungry. There is no space left for healthy vegetables and milk.
Do not feed the child while he is playing or watching TV. There is a time to eat, and a time to play. Do not distract the child hoping to smuggle some broccoli or carrots into his mouth. Correct eating habits must be developed from the beginning. The child should start eating consciously as early as possible, knowing what he eats and how much.
Eating is a great pleasure. When we start to use physical or psychical force, the child will never like eating. Do not force him to stay at the table "until you eat it all up", do not use the old "now for Grandma". The child may do not want to eat, and you put him in a position where health of the beloved person depends on whether he eats or not. This is too big responsibility.
Let the child select what he wants to eat, to a reasonable extent. If bananas are the only fruit he wants to eat all week long, it is OK, let him eat bananas. Maybe next week he will want an apple? When on one day he only eats potato and firmly refuses to eat meat, there is no use insisting. His health will not suffer, and maybe you will be able to do away with negative impressions evoked by meals.
Dinner does not have to mean potatoes, meat and salad over and over again. Try something new, different, special. Maybe vegetable casserole? Pancakes? Boiled cauliflower? Fish balls? The child will find a new look, smell, and texture interesting, and this can encourage him to eat.
Do not give the child anything to drink during the meal, because he would fill his tummy and it will not be that easy to incite him to eat some rice or soup.
Remember that the way the meal is served also matters. Ensure the plate is colorful and funny: yellow corn, red pepper, and green cucumber. Maybe triangle sandwiches? Or a smiling face on a pancake made of cheese? Why not! There is also an extensive selection of colorful bowls, plates and cutlery available in shops, so use them.
Try to eat at least one or two meals a day together. This establishes family bonds, the child sees that parents also eat brussels sprouts, the atmosphere is pleasant and funny. It is much more pleasant to eat in company than alone. Create pleasant atmosphere, celebrate the meal, enjoy it. Relax, do not worry that something can spill or get dirty. Let your child see that eating is a pleasant and joyful activity and not an annoying duty performed "for Mum's health".
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