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December 3, 2020

Use shapes and colors:

Including many different food groups and presenting them in non traditional way as smaller bite-sized pieces, with different shapes makes children enjoy their meals more. So you can plan their favorite dosa in a star shape or pancake as a bear face or heart-shaped toasts etc.

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Stop fretting:

If every meal is seen with anxiety or over-protectiveness take a step back. Did they eat enough protein? Did my child eat lot of veggies? Is it enough altogether? Etc. Kids’ appetites fluctuate with their level of activity, their digestion,  their mood, and their growth. Don’t stress over a couple of unbalanced meals or reduced quantities.

Each day the eating pattern may differ for a growing child- focus on providing nutrient-dense small bites rather than elaborate meals. Key is balance- always aim for three of the four food groups at breakfast, and four at lunch and dinner. This simple rule will ensure a bit of everything without overwhelming the kid's appetite.

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Over the course of a week, most kids will eat what they need. A parent’s job is to decide what’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner and  kid’s job is to decide how much of it to eat. Many parents try to control how much their kids eat, but this just leads to more struggles and tantrums. Letting kids learn their own appetite regulation and satiety signals means they’re less likely to grow up with disordered eating.

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  • Get the kids to help in kitchen and participate in cooking.

If kids can make it, kids are more likely to eat it. As they have enjoyed the process of putting it all together, they would be eager to eat well what they have created. Ideas such as build it yourself meals, such as roti rolls, dosa toppings,, salads, sandwiches and pizza —and fruit ’n’ yogurt combos for dessert. Just set out an array of healthy ingredients and let the kids do the rest. And it’s great for kids of all ages, the earlier they start to help and be in kitchen it is good for their understanding of food and interest in the process of feeding themselves.

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Another idea is letting your family serve themselves from bowls in the middle of the table, as opposed to just forcibly putting plates down in front of them. family members can take what and how much they want, so there’s no pressure to eat more or less of any particular food-in this way we allow them to be more independent and self-reliant.

  • Allow them to play with their food

Mealtimes should be more playground than battleground.

Have fun with food names (for example, super-vision sparkly eyes carrots, broccoli trees, brain walnuts, etc) and play with presentation. Food can be arranged into face shapes or cut up with cookie cutters into heart. Star shapes etc. Making mealtime fun doesn’t just get kids eating well, it also leaves them with fond memories of food as they grow up, and it leads to a sense of security and warmth.

  • Make dessert part of the meal rather than a bribe or reward.

You must be now wondering: “Won’t they just eat the dessert first?” Maybe. Maybe not. Rule is to offer one very small portion of the dessert so your child will be hungry and still eat dinner. This way, dessert just becomes part of the meal for kids, instead of a “reward”. They will alternate and take bites of what is offered and that's how they will learn to balance.

Most important thing to remember here is the type of dessert!

Fresh fruit is the obvious first choice, but apple and pear pochaed or baked, rice kheer, fruit custard pudding, homemade healthy cookies, frozen fresh fruit yogurt kulfi or popsicle or homemade carrot or banana bread are other good options.

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  • Allow some grazing -Smaller frequent snacks/ meals work better tiny tummies.

Most parents overestimate the size of their child’ s stomach, So small meals and snacks spread over the day are actually better than the good old 3 meal patterns. The other advantage to offering smaller meals and two or three snacks in between is that if one meal is an utter flop, then there’s another opportunity for healthy eating just around the corner soon.

Just be consistent when it comes to timing and fix a routine-children adapt well to a structured routine. This way your children will develop their own hunger cues and appetite regulation— but always remember the golden rule- don’t force kids to eat if they’re not hungry.

  • Serve dinner items for breakfast and vice versa - break the rules.

Leftover roti and rice for breakfast? Idlis, dosas, poha, upma, or Pancakes for dinner? Why not? If it was a healthy, balanced meal last night, it’s still a healthy, balanced meal this morning — and vice versa. We’re the ones who teach kids the idea of what food is appropriate for what meal and what time. We can break norms and patterns and focus on healthy intake rather than rigid rules.

  • Say yes to junk food [once in a way- not always].

Many parents feel they’ve failed when they break the rules once in a way and give not-so-virtuous snacks, but let’s face it — chocolate is yummy and chips make a great side to a sandwich.

We all like chips once in a while, and I don’t know a single parent who eats perfectly all of the time, so you can’t expect children to. Avoiding or forbidding certain foods just makes them more attractive.

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Offer mostly healthy choices regularly, but don’t blame yourself about the bad and the ugly once in a while. To not feel too guilty, you can also offer treats with some nutritional value. For instance, chocolate milk is a good source of protein and calcium and also foods like mango lassi in a kulfi mould or posicle or homemade air-fried sweet potato or carrot fries-all make for a yummy yet guilt-free snack options.

  • Bottom line: Don’t try so hard and get anxious.

Getting your children to eat healthy should not make you anxious or depressed or over whlemed.  Nutritious meals don’t have to be elaborate — a peanut or almond or cashew butter and banana sandwich and a glass of milk can make a super interesting dinner, not to mention a refreshing change from roti's and dhal or rice and sambar.

And forget about coaxing, encouraging, threatening or begging, she adds, because when you don’t make a big deal about food and simply turn your back, whatever was pushed to the side of the plate may well have disappeared by the time you turn around. One thing parents all across the country should remember is that children will eat healthy, delicious food if you continue to offer it.

And they’ll learn to eat on their own terms too, by deciding how much they want , what combinations they like etc. Do not fret, continue to offer what's best for them on a daily basis and focus of food groups variety and macro and micronutrients rather than quantities.

We pediatric nutritionists always say that if your child is healthy, has a good immunity mostly, has good energy and is of an accepted appropriate weight, don’t waste time worrying about how much they eat at a meal. Offer them all the food groups and varieties and let them learn to choose and adapt well.

If you have  a fussy eater at home- contact our team of nutritionists today to help set a plan for your child.

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Abhilasha. V

Senior Clinical Nutritionist

Cloudnine Group of Hospitals.

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